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Public speaking – whether in front of 10 people or 1,000 people – can cause nervousness and fear in many. Regardless of how many times you have done it before, you still might have those “what if” thoughts. What if I make a mistake or forget what I was going to say? What if the audience isn’t engaged? It is normal to have these thoughts, but the more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel. Adequate preparation also allows you to make adjustments on the spot for a more successful engagement.

The first step is recognizing what some common public speaking fears are:

  • Being judged
  • Forgetting what you were going to say
  • Making a mistake
  • Boring the audience
  • Fainting
  • Being inexperienced

These are all normal feelings that can accompany a speech or presentation. One thing to remember is that you are often more critical of yourself than the audience is. They are there to hear what you have to say; they have no idea whether you have 20 years of experience or 20 days. In their eyes, you are the expert. Have confidence in yourself and keep a positive attitude.

Practice

One of the best ways to feel more confident about public speaking is to practice and make sure that you are prepared. The more you read through your speech, become familiar with the flow of ideas, are comfortable with your body language, and know how presentation materials interact, the less you have to be nervous about. Mastering these details allows you to focus on the audience and how your message is being perceived.

Know your Audience

Understanding what the purpose of your speech or presentation is, what the audience is looking to take away from it, and what their general knowledge of the content is can help you to better plan and make it more engaging. When you are overly prepared and know your material inside and out, you can make necessary adjustments to keep audience attention and draw them in. It won’t throw you off to make changes because you know exactly what you want to say – you’re just changing how you say it.

Here are some other ways to feel more physically and mentally prepared before you begin:

  • Relieve stress and tension by taking some deep breaths. Inhale through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, and then exhale through your mouth. Breathe in slowly to maximize your air intake.
  • Do some gentle stretches. Many people tighten up their neck and shoulders when they are nervous or anxious. Roll your head from side to side to stretch your neck muscles. Gently roll your shoulders back and forth and up and down. Slowly swing your arms in large circles. Yawn a few times to relax your jaw.
  • Visualize yourself being successful. Imagine giving your presentation and remembering every word. The audience is engaged and interested. Everything goes smoothly and seamlessly. You are standing tall, looking confident, and commanding attention. Getting yourself in the right frame of mind can have a big impact.
  • Interact with the audience. Greet people as they enter to create more of a connection. Engage in eye contact as you are speaking and slowly scan the room, periodically stopping to focus on certain areas.
  • Stick with it. The more opportunities you embrace to speak in front of others, the more prepared you will feel. With each successful presentation, you build your confidence and self-esteem. This will make working through small blunders easier because you know that you are prepared.

Public speaking is a valuable skill to have whether presenting in front of group or holding a one-on-one meeting. The same basic strategies apply. Those in leadership roles are often tasked with addressing others and sharing their knowledge. If you are concerned that your public speaking skills are not up to par, contact JP Kantor Consulting today to find how we can help. Through our executive coaching and consulting, we can help you to feel more confident and self assured in commanding attention from a group and making your presentation.