Most people find it scary to speak in public or in front of an audience. Public speaking is one of the most common fears, and in America, statistics show
that 75% of the general public has a fear of speaking. It may be one of the people's biggest fears - but it is also one of the most rewarding things you could do as a professional, expert or coach.
So, how to overcome the fear of public speaking? First, let’s look at the fears related to public speaking and try to understand why public speaking is so scary.
The fear of judgment:
Most people are afraid that they will be judged or criticised by their audience, which can lead to feelings of embarrassment or shame, which is scary. This is particularly prominent for people just starting out in public speaking. The possible fear of going red on stage or forgetting your words just adds to most people's fear of public speaking.
How to overcome it? I always tell people I coach in public speaking: Take a moment to visualise the person you are trying to connect with. Imagine their fears, needs, and what they want to hear from you as a speaker. Make it less about you and more about the audience. When your focus is on the audience, your focus can not be on you - so the fear of judgment disappears because you are not focusing on yourself.
Lack of Confidence:
Some people lack confidence in public speaking because they do not have a lot of experience. So they worry about their ability to deliver a speech effectively or to engage their audience, which can cause them to feel nervous or self-conscious.
How to overcome it? Confidence comes with experience, therefore, you need to start doing more public speaking in order to overcome this fear and become better at speaking. If you have never spoken in public before, start with smaller groups, practice by recording yourself on camera, ask to deliver a presentation at work or run a small group workshop to get into practice. The more you do it, the less afraid you will be.
Fear of Failure:
People may be afraid that they will forget their speech, make mistakes or fail to deliver their message effectively, which can cause anxiety and stress in public speaking
How to overcome it? The truth is, even the most experienced speakers make mistakes, forget their words or fail to deliver something they intended to. The good news is the audience has no idea how it is supposed to be as long as you do not tell them. In fact, people find it more relatable when people on stage are not perfect, so if something goes wrong, acknowledge it, make a joke out of it and let the audience see the funny side of life. Nothing is so serious, and people are not here to judge us as speakers as much as we think they are.
Lack of Preparation:
Inadequate preparation can lead to anxiety, stress and nervousness, making public speaking a more difficult and nerve-wracking experience.
How to overcome it? Never go on stage unprepared. Even the most experienced and professional speakers should be doing preparation before delivering a speech.
Even if you are an expert in your field, public speaking requires preparation because every audience, every stage and every speaking engagement will have different needs.
Never assume that the talk you delivered a week ago at another engagement will be suitable for another engagement. This is the most common pitfall of experienced speakers because they have been doing it for so long they take it for granted that they know how to deliver their topic; however, as mentioned above, every audience will have different needs, and the best bet is to do as much research and preparation as possible before every speaking engagement.
Sometimes, people may attach too much importance to their speech or the speaking opportunity they have been given, which can increase their anxiety and fear of public speaking.
How to overcome it?My favourite way to overcome the ‘importance of the stage’ is to remind yourself why you are the expert in your field and why you have been asked to deliver that speech. In most cases, you will most likely be the most knowledgeable in that area of expertise, and the audience genuinely wants to know what you have to say.
Overall, public speaking is a skill that requires practice, preparation, and confidence. With the right mindset and approach, anyone can improve their public speaking abilities and become a more confident and effective public speaker.
Want to learn more about public speaking and build your skills to become a paid speaker? Check out this link to find out more about growing your speaking skills.