It is said that on the fear list, public speaking comes before the fear of death. It has even its own word: glossophobia, coming from the Greek glossa, meaning tongue, and phobos, meaning fear. The symptoms of glossophobia can vary and are numerous: dry mouth, trembling body, sweating, just to name a few. In her article How I Got Over My Fear of Public Speaking, Kelly offers a good set of advices, from her own experience, on how to overcome glossophobia. I although introduced 3 simple hacks to better speak in public and 5 deadly mistakes to avoid to be a good speaker.
Whatever your audience, whatever your topic, and whatever your public speaking skills, anxiety and fear always kicks in. There’s a story one of my mentors of public speaking that I particularly like: A young actress, after a play, goes to see the great Sarah Bernhardt and asks “madam, I never add stage frights, is this normal?” Sarah Bernard answers “Don’t worry, it comes with talent”. Just to say it’s completely normal to have stage fright, it’s actually a nice feedback loop that helps us remember the essential things to do to get good at what we are about to do.
Here are a set of behavioral tips and tricks to feel better when you are about to deliver a public speech:
- Shout! If you can find a secluded place when nobody hears you, go there and shout the loudest you can. It will help a lot empty the tension you have.
- Stand right! Pull your shoulders backwards, push your breast forward and stand right. Exaggerate the movement before setting the foot on stage, it will relieve the tension in your upper body.
- Put one foot slightly ahead of the other! A little bit like martial art practitioners. This will provide a better balance.
- Breathe slowly and deeply! Breathing is essential, breathing slowly will lower your cardiac speed and lower your anxiety
- Look at your audience, spotting friendly faces! There are always friendly and smiling faces in an audience, look at them like you were speaking to them one on one, but do not speak only to them, move your eyes around, and come back to those friendly faces.
- Accept mistakes and failures! You tongue will trip. You will forget a sentence or a paragraph. All this, and more, happens, even to the best. The only way to avoid this is to rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse. If you do not have the time, accept little mistakes
One thing that most people do not realize is that the best speakers, the Obamas, the Jobs, etc. are prepared to the max. They have a prompter, they have coaches, and they have rehearsed dozens of time. There’s no shortcut to being a great public speaker, but the above simple tricks will help you getting better and better.
All the best!