If you’re one of the 80% of people in America who suffer from some form of glossophobia (“fear of public speaking”), you’re not alone. Everyone from athletes to CEO’s to even politicians have butterflies when they stand in front of an audience, but with a little bit of work, you can overcome it just like they have.
There’s simply no replacing good, old-fashioned practice. Whether that means standing in front of a mirror and reciting your speech out loud several times, practicing in front of your family and friends, or just rehearsing in front of your cat, you need to become so comfortable with the material that you can give your speech in your sleep.
Don’t think you need to set aside a half hour to run through your speech every time; take five minutes and go through various sections of it at a time. Rehearse your intro. Practice your conclusion. Hit the various points out of order. Think through your speech in the shower. Don’t memorize it though. You want to keep a feeling of authenticity when you get up in front of people instead of simply reciting lines.
If you know where you’re going to be giving your speech, close your eyes and imagine yourself standing in front of the room of attendees. Visualize yourself on stage delivering your points over and over again and imagine the faces of the people looking back on you. Imagine yourself getting excited instead of nervous, that way when the day arrives, you’ll have already given the speech hundreds of times in the exact same venue.
It can be easy to think that everyone around you is just waiting for you to fail. One small slip up or misspoken word and the room will erupt in laughter, right? Wrong. Since the vast majority of the world is afraid of public speaking, most people are naturally sympathetic to the person who has to stand in front of them and deliver a speech. And as long as you’re not delivering awful news to the people in the room, they are rooting for you to deliver a good speech and transfer the information. Nobody really wants you to fail – keep that in mind the next time you start worrying about how it’ll go.
Even if your presentation is a one-sided affair – meaning you’re the only one that’s talking – it doesn’t mean you have to be the only one participating in the speech. Try to inject some humor to elicit laughs, engage the audience in some way either during or after the speech and look people in the eye. You may be the only one delivering the speech, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself.