Your hands are sweaty, your heart racing, and your stomach churning! These are all common symptoms of public speaking anxiety. The vast majority of individuals fear the thought of standing in front of a large audience and delivering any type of formal speech, especially when it involves persuasion. As a past public speaking instructor, I dealt with the woes of public speaking on a daily basis and these fears are not unwarranted. As individuals we hate the thought of being judged, of making a mistake or forgetting what we are going to say. This nervousness is common and should not be seen as an enemy but an opportunity to take advantage of.
An important concept to remember in delivering a formal speech is to develop and retain confidence. Visualize yourself delivering an excellent and articulate speech. Those individuals that re-channel their nervousness into positive thinking and visualizing often times succeed in providing valuable and well-spoken speeches. Next, realize that the majority of your audience cannot tell you’re nervous. They cannot notice the racing of your heart and the butterflies in your stomach. These symptoms are an internal experience that remains personal to you – so do not let your audience know that you are terrified. Additionally, practicing and being well prepared will greatly decrease the odds of delivering a poor speech. Time and time again the best speakers often times are the best practiced and better prepared than their peers. Therefore, take time and practice your speech, practice that gripping introduction and that inspiring conclusion. Take time to thoroughly research your topic and issues that might come up in your audience’s feedback. Finally, realize that making a mistake is not the end of a good speech, the key is to not let your audience know you made a mistake – continue speaking as if nothing had happened – they will be none the wiser.
Effective public speaking is an active and acquired skilled that we are not born with nor provided with. It is an ever increasing developed skill that continues throughout our lifetime. Consider those speakers whom you admire and ask yourself how do they talk, what language do they use, how do they inspire, and what techniques are included in their delivery? Remember we all get nervous about speaking in public – even the most experienced speakers!