7 tips for public speaking fears
Public speaking is right at the top of most people's fear list, and it can hold back your career massively. Even people who look like they aren’t nervous may tell you they were terrified after they’ve given a speech.
There are lots of reasons for this, primarily because we feel safer not standing out of the crowd and we have negative associations about this from earlier experience. What I find with most clients is that it stems from something that happened at school when they first learned about being embarrassed in front of their peers.
If it’s learned, then it can be unlearned with the help of a skilled hypnotherapist to change the meaning or qualities of those early experiences, which influences the way we feel about certain situations in the present. Alongside that reframing, a hypnotherapist can also teach you different methods of changing how you feel in the moment to amplify even further that speaking in public can be better than you used to think.
7 top tips to help you with public speaking
1. Change your perspective
Remember the audience is wishing you well. They can’t see your thoughts. You’ll know how you feel in an audience watching someone present. Undoubtedly, you’re willing the speaker on. People want to see you do well.
2. Instant karma
Before you start speaking, ground yourself. Feel your connection with the floor so your mind starts to settle into the here and now; this can ease a few nerves. Have your arms down by your sides and imagine you’re carrying a bag of shopping on each side so that your arms feel 'anchored' too.
3. And... breathe!
When we’re nervous, we can hold our breath without even realising. So as you’re waiting to speak, count your in-breath and breathe out for two or four more counts than you breathe in for. It’s a great way to counteract shallow, 'stressy' breathing.
4. Help your audience
Change your focus from your comfort to how you can make your audience feel comfortable - smile, engage them with eye contact, and share this around the room. Take your time and help your audience to understand what you’re saying by slowing down, articulate as well as you can, and try and enjoy what you’re saying.
5. Flex your voice
Video or record yourself doing your speech beforehand so you get an idea of what you look or sound like. Make sure you know your opening or closing remarks well. You don’t need to know them off by heart (take little cue cards in case you lose your place too). Learn the key points and practice it over and over. Have fun with it when you practice. Do it in silly voices, sing it; whatever you can to get used to your voice, relax with it, and modulate your tone. If you drive, allow lots of time and practice in the car on the way there. If you’re on public transport, you could still practice in your head!
6. From the heart
Practice where you put your attention when you’re speaking. If you speak from your heart or your chest, you’re probably going to have a bigger voice. If you do it from your throat area, your voice can sound 'trapped'. Get to your speaking venue early if you can, and practice speaking right to the end of the room so your voice will reach everyone.
7. Team up!
Join a public speaking club. Toastmasters is a great organisation for this with clubs all over the country. Visit a few different ones if you can and find one that suits you. The first two meetings are free. There are no red jackets or formal toasts involved - just people like you wanting to improve their public speaking confidence. It’s a fun, safe, and welcoming place to practice your skills.
I hope at least one of these tips is something you can use so that you can make presenting yourself more comfortable.
Change starts here!
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About Lynne Wilkins
I have been working with clients on career and work-related issues for 25 years now, latterly as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist and Career Coach. I specialise in confidence and anxiety issues and am currently Vice President of Education for a Public Speaking Club. I see clients in London and Stevenage and used to run a mile from public speaking too!… Read more
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