Fear of public speaking is a very common problem. In fact, most people would put this fear at the top of their lists of things they are most afraid of. This fear affects not only people who would call themselves shy, but it also affects many people who habitually have to speak in public.
A little apprehension is normal. Full-blown anxiety and panic are something else.
Why does the thought of public speaking cause so much anxiety?
If you are one of the people for whom thinking about speaking in front of a crowd or group leads to a sense of panic, you are not alone. You may feel sure that you are going to make a fool of yourself in front of other people, and it makes you reluctant or unwilling to try.
Problems such as stuttering may be holding you back. You may have blundered in a previous situation where you had to speak in front of other people. One example is forgetting your lines in a school play, or having an experience where a previous attempt at public speaking was harshly criticized. If you happen to have an accent that is different than the people of your region, you may find that listeners poke fun at the way you pronounce words. Or if your voice is naturally soft and people are continually saying they can’t hear you, you probably don’t want to attempt to speak in front of a group.
The memory of one or two embarrassing moments in front of other people may make you retreat into a shell where you lack self confidence. You start to believe that you can’t speak publicly. You may even start to believe that you have nothing valuable to say. You may begin to avoid social situations altogether.
The only way to get over a fear of public speaking is to bite the bullet and try again. If you can, speak about something you know a lot about or are very passionate about. Sincere enthusiasm about a subject will make it easier to forget how uncomfortable you are.
Another thing that helps is to thoroughly know your subject. If you know a subject so well that you could talk about it with or without notes, this will help you to be less anxious. The one thing you can control if you have to speak in front of a group is how well-prepared you are. Practice thoroughly and be sure that you are ready.
Remind yourself that extreme nervousness means you are focused only on yourself. What about your audience? What information are you trying to share with them? Can you change your focus to them and what their needs are? Ask them what information they are trying to obtain from you.
Instead of dwelling on your own discomfort, think about putting your audience at ease. Inject humor into your presentation. Remember to smile. Deliberately slow down your breathing.
Above all, remind yourself that even if you fail to deliver the speech you’d like to deliver, it’s not the end of the world. Anyone who faces their fears and tries to act in spite of fear has made big progress. Give yourself credit for each time you make an effort to get past your fear of public speaking. Trust that your public speaking experiences will improve and your fear will diminish with effort.Public speaking and self confidence