The fear of public speaking is just another way of saying “fear of rejection”.
Few people like being put down, laughed at, mocked, criticized…or even ignored. This is especially true when you’re a teenager…and sometimes the majority of your life is spent with your peers at school. It seems like non-sense to mess with the social + political balance by doing something outside your comfort zone…with SOOOOO many people watching.
Ultimately, it comes down to your intent for speaking. Is it for RESULTS or APPROVAL?
Meaning, are you wanting to ….
- help your listeners to change,
- take action….
- Do you want to skate on by under the radar…blending in with other young speakers who just do the bare minimum to get by and avoid ridicule?
Honestly, many teenagers will pick approval.
If your intent is RESULTS, then you are far more likely to leave an impact on your audience, grow as a communicator (who can get some better paying jobs that the others won’t even try for), and have more fun. PLUS…. some approval follows when you do a good job.
If you have decided to push forward, here are my 8 easy tips for minimizing your fear of public speaking.
These tips stem out of my personal experience and training in the theatre arts. (Like as an actress, director,…and while working with youth at the Seattle Children’s Theatre as a teacher, etc.)
TIPS for MINIMIZING YOUR FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING
You’ve likely heard this before, but it is worth repeating! Preparation gets you ahead of the game. When you know what you’re doing, (you’ve rehearsed) a huge weight is lifted.
You’re fear exponentially reduced when you’re prepared! Don’t skimp out on this.
…and spoken content is totally different than written content. You say things differently than you write or read them. So, make sure your presentation reflects this.
Nobody wants to hear you read a paper you’ve written.
See my video blog post about the rehearsal process if you need help getting your written content prepared for a performance.
2. WARM UP YOUR BODY
“It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation.” – Rob Gilbert
You’re body can take over control when you’re nervous. Even though your brain says hold still…you’re body can have a mind of it’s own.
One way to get control of your body is through warming up. Often the best ones for focusing your body and calming down are through focused breathing.
You can also try medium/mild exercise — like jumping jacks, dancing, push ups, or even listening to music and just focusing on your movement.
You want to get that imaginary swarm of butterflies in line…and flying in formation. Whatever it takes.
(For a vocal warm up, check out this.)
3. Visualize Success
Imagine yourself doing a great job!
As an actress, before I go onstage I am still and quiet.
I picture in my mind what I’m going to do when I walk in front of the audience. I recall my rehearsal, goals, and prepare to be mental present.
Of course…I never imagine myself falling down or making a fool of myself. That would not be productive. See yourself BEING AMAZING! (Just make sure you’re still serving your audience…not just getting a big head.)
Focusing on the positive outcome you desire will help you to push aside overly anxious thoughts and feel more calm.
4. Acknowledge Negative Thoughts
That negative voice is chiming in. It’s trying to protect you from looking like a fool.
You know you need to ignore this…but, it’s hard to. So, rather than pretend it’s not there, researcher Brene’ Brown says you should instead acknowledge the thought.
Thank it for trying to have your back, but then tell it…”I’m going to do this anyway.”
This practice can actually help you to quiet that negative self talk!
Then you can focus on why you’re doing this speaking thing in the first place. (To help, to inform, to persuade, to share, to pump up, etc.)
Or…you can try the “As if…” trick.
5. Use Visuals + Props
If you get uncomfortable because everyone is looking at you, try finding good ways to use visuals and props. (They have to have purpose!…don’t confuse your audience.)
These help you to share the focus…since you can redirect people to look at the visuals! Easy!
6. Memorize Your Introduction + Conclusion
The first 6 -7 seconds of your presentation are CRUCIAL for hooking your audience’s attention.
The intro is also probably when you’re anxiety is highest! In order to get into your groove more quickly, memorize your introduction. About 2 minutes will probably work.
In that time, you should start to get the reactions + engagement from your audience that will make you more comfortable. (Stuff like head-nods, laughing, eye contact, etc.)
Then make sure to end on a strong note by memorizing your conclusion. With a plan, you won’t be stuck worrying about how you’re going to end your talk WHILE your speaking.
I recommend scripting out both of these (not just an outline).
(For some tips for a great intro, check out THIS blog post.)
7. Take and Improv Class…or Play Improv Games with Family + Friends
- Get you comfortable with being uncomfortable
- Trust yourself to figure out what to do when things don’t go as planned
There are tons of books, local improv teams, and YouTube videos on improv. It can be a fun way to explore your imagination with friends or family at dinner. I actually have a free resource for you below. So, sign up for it…it’s one of my favorite freebies I’ve ever made. I think you’ll like it.
8. Set Realistic Goals + Expectations
Very few people are naturally talented speakers.
So, I want you to STOP believing you need to be PERFECT….or else never try.
Rather than letting this overwhelming worry about perfection loom over you and make you more anxious and fearful, I want you to be realistic!
Set goals that you can reasonably achieve. Step by step.
Next time you are preparing to speak, choose 1-2 things you want to work on. Then really focus on those when you are presenting. When you’re done, reflect on your presentation…and how well you did at reaching your goal.
Each time build upon your growing foundation of skills. It’s a healthy and more helpful way to reduce the myth of perfection…and become a better speaker!
PS Don’t be afraid to fail. There’s lot’s to learn. You know what they say:
“You’re either winning or learning.”
By following these steps, hopefully you’ll be on your way to a less fearful speaking experience!
Tell me in the comments what your biggest concern or fears are regarding communication?
(Check out this blog post for ideas of common fears + what you can do about them.)