Glossophobia or speech anxiety is the fear of public speaking and is one of the most common phobias.
It’s a type of performance anxiety in which a person becomes super concerned that they might look anxious, foolish, nervous or even have a panic attack.
A quick search on Google and we are inspired to practice, transform nervous energy into enthusiasm, attend other speeches, arrive early, adjust to our surroundings, use positive visualization, to take deep breaths...
Don't get me wrong, these tips are super helpful (especially the visualisation and breathing one) but, I dunno, do you feel like they lack substance?
Often, people will avoid public speaking altogether in an effort to protect themselves but unfortunately, this tactic can often get in the way!
I’ve worked with clients who pass up promotions and assignments, arrive late at meetings or baulk at certain social engagements or interactions. These missed opportunities are big deals hence why I really wanted to reflect on my own experience of speaking to see what I could come up with to help you.
So, if you feel like its time to learn how you can speak with confidence, joy and a greater sense of calm here are my top 5 tips to help you!
1. Don't start straight away
A lot of people take to the stage and start talking straight away. Not me! Just before I start a speech is when I am most nervous. I regularly rely on an icebreaker or two to diffuse any nervous tension before I begin my presentation.
Once, I asked a room full of women for a straw, other times I stand looking at the room with a hint of a smile and other times I just say my name as I organise myself. This tactic makes me feel in control and makes me look more confident than I might feel at the time.
2. Focus on the message in your mouth, not the fear in your head
For so many people who experience a fear of public speaking, they focus on what they feel, rather than the message or audience. People want to rid themselves of their anxiety but the truth is, it never goes away and this is a good thing.
I get super nervous before any talk, but will always focus on the message and audience over my own feelings. Earlier in the year, during February’s Empowered Women and the launch of my journal Be Your Own Best Friend, I was so nervous I felt ill (even more so than my TEDx Talk). I rang up my best friend and she said,
Sarah I know this might sound harsh but Empowered Women isn’t about you. It’s about the women in the audience who need your help.
3. Ignore the resting b*tch face
Without disappointment, there is always an audience member who looks like they have better things to do than listen to my presentation. There are always some people crossing their arms, rolling their eyes or chatting with their friend. It's unavoidable! Instead, I always scan the room for my supporters -- the people who are visibly engaged and into what I am saying, and I focus on them.
4. Speak with passion
I would be happy to listen to someone talk about how best to let the paint dry if they spoke with passion and excitement. Passion is contagious so don't be afraid to let your personality come through and your excitement shine.
5. Don't over prepare
Yes, it is super important to feel organised but do not over prepare or attempt to learn your presentation off by heart. I know preparation is a source of great comfort and confidence for a lot of us but over preparing can lead to your content seeming rehearsed or leaving you completely stuck in the mud if things go wrong.
During preparation for my TEDx talk, I was fixated on trying to learn the words to my talk. Every time I would practice, I would forget words, skip a part, mess up... something would go wrong! I would feel worse and worse until the nerves got so bad I just stopped practising.
Until one day it dawned on me that my story doesn't have a script!
Getting a structure is all well and good so simply list out the most important parts of your presentation in bullet point format and allow you wisdom, expertise and passion to fill in the gaps.
It is 100% OK to aspire to a presentation that is just good enough when you are attempting to battle one of your greatest fears. Don't overdo it and applaud the simple fact that you are taking charge and up-skilling!
I adore public speaking and the more presentations I give, the better I get. However, I still get nervous because I care so much about the people that I present too. Total confidence should not be the aim. Tackle one of my tips at a time and above all else, be gentle and kind to yourself.
Sarah Doyle is a life coach, a speaker, the creator or L-School and The Empowered Women Workshops, the founder of The Better Life Project and author of Be Your Own Best Friend. Sarah works with women all over the world to help them achieve their personal and professional goals, whilst developing their confidence and self-esteem.