Here are some common public speaking fears and ways to overcome them:

Myth: The audience hates me.

Fact: Most of the time, the audience wants you to succeed.  Sometimes you may have one or two people in the audience who are frowning, but it’s important not to take this too personally.  And if someone asks you a hostile question during Q&A, first acknowledge and clarify the question, then respectfully state your answer or opinion.  Remember that some people simply come across as more abrupt or unfriendly than they mean to.

 

Fear:  My PowerPoint will crash.

Solution:  Yes, there’s a good chance it will crash.  PowerPoint is not reliable, but all hope is not lost.  Have a backup plan—handouts, overheads, etc.  Practice with them.  The audience will appreciate your ability to recover with grace and keep the presentation moving despite technical difficulties.

 

Fear:  I have nothing interesting to say, and the audience will be bored by my presentation.

Solution:  First, remember that you deserve to be heard. Using your voice to share something with the world is one of the most powerful tools you have.  Next, choose a topic that excites you—if you’re excited, your audience will likely stay engaged in your talk. Work on verbal and nonverbal strategies for engagement, such as eye contact, vocal variety, gestures, and movement.  Share examples that are relevant and meaningful to your specific audience. The more you tailor your speech to the audience, the more they will listen and stay involved

 

Fear:  I’ll forget everything that I wanted to say.

Solution:  Practice. It’s said that practice doesn’t necessarily make things perfect, but it does make them

permanent. With lots of it, you’ll at least remember what you want to say! Also, use key word outlines

to keep you on track. If you get stuck, don’t panic. Instead, stop, breathe, look at your notes, and get

back on track.

 

Fear:  I’ll run out of time or I’ll finish way too early.

Solution:

Practice with a stopwatch.  Do this often enough that you get a sense of timing.  Have a clock with you

during your speech and note to yourself specific places in your speech where you will check the clock

to see how you’re doing.  You can also rehearse how you would cut down your speech if you find yourself running low on time. Knowing this will reduce your anxiety. If you finish early, you can answer questions or share an extra anecdote or example.

 

Myth: People can’t understand me because I talk too quickly or too softly when I’m nervous.

Fact:  You’re right—speaking too quickly or softly makes it hard for your audience to understand you.

Deep breathing is crucial, both for minimizing anxiety and for supporting a clear, loud voice.  Practice

speaking to the back of the room and picture your voice as a powerful laser that you can aim at all

corners of the room.  Consciously insert pause and breaths into your speech by marking them in your

notes.  Remember that silence is a powerful rhetorical tool that serves you as well as your listeners, who

need time to digest what you’re saying.

 

Fear: I will say the wrong word, forget a section of my speech, or do something embarrassing.

Solution:  Number your note cards so they’ll be easy to put back in order if you drop them.  Wear

clothes and shoes in which you feel comfortable, and eliminate distractions like jingly jewelry, keys in

pockets, pens you click, or hair you twirl. Anticipate possible disruptions and do what you can to prevent

them.

For more public speaking tips, go to https://www.shawnajohnsonspeaks.com

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