10 Ways to Overcome your Fear of Public Speaking

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Glossophobia! It sounds just as diabolic as it really is. The fear of public speaking, which makes even the most talented of the lot go numb, appears like an insurmountable problem. Indeed, carrying yourself with aplomb in front of an audience, along with being able to communicate with them effectively. No wonder then, that 75% people become chicken-hearted at the prospect of addressing a gathering of people.

As pointed out so aptly by expert Dale Carnegie, “The ability to conquer nervousness and speak with self-confidence is not difficult to acquire. It is not a gift bestowed by Providence on only a few rarely endowed individuals. Everyone can develop his own latent capacity if he has sufficient desire to do so.” Even the best of thinkers, intellectuals and policymakers suffer a serious setback when brought to the rostrum. Some become so self-conscious that they can’t think clearly, others feel intimidated, yet others are frightened to the extent of forgetting what they intended to say. Another group which is better off, though not much, faces the challenge of getting thoughts together in a logical and sequential order, or being coherent and convincing through words. Some inspiring examples show us how this is an Achilles heels that can be overcome. Mark Twain also faced the fear, and felt as if his mouth was filled with cotton and his pulse was speeding for some prize cup. Even the likes of Lincoln, Disraeli weren’t left untouched by this contagious, inexplicable anxiety. However, this is an inescapable task, especially in today’s world. So here are a few tips to overcome your fear of public speaking.

10)  When on stage

Breathe, know your audience, let go of any pre-conceived notion you may have of your own speaking skills. Forget any prior experience, mortifying or brilliant, you may have had. Get rid of any unreasonable apprehension, or untamed fears. An initial self-consciousness is inevitable, but then in no time it is replaced by an unprecedented confidence. Be optimistic and enthusiastic when you start. Think of the liberation, personal accomplishment and contentment that will accrue from this exercise of pushing your limits. Optimism is an indispensable ingredient, lest you become chicken-hearted or lily-livered and abandon the whole act even before venturing into it.

9)Develop poise in delivery

No amount of reading of volumes of books about oratorical skills will ever work in your favor if you do not practice it. So,  speak with poise. It should be evident in the way you carry yourself, in the way you change you pitch, emphasize on relevant points, vary your pace of speaking,  gestures etc. Your poise  will give you a sense of self confidence and this will show on the outside. People will judge you if you falter or fumble while speaking.

8) Gain self-confidence

Confidence and knowledge are the antidotes to fear. Hence simply stating, know that you can, and you will be able to. Confidence helps you to break the ice. Breaking the ice may as well help you develop confidence. With confidence, half the battle is won.

7) Improve your diction

Pronouncing words with exquisite beauty and accuracy is a rare art and is mastered by few. Try to master the art of immaculate pronunciation. most of us who are conscious of the challenges in public speaking tend to overlook the role played by diction. Avoid using trite, monotonous comparisons and hackneyed, cliche phrases.
Follow newspapers and news websites to get a sense of the language in popular use. Read books. Refer to dictionary every time you strike against a new word. These simple things will make a great difference overtime. And although it will be a conscious deliberate effort, it might never appear to be forced or apprehensive

6) Engage the audience

There isn’t a faintest shadow of reason as to why you shouldn’t be able to think clearly when in front of an audience, given that you have mastered the art of chatting in groups of family, friends et al. begin your speech with an amalgamation of words which is sure to seize all attention, rather than launching into a didactic monologue. Try wry humor, arouse the audience’s curiosity within the first two sentences, begin with an illustration, and pose a question. Even while in the middle of the speech, try engaging people by being interactive, eliciting their views. This will also enable you to have a better idea of their expectations. Build up a climax, so that they lend you a patient ear till the end.

5) Be coherent

If you have a strong opinion about something, it is all in vain if the meaning that is received by the listener loses its strength owing to the use of wrong words, or an incoherent mixture of thoughts intricately enmeshed in the chambers of your mind. Hence, the need for coherence in speech. To strike home your point is the primary objective of any attempt at public speaking. So, a checklist would include firstly, avoiding technical jargons, for they look divine when read but not in conversations. Second is reiterating your main idea in different words, using different phrases. And finally, by giving plenty of examples.

4) Get enrolled

The best and fastest way to overcome your fear of public speaking is by getting yourself enrolled in a course. Make sure you get returns from the investment you make. Make the most of this opportunity. Break free from your fears, let go of your inhibitions. Take note of every aspect, be it audience, the script, or the occasion, they guide you on all issues.

3) Practice and persevere

‘Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.’ Rightly has John Quincy Adam been quoted. Practice makes perfect. So, after the requisite preparation has been done, go ahead and rehearse in front of a mirror. Overcome any flaw in your expression or words, and then repeat until you get a result which is strikingly different from the initial one. Perform again in front of a group of interested friends; observe how they react to the nuances, whether your phrases or expressions are eliciting the expected response from them.

2) Prepare

Preparedness is the ultimate key to success. Planning and preparing your thoughts would put you in a better position to face your audience. As they say, a well-prepared speech is already nine-tenths delivered. No accomplished orator fails to retain his/her charm and confidence without at least an iota bit of homework. Neglecting to prepare what you are about to say is a fatal mistake. Public speaking, as a skill is cultivated, and this is a lifelong process. True there is an appreciable quality in the exhibition of impromptu wit, but nothing beats preparation. Preparation entails assembling your thoughts, ideas, convictions, opinions, perspectives. The next step of preparation is, as pointed out by Dale Carnegie, “thinking, brooding, recalling, selecting the ones that appeal to you most, polishing them, working them into a pattern, a mosaic of your own.” Also, it means rehearsing the speech and improvising it till the last moment without freaking yourselves out.

1) Start small, start young

These days, educational institutions, NGOs, schools and colleges hold plethora of competitions, discussions, programs, workshops, seminars. All these are golden opportunities for students to grab voraciously. One needs to start young to stay ahead. Learning from experience is inevitable, and the sooner this learning process begins, the better. So, while your counterparts may be struggling on the basics, you get an extra edge over them. Also, one needs to start small. If you directly begin by speaking at a global forum, it will be too intimidating to help you launch yourself in the arena of public speaking. You need to start at the nearest platform available, which can be a school competition or a simple discussion forum at district level. The important thing is to start. NOW!


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