When we think of our biggest fears, we often conjure images of snakes or heights; however, one of the most common fears amongst Americans is the fear of public speaking.
Public speaking is a necessary skill in almost any industry. The ability to present information in front of an audience shows confidence, leadership ability, and professionalism. By following these helpful tips, you can learn how to overcome your fear and dazzle an audience.
Many people have nervous habits that they are entirely unaware of–touching their hair or face, pacing, or rolling their feet. While some of these may seem minor, audience members will quickly pick up on them and pay more attention to a person’s body language than to their words.
In order to identify your bad habits, have a friend record you giving a speech. By watching yourself, you will pick up on little idiosyncratic behaviors that will become noticeable and distracting to an audience. Being aware of these habits will help you realize when they occur and put more effort into their prevention.
Cut Out Filler Words
When listening to yourself speak, you will undoubtedly also notice your use of filler words, like “um” or “like.” These words usually have no meaning in a speech other than to fill empty space. It is important to realize that small transitional pauses are completely acceptable when giving a speech, especially in comparison to filler words.
When working on eliminating your use of filler words, start small. Give your speech in front of a friend and have them count the number of times you say “um” or “like.” Each time you practice, try to make the number a little bit smaller. With practice, you will quickly reduce your average number of fillers until they are almost entirely gone.
Practice Eye Contact
Although it seems like a simple concept, many people struggle with maintaining strong eye contact with their audience. While this can have many root causes, the only way to improve is through practice. Present your speech in front of a mirror. Every time you look into your own eyes while speaking, you are making eye contact with your audience. Continue practicing until most of the speech can be given this way.
While you do not want to give an entire speech staring straight ahead at one or two audience members, making eye contact with yourself will prove that you have the ability to look out to the audience and not rely on notecards or an outline. It will also keep you from looking down at your own feet or the floor instead of at the audience.
Public speaking is a skill like any other; it takes practice to perfect. Following these tips will help improve your public speaking ability and help you overcome your anxiety.