Did you know that the majority of people fear public speaking more than death? There’s something undeniably terrifying about giving a speech in front of an audience.
If the thought of standing up and addressing a crowd makes you sweat and tremble, then take comfort in the fact that you don’t suffer alone!
I’ve been somewhat shy and quiet my entire life, and as an introvert I take no pleasure in the idea of public speaking. So when my recent Matron of Honor duties required me to give a heartfelt speech, let’s just say I was nervous and panicky.
But you know what? My speech wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I stayed calm, kept my voice steady, and even teased a few laughs from the audience in the process. Score!
How did I manage to keep my cool (without picturing every guest in the room sans clothes)? Time to spill the beans.
Public Speaking Tip #1: Rehearse like it’s going out of style.
Will you look silly rehearsing a speech in front of a mirror? Probably. But there’s an upside to that scenario: You’ll be the only one who’ll know. There’s absolutely ZERO shame in practicing your speech out loud when you’re alone. Practice will not only make you more familiar with the words you’ve chosen and the rhythm of your sentences, but it will also help you commit sections to memory (which I’ll bring up again later in this post).
Public Speaking Tip #2: Take deep breaths and give yourself a pep talk when you start to panic.
The first time I gave a MOH speech, I worried about it the entire day and couldn’t focus on anything else. This time, though, I forced myself to worry about the speech later and I didn’t think about it until the reception. Can you guess what happened minutes before go-time? Yep, I temporarily freaked out; my heart raced, my palms sweated, and my breath sputtered.
However, I swiftly ended that panic attack with a few long deep breaths and a convincing pep talk. The breathing lowered my heart rate long enough for me to tell myself, “Hey, you’re going to be fine! This is just a speech, not the end of the world. Just get up there, do your thing, and let it happen. You’re going to be fantastic!” It worked.
Public Speaking Tip #3: Trick yourself into tranquility.
This one goes hand in hand with tip #2. I felt semi-confident after hearing my own pep talk — confident enough, in fact, to take my brain trickery one step further. Here’s how it works: You have to create a mantra that defies the issue at hand. Mine was, “You aren’t scared. You’ve got this.” I repeated those phrases in my mind until I actually started to believe it. When I got up to stand at the podium, my fear had dramatically decreased and I didn’t feel faint once, which is quite an accomplishment for me.
(Hint: If you’ve read any of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series or watched HBO’s Game of Thrones, then take a cue from Daenerys Targaryen on this one. She frequently repeats the phrase “I am the blood of the dragon” when she’s feeling scared. It works for her, too).
Public Speaking Tip #4: Designate a few focal points throughout the room.
Remember in the first tip when I mentioned memorization? Well, here’s where that could come into play. I’d suggest selecting 3 focal points within the room before it’s time to deliver your speech; this gives your eyes direction when you glance up from your notes every now and then. As a result of my various practice sessions, I managed to memorize a few sentences here and there. I rotated between my 3 designated focal points every time I got to a portion of my speech I’d memorized, which broke up the monotony and gave the impression I wasn’t as nervous as I felt.
(Hint: Your focal points should be in separate areas so you’re not singling out that one relative or buffet table the entire time).
Public Speaking Tip #5: Smile, smile, smile!
Okay, so maybe smiling doesn’t automatically inspire happiness, but it’s another way to trick your body into submission. I felt a burst of confidence every time I smiled and that did wonders for my overall presentation! Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own insecurities that we tense up, and that shouldn’t be the case. Frowning or tensing will only add to your fear and quicken your heart rate, but smiling will put you at ease with your surroundings. Besides, if your speech is personal in any way then you’ll probably want to smile anyway.
There you have it — a public speaking tutorial for even the most introverted of introverts! If you only take away a single tip from this post, then please remember your breathing. You won’t be able to speak at all if you’re not breathing…
Have you ever addressed a large audience before? Do you get nervous about public speaking, too? How do you overcome your initial terror?