Glossophobia, or fear of public speaking, affects a great many people. In the ‘Book of Lists’ it ranks as the second greatest fear, behind the fear of death.
Even experienced speakers may feel nervous before speaking. But they generally succeed in converting that fear into energy and succeed in using it to enhance their speeches. This has been referred to as having your butterflies fly in formation.
But if you are still fearful and if the thought or sight of an audience tends to bring on the nervousness even more, what can you do? Well, it nearly always helps to:
- Prepare thoroughly;
- Practise your delivery beforehand;
- Arrive early to check out the room and ensure any technology you’re using is working properly;
- When it comes time to give the speech, have it sitting on the lectern typed in large font, either in its entirety or in meaningful point form. It acts as your safety blanket.
- Assure yourself that the audience is there to hear your speech. They want to hear it. They support your success.
- Visualise your giving the speech the way you’ve planned, and the audience applauding as you finish and return to your seat.
- In the time before your speech concentrate on your breathing. Ease tension by doing any breathing exercises that work for you.
- Launch into your speech just as you’ve prepared it – without apologies for any self-perceived shortcomings and without references to any nervousness.
- Concentrate on your message, not on any anxieties you may have.
The effective, longer term solution is to join Toastmasters and get to practise speaking regularly. At such meetings you can regularly tell a joke, speak off the cuff, give a prepared speech, even enter speech competitions (although not many people ever join a club with this in mind). All of this can be done before a supportive, friendly audience who very likely themselves joined Toastmasters to overcome their fear of public speaking (see Home Page).
In your club and elsewhere take every opportunity to participate and speak. Over time this will incrementally build confidence. Regular practice should make you a much more composed speaker, even though the butterflies may still be there.
It takes courage to attend your first Toastmasters meeting as a visitor, courage to join, courage to make your first speech. But take courage from the fact that many thousands of people have made this very same journey before you.