According to several studies, public speaking is the number one fear among adults, topping the fears of flying, heights, sickness, and even death. What is it exactly that has so many people nervous about speaking in public? Is it the fear of being judged? Or is it the fear of being unprepared?
Whatever the reason may be, public speaking is something that everyone must do at some point in their career – no matter what their vocation may be. Whether you are an engineer, an accountant, or a public relations director, knowing how to confidently present to your colleagues and clients is an incredibly important skill to possess.
To conquer the number one fear of adults, I’ve created a guideline that I’ve titled “The 3 P’s of Public Speaking.” These are little tricks and strategies that I have learned through various public speaking classes along with my personal experiences of presenting.
- Prepare. Many people lack confidence when addressing audiences because they do not feel comfortable and knowledgeable about the information they are presenting. This can easily be conquered by conducting as much research as you can gather. The more educated you are about your topic, the more confident you will be when presenting it. Also, draft several outlines of your speech, making sure that your points are easy to follow and your transitions are clear and concise. Audiences naturally drift in and out of presentations and you want to make sure they can jump right in to where they left off. This can be done by using recognizable (yet smooth) transitions and key words that are repeated frequently throughout your speech. The more prepared you are for a speech the less anxious you’ll feel.
- Practice. Practice as many times as you possibly can. Many people make the mistake of thinking they can just “wing” their speech, but often times those mistakes lead to discombobulating, confusing, and unorganized speeches. It is important to practice because the old saying is true; practice does make perfect (or at least brings you a lot closer to it). The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel with the material. The majority of presentations have a time limit and even in the professional world presentations are expected to meet allotted time slots. With practice you can establish your rate and delivery techniques so that your speech is both time efficient and effective. Stand up and deliver your speech out loud several times, finding out what you need to improve on, whether its your tone, pitch, rate, or volume. The more you practice the more it will show when presenting.
- Present. Take advantage of every public speaking opportunity you come across. The more you present, naturally the more comfortable and confident you will become. You can gain more experience by joining organizations or clubs that provide opportunities for you to present or by seeking out opportunities within your job or internship. It is also important that after every presentation you gather feedback from your audience because critiques only help to strengthen your skills for the next presentation.
Even if I didn’t cure your fear of public speaking I hope that I offered some valuable and helpful advice for future presentations. If worse comes to worse, you can always rely on the age-old trick of imagining your audience in their underwear (although I don’t always recommend it!).