There is plenty of dubious material which suggests you can combat public speaking fear. Much of it includes fancy techniques such as ‘visualisation’ or ‘breathing techniques’. Well, they might work. But this ten step system is GUARANTEED TO WORK. That's because instead of fancy tricks and techniques, this system of dealing with public speaking fear uses your body's natural defences against fear.
Prepare well. Naturally enough, the more prepared you are the more likely you are to feel in control, which will NATURALLY help your nervousness reduce.
Practice, practice, practice. You can't do too much practice. Don't listen to those people who say you can over-practice. Tell that to circus artists who practice day in day out for decades, just to get their act right. You don't hear actors and musicians complaining they had ‘too much’ rehearsal time. The more your rehearse, the better.
Say your speech OUT LOUD. Whether you are in the car, the bath, or going for a walk with the dog, say it out loud. Going through your talk ‘in your head’ means you don't benefit from something called ‘psychomotor memory’ - whereby the memory for what you need to say is partly embedded in the muscles of your mouth.
Get to the venue early. Get a feel for the room. Sit where the audience will sit so you can see it from their perspective. Walk around the auditorium. Practice your speech on the stage itself. The more comfortable you are with the room, the less your nerves will be.
Get some exercise. A walk, a swim, a session in the gym, it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you get some exercise in the couple of hours before your talk. That way you'll change the chemistry of your blood supply in your own favour. Exercise is essential in reducing nerves. Do not skimp on this.
Chew some mints or sweets. While waiting to go on stage, chew something. This will produce saliva which also helps reduce nerves. If you drink water your saliva production will go down and your nervousness will rise. Avoid water when presenting.
When you go up on stage, smile. No matter how false it feels to you, the audience won't notice. Just smile. It helps produce hormones that lead to a more relaxed feeling.
Be active on the stage. Move around, use big gestures and get as much body movement as you can. The more you move the more relaxed you will feel.
Look people in the eye. Make as much eye contact as you can. The more the better. Eye contact is essential in helping you feel good and reducing your nerves.
Use feedback. Always gain feedback on your speeches. You'll soon discover you are a lot better than you think you are, which is bound to help boost your confidence.
Graham Jones is a psychologist and public speaker. He has helped over 17,000 people overcome their fear of public speaking. He runs The Presentation Business to help you speak in public. See: The Presentation Business
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