Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking

A fear of public speaking resides in most people. Even though preparations may have been done, there is sometimes loss of memory, stammering or getting tongue-tied upon facing an audience. For some people it happens every time they have to address an audience, while for others it is occasional.

Public speaking and confidence go hand-in-hand, i.e., a confident person can speak out in a group or address the public without any fears. However, a person who is meek, i.e., timid by personality, fears speaking up lest they are ridiculed or they forget what is to be said. Hence, a fear of public speaking emerges solely because they are not confident about themselves.

Overcoming fear of public speaking generally applies to the latter group as described above. Shy people are introverts, i.e., they remain within themselves and keep their feelings and opinions to themselves. On a one-on-one conversation, they may excel; but, when it comes to a group of people, they are silent. Thus, the basic requirement for overcoming a fear of public speaking lies in building confidence, both internal and external.

Start Small

Speaking out in a large group of people can make the timid even meeker. Hence, it is a good idea to start with a small group of people who are probably closest to the person and are unlikely to laugh or jeer when a mistake happens. Children are often encouraged to speak to their parents, teachers, and groups of friends to overcome shyness. Similarly, shy adults can start participating in group discussions with friends and family.

Be Confident

In order to communicate to a larger set of people, it is necessary for the speaker (or participant in a discussion) to be confident of what he is saying. In case any question arises, it should be explained. This is the aspect that creates the fear, “what if I cannot answer?” If such a situation should arise, then it is very well to tell the group that the same will be looked into and answered in a given period. Alternatively, someone else in the group can be requested to answer the question without letting on that you do not know the answer. The basis of overcoming a fear of public speaking is looking and being confident.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Put the mirror to good use. Pretend that your mirror image is an audience and speak out. The reflection will help mould your posture, speech and inculcate confidence.

Practise with an Audience

While practising a speech, there are various stages – (i) learning the script, (ii) practising the speech, (iii) improving modulation of voice, (iv) practising in front of the mirror, and (v) practising in front of an audience. The last stage is extremely important for those who suffer from a fear of public speaking as this stage involves a live audience. For those who are ultra nervous, the more they practice in front of an audience, the faster do they overcome their nervousness. The audience selected for this purpose can be either friends or family who will ‘hear’ you out. Additionally, any acquaintance who is proficient in public speaking or academics can be requested to be your audience as well. Such an acquaintance will give proper tips and guidance on the speech. However, for people who have a basic fear of facing an audience, family and friends will do perfectly for practise sessions.

Fear of public speaking is not eradicated overnight but over time.

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