stagefrightboy owsHey there, person who's more than likely anxious about public speaking. How are you? I can address you as "person who's more than likely anxious about public speaking" with a certain degree of confidence because, according to glossophobia.com (yes, a website dedicated to the fear of public speaking), approximately 75% of us humans aren't exactly fond of giving speeches or presentations.

Reactions range from those people who suffer a mild case of stomach butterflies to those of us (yes, I am intentionally emphasizing the first person plural pronoun here) who sweat, cry, and/or pass out at the thought of addressing even just a few people. But I'm here to deliver good news: a) I've got 3 simple yet effective tips to help you overcome this anxiety; b) you're not alone and this problem has been around for a long time. In fact, it's been around so long, I managed to uncover a Shakespearean sonnet* about overcoming public speaking anxiety! Check it out:

Lo, towards the stage the speaker did stumble,
Palms damp in that saline dew,
Certain that through her words she would fumble,
Future speeches she vowed eschew.

The audience before her: stone-faced and cold,
The stage lights: shafts o' fire,
The podium, her shield: creaky and old,
Her 'pits, how they did perspire!

O, how our heroine did tremble and quake,
'Neath the pressure of that speech,
Yet tall she stood and deep breaths she did take,
And her audience she did reach.

O, givers of speeches: to you I beseech,
Boldly go forth and deliver thy speech.

*(To all you Shakespeare/poetry scholars out there, I realize this doesn't conform to proper English sonnet form. Cut me some slack here, eh?)

Tip 1: Practice, of course!

We're all familiar with the saying about success being 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. Or was it 98% / 2%? Whatever. The same holds true with public speaking. The purpose of this tip is to have you walk in to that room supremely confident in your mastery of the subject matter of your speech. Sure, you may not be an expert in public speaking—but you ARE an expert in what you're giving a speech or presentation on, right? That's why everyone wants to hear what you have to say (more on that in a minute). Starting with the obvious: spend time simply practicing. Refer to bullet points or index cards, but don't try to memorize the whole thing for crying out loud. Additionally, will your public speaking engagement involve a QA session? Consider your audience, then spend time anticipating questions and thinking about how you might respond. Are there any areas where you think: "geez, I hope they don't ask 'xyz'". Well, now's your time to prepare in case everyone in the room asks about "xyz"! The point here is to try and find the weak spots and do whatever you can to strengthen them. One last tip on practice—maybe the most useful public speaking exercise I ever went through was to have someone film me giving a speech, then to go back and (painfully) analyze my performance. In fact, we offer this kind of training here at Orgwide, through our commFIT workshops. Seeing your tics and hearing your flubs from the audience's perspective can be a real eye-opener. Try it!

Tip 2: Remember that your audience wants you to succeed

When was the last time you watched someone give a speech, got cozy with your popcorn, and thought to yourself "Oh man! I can't wait to hear him go down IN FLAMES!"? My guess is that is a scenario that doesn't happen too often. The vast majority of the time, your audience wants you to succeed. They want to leave thinking "wow, she was really amazing!" They don't want their time wasted. In short, they're on your side. Unless, of course, they're not. In that case, see Tip 1.

Tip 3: Deep breaths

The physical manifestations of glossophobia are very real, I can assure you. So, fight fire with fire and take some physical steps to help combat its symptoms! It all starts with that most fundamental of activities: breathing. Belly breathing, to be precise. Belly breathing (a trick used by runners and endurance athletes the world over) is a way to fully utilize your lung capacity. Belly breathing brings in more oxygen, exhales more carbon dioxide, and, if you really focus, can help to really relax and center you in times of high anxiety. So how do you do it? As the name implies, it all centers on your belly, or diaphragm to be more precise. When you inhale, pull in from your diaphragm, imagining you have a book resting on your belly. With each inhalation, the book should raise. When you exhale, pull your belly in towards your spine to fully empty your lungs. The book should lower. All the while, your chest should remain fairly steady. It's all in the belly! Take a few good, cleansing belly breaths when you feel that blood pressure rise and that will help normalize everything.

There you have it, folks. Public speaking doesn't have to be such a chore after all. Good luck on your next trip up to the podium!

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