Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

In 2010, I taught my first communication class which happened to be a public speaking course. Prior to that, I had never taken a public speaking course or done much public speaking. The thought of standing in front of a group of people and giving a speech made my tummy quiver. As the first day of class approached, I consistently felt nauseous. But then, that day came and passed. I survived my first lecture, and ended up teaching for three years.

Here are six (6) things I did to help me overcome my fear of public speaking. Just do it: or as I often tell myself, “just Nike it.” The Nike slogan is one of my favorites. It is simple yet powerful. [Tweet "The only way to overcome your fear of public speaking is to just do it."] Remind yourself why the presentation is necessary to whatever goals you are trying to achieve, and accept the challenge to not only speak, but do a great job. #JustNikeIt.

Be prepared:

we've all heard the quote by Benjamin Franklin “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. This is true for public speaking. While you may not be able to completely control your body’s reaction to fear (i.e. sweaty palms and pits, shaking, nausea etc.), being prepared allows you to have all the relevant information that needs to be transmitted to your audience.

Being prepared could involve writing an outline for your speech, putting major speaking points on a PowerPoint slide, or having note cards that you can flip through during presentation. Find whatever works best for you and use it.

Practice your speech:

part of my preparation process involve practicing my speech in front of the mirror, and around the house. This may sound like “50 shades of crazy,” but it works. Practicing your speech familiarizes you with the speech progression and helps you get comfortable with communicating your ideas. It also alerts you to the parts of your speech that may “trip” you during presentation. Your practice sessions may involve close friends and family that can provide constructive feedback. Whatever you do, do not neglect this step. Remember, “practice makes perfect.”

Be early:

my first day of class, I arrived at the venue an hour early in order to get comfortable with the space. I was able to relax, collect my thoughts and also do some last minute adjustments to my speech before my students arrived.

Access to the speech venue might not always be an option, but arriving early gives you time to regroup and calm down before your big event. Arriving late on the other hand will leave you flustered, probably sweaty, and a little more nervous than usual.

Dress appropriately and comfortably:

dressing well is good business. It makes you feel confident and comfortable in your own skin. The last thing you want to do during your speech is struggle with your clothes, while also trying to manage your anxiety/nervousness. Wear an outfit that is appropriate for the occasion, but also pay attention to how comfortable you feel in those clothes. If they are too tight or ill fitting, change them for something that lets you move naturally. Also, rumpled clothing can be distracting to your audience members. Avoid this at all cost.

Keep it professional, but simple: 

Simplify complex information in ways that resonate with your audience members, and avoid the use of jargon and words that are ambiguous. Also remember to interact with the audience by asking questions, using short activities, and also carving a space for Q&A.

The fear of public speaking is a common phobia. The only way to overcome your fear is to "just do it". Go into every event knowing that the audience want you to succeed. A bad public speaker makes the listeners uncomfortable, and no one wants to feel that way. So do your research, be prepared, practice your speech, arrive early, dress for success, and have a good conversation. #JustDoIt!