Public Speaking Tips – Believing In Yourself, Overcoming Your Public Speaking Fear

What are some of the reasons for you finding it difficult or impossible to do public speaking in front of others? Do the below common barriers to fantastic public speaking sounds familiar?

  • “I am afraid to face the audience”
  • “I am scared of Q and A”
  • “My English is not that good”
  • “I am worried about my confidence”
  • “I am sure to falter.”
  • “I don’t know what to talk about”
  • “I am afraid that my mind may go blank.”
  • “I dare not look at the audience”

Throughout the years as a public speaking coach, I’ve the privilege to met up with people from all walks of life who suffers from Glossophobia, or commonly known as fear in public speaking.

Barriers to speech communication are plenty and varied in shapes and sizes and there are many advices floating around as to what is the best way to overcome one’s fear in public speaking.

And here are my four expert tips I offer to all my students on how to overcome their speech anxiety:

Tip #1: It Is Impossible to Be Fearless

Fear is the most important barrier. Fear is a hindrance to public speaking.

Fear is a matter of mindset. If you think you are worried, you are. If you think you dare not, you don’t. Fear is always lurking around, waiting for the moment to appear. You must steady your mind and overcome the fear.

Tip #2: Find Your Voice, Be an Authority

You have to choose a topic that you have authority to speak on. Speak on something that you have full knowledge of and do not pretend that you have if you do not have.

Do not depend on luck; knowledge is not luck. You must have the passion on that segment of the knowledge and audience can see through you when you talk about this passionate subject.

Tip #3: You Need To Be Competent As Well

If you dare to speak, then you must have the competency to speak to an audience. Competency is the skills in rendering speeches. You can develop the competency by joining speech training class, join a toastmasters club and be an active member. You must also be comfortable in the subject matter.

Tip #4: Tell the Truth

There is a saying: when in doubt, speak the truth. It is easy to speak the truth because you do not have to play “hide and seek.” People can tell whether you are speaking the truth or not.

If you speak the truth all the way; you can feel the energy level going up. Your face sparkle and audience can feel the speech.

By now, I am sure you must have discovered that I use acrostic – FACT to describe the four pointers to overcoming barriers in speech communication.

While overcoming your fear in public speaking doesn’t happen overnight, however, by following FACT religiously, most of my students always manage to achieve and excel in their endeavours in public speaking.

And yes, I think you too can become the great public speaker you desire to be! Just follow the FACT!

Why Do We Have The Fear Of Public Speaking?

Whenever an average person thinks of a public speaking situation, the immediate emotion he feels is fear. Fear of Speaking in Public is universal. For some people, it will be at a sub-conscious level and for others, it will be perceptible. Yet, speaking is something which everyone enjoys. In fact, talking to others is one of the psychological needs of human beings. But still, people have this irrational fear. Why do we have this fear and what can we do to come out of this?

Fears can be of various types. One category of fear is the fear of the unknown. If you are offered your dream job with a handsome salary, you will be elated. But if you are told that your place of work will be a town not familiar to you, your enthusiasm will instantly evaporate. People fear unknown places, unknown people, unknown things and unknown experiences. The fear of public speaking stems from the natural tendency of the human mind to fear the unknown.

Do you travel often? Recall your experiences. How comfortable are you with a person sitting next to you in a train or a plane? Initially, you have a lurking suspicion about the person. Will he or she be an affable person? You fear him though he could not do you any harm, unless he is a terrorist, which is only a remote possibility. (Anyway, this fear has been there even in those days when terrorism had not raised its head.) But after a while, once you start exchanging a few words, you become more comfortable with him and the fear fades away.

The above example helps us to understand the genesis of the fear of speaking in public. More importantly, it also gives us a clue to overcome this fear. You understand that it is natural for you to be apprehensive of speaking in public. After all fearing the unknown is a natural trait of human beings. But how do we drive out this fear? We are relieved of our reservations about our next seat neighbor in the train by getting ourselves acquainted with them. The unknown person becomes a friendly neighbor in no time. You can use the same strategy with public speaking.

If you want to free yourself from the fear of public speaking, get acquainted with public speaking. How do you do this? Speak! Speak in public, whenever there is an opportunity. Plunge into the public speaking arena without giving an opportunity to your fear to talk you out of it.

What to Do If You Fear Public Speaking More Than Death

Do you do any public speaking or training? If not, why? Is it because you believe there are people who are gifted in public speaking but not you? Or is it because you feel that you are not good enough in public speaking? Whatever reasons (and I call these excuses) you use to justify why you do not do any public speaking, I would still like to let you know that you can become an expert in public speaking if you choose to. Why? The short answer is that public speaking is a learnable skill.

There is a saying that no one is born smarter than the others. In fact, if you speak to anyone who is a practitioner in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, I believe he will tell you that if it is possible for the others, it is possible for you too.

Since public speaking is a learnable skill, I am going to share with you 4 tips that will help you to overcome fear in public speaking. Before I do that, I have to first acknowledge that the original ideas did not come from me. I did not invent or create anything new. Nevertheless, what is original here is my unique experience, which is what I am sharing in this article.

Tip No.1: Start small first

If you have not done any public speaking before, I can only imagine that you would freak out if I ask you to speak in front of a large group of people. There is no short cut in acquiring any skill. It takes time to practise and perfect the craft.

When I first started public speaking, I started with a small group of 5 to 10 people. The reason was that I had to create my identity as a public speaker, and this allowed me to form certain beliefs that I could become an excellent public speaker in future.

In addition, I am sure that we all make mistakes especially when we are considered beginners. Would you prefer to make mistakes in front of a smaller group or a large crowd?

After you get used to speaking to smaller groups, you can consider increasing the size of the group progressively. Take one step at a time.

Tip No.2: Control your mind

I must say that our mind has good intention for us at all times. It does not want us to feel awkward or uncomfortable whenever we are doing something new.

Here was what happened to me before. When I was on the stage, I was nervous and my inner voice suggested that I should leave the stage immediately. It did not look good on me as a speaker. Many years later, I have learnt from my mentor that I had the power to control my mind. With continuous practices, whenever my mind now suggests anything that is not useful to me in a particular situation, I will say to myself “thank you for sharing” or “shut up”. Which one you should use will be entirely up to you. Both work well for me.

Tip No.3: Have a script in front of you

From my experience, part of the reasons why some of you may fear public speaking is that you are afraid of making mistakes when giving your speech. This is especially when the subject matter is highly technical in nature.

In my case, some of my trainings involve discussing complex financial products such as derivatives and options. How do I remember all the important details and make sure that my participants understand the subject matter? The secret is to have a script in front of me so that I can follow it closely. You can consider using cheat sheet too.

Tip No.4: Have a coach to give you feedback

My last tip is for you to engage a coach who will provide you with feedback on your training or public speaking engagement. Many years ago, I thought I delivered a great training. However, my participants did not feel the same. I did not know why because i did not seek help from anyone.

Over the years, I have learnt to be humble and get some experienced coaches to sit in during my training to provide me with feedback and suggested improvement. This allows me to identify my weaknesses so that I can improve my delivery next time.

As you have seen, there is no need to be afraid of public speaking. You just need more practices and you will eventually be able to deliver the topic you are passionate about in front of a large group of audience. I hope you find my sharing insightful and use these tips in practising your public speaking skill.