During the 10 years I have been a member of Toastmasters International, I have given many speeches and won a few public speaking awards. I have made presentations at work, appeared on radio and TV talk shows, and coached new speakers through their first few speeches. And I still have to calm my nerves before a speech.
If you sweat like a pig, have butterflies in your stomach and your hands just can’t stop shaking before your presentation, you are not alone. But don’t worry. There are a few things you can do to calm your nerves and ease your fears.
If you have to talk before strangers as a job seeker, committee head at work or community leader, put your listeners first. Instead of thinking about how you feel, focus on how you want your audience to feel at the end of your talk. As a speaker, your only goal is to effectively communicate your message (hire me, accept my committee’s findings, or listen to what my neighborhood wants).
The next time you have to talk to one or more strangers as a speaker, use some of these tips to beat back your fear of public speaking:
- Memorize your opening and closing lines. If you’re comfortable with how you want to open your talk and how you want to drive home your message in the end, you can focus on your delivery. Connect with your listeners with good eye contact and have a few memorable lines.
- Make your goal your priority. Keep your eye on the ball, the goal you want to achieve. Make sure your desire to get hired, to win over your audience or explain your point of view is stronger than your fear of failure.
- Visualize success. Before you enter the room, think about something that makes you feel relaxed and repeat a favorite phrase that pumps you up and makes you feel powerful. Imagine that you’ll have a successful speaking experience.
- Use your nervous energy to your advantage. Show enthusiasm and energy, instead of fear. To keep your nervous energy in check, inhale deeply and exhale slowly before you begin talking. Try pressing the fingertips of one hand against the fingertips of your other hand, to disperse your nervous energy.
- Personalize your message. Think of your presentation as a conversation where you are doing most of the talking. Personalize your language. Use the word “you” or the names of people in the audience. If you focus on your audience, not on your nerves, you can be calm, confident and courageous as you communicate your message fearlessly!