Public speaking. The very idea of it was enough to send me hurtling in the other direction. In fact, I often looked at syllabuses in my university courses to ensure that none of the projects involved public speaking, just because I knew I had a fear of public speaking. I’m the sort who tend to break out in nerves. Not just that little cold little jittery feeling in the stomach either. Oh no. I was full on, “I have a fear of public speaking and I am about to vomit,” nerves.
The unfortunate thing about attending university classes–and life, in general–is that public speaking is often required. Whether in your future career or just in social situations, public speaking is something we’re all going to face. So, I decided that I needed to face this speech anxiety head-on and master it.
Here are some methods I utilized to overcome the fear of public speaking:
Know The Topic
In order to conquer any fear, we need to first examine just why it is a fear in the first place and why it is having an effect on us in the way that it is. For myself, I always found the idea of looking stupid in front of others to be one of the main reasons why I had such a terrible public speaking fear. So, I examined the fear further. Why do I think I would look stupid in front of people? Perhaps not knowing what I was talking about? That’s something I can handle. By carefully memorizing the topic I was speaking about and making sure it was as stuck in my memory as Moana’s, “You’re Welcome,” I was sure I could give an informational speech and overcome public speaking fear.
Prepare For Surprises
Anxiety is essentially a fear of the unknown. Since I have no idea how this speech is going to turn out or any of the other myriad of variables, it causes me a great deal of public speaking fear. A method I used to combat that was to familiarize myself with the location of the speech. It may be surprising, but being able to picture oneself in the room that one is going to be giving the speech–or better yet, practicing in the actual room–in can help reduce the fear of public speaking.
If my audience is expected to ask me questions, I can do my best to place myself in their shoes and try to think of the questions they’re going to ask me. In that way, I can prepare readily and not worry about looking silly. I may not be able to know all of their questions, but I can probably guess a bulk of them, and be ready for them when they come at me.
Face Your Fear
One of the best methods I found to help me overcome my fear of public speaking . . . was to do it–a lot. I know this may seem counter-productive, but hang in with me here. Exposing oneself to one’s fears over and over allows us to slowly become used to the object or situation that we fear. It’s called exposure therapy, and while it is definitely recommended to do it along with a psychiatrist, let’s be honest, not everyone can afford a psychiatrist. So, how can we do this on our own?
First of all, we need to make sure that we understand our limits. Too much exposure can actually make us more fearful of the object or situation later on in our lives. I would suggest starting out with some friends. They’re an excellent support system, but they still provide enough of a jittery sensation to face that fear.
From there, we can find places online that offer a place for us to hone our skills. It is a step above our friends, in that we’re trying our speech out on people we don’t know, but it’s not quite as scary as the actual situation, as we can perform the speech in the comfort of our own home and we don’t have to face these people ever again.