Help With Public Speaking: Tips and Statistics

For many people, public speaking is one of the most horrifying tasks imaginable. Even many famous orators have had to overcome their glossophobia (or fear of public speaking) throughout their careers.

Writers (and other professionals) who want to build a successful platform often find they’re put in the position of speaking in public. They can either accept and move closer to world domination, or they can pass on the offer (and continue writing away in complete anonymity and poor book sales).

Public Speaking Tips

At Poetry Hickory event.

Fear of Public Speaking Statistics

National surveys have shown that Americans fear public speaking even more than death (as crazy as that sounds). In fact, it’s the number one fear on the block. Here are some fear of public speaking statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • 74% of people suffer from speech anxiety
  • 75% of women suffer from speech anxiety
  • 73% of men suffer from speech anxiety

So the fear of public speaking is not gender specific, and it’s something most of us have in common. That said, how do we overcome that fear and do an excellent job speaking?

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Public Speaking Tips

These are my tips for not only conquering your fear of public speaking but also how to take your speech to a whole new level.

  • Know your material. This is the most important step. If you know your material (at least in a general sense), then you can talk about it even if you lose all your notes. This knowledge paves the way for you to talk naturally about your subject.
  • Practice. The best way to work out kinks in your presentation and delivery is to practice your speech ahead of time. Plus, it gives you a chance to…
  • Visualize giving your speech. In sports, athletes often use visualizing winning to help them actually win. They see themselves perform; then, they perform. The same tactic can help you have a successful speech or presentation. In fact, it’s important to…
  • Plan ahead. Let the organizers know if you need any special equipment for your presentation, whether this is a lectern, laptop, projector, bottle of water, or whatever. Event organizers have a vested interest in helping you succeed, so let them know how they can help you.
  • Take care of your body. This means eating food that agrees with your body. Don’t take any chances on some exotic food the day before or the day of your presentation. Also, be sure to hydrate yourself, though not to the extent that you have to pee 30 minutes into your hour-long session.
  • Know your room. I always find my room before I speak in it, because I like to know the basics, like if there’s a microphone, how many seats are there, are the seats all opposite me (or do they surround me), what is the room temperature, etc.
  • Greet audience. The best way to break the tension of speaking before a room filled with strangers is to make a few quick allies before your presentation. Say hello and ask attendees how they’re doing. A little small talk will help your big talk feel more comfortable.
  • Introduce yourself and your topic. Let people know who you are, what you’re about to cover, and why you’re covering it. A quick introduction sets the stage for your audience and helps you focus on your topic as well.
  • Slow down and relax. A common mistake made in public speaking is when speakers let their mouths control the pace of the presentation. This often leads to speedy presentations from a breathless presenter speaking to an audience who can’t keep up. If you notice yourself falling into this trap, stop talking for a moment. Breathe in. Breathe out. Talk slow, making sure to pronounce and articulate your thoughts.
  • Don’t apologize. Even if you royally screw up, don’t apologize. It calls attention to a problem that most may not have noticed. Remember: The audience is there to hear you speak, and they want you to succeed. Most admire you for even standing in front of an audience (remember those of public speaking stats above?) and will err on the side of giving you the benefit of the doubt.
  • Concentrate on your message, not you. The reason so many people have a fear of public speaking is that they are focused on themselves (and the potential for humiliating themselves). In most cases, your audience is not there to analyze you; they’re attending to learn something new, be entertained, or connect with others. As such, don’t think about yourself speaking; think about your message.
  • Control your body. Remember to smile and make eye contact. When you smile, others will return your smile. Relax your shoulders. Gesticulate, but don’t fidget. If you find yourself shaking, try using your pockets to settle down (note: make sure your pockets are not filled with jingly-jangly objects).
  • Use mistakes to your advantage. If you trip or lose your train of thought (or you run into a PowerPoint snafu), avoid freaking out. Instead, make a joke (at your own expense). Your use of humor will actually turn the mistake into an opportunity to connect with your audience.
  • Be yourself. In any form of communication, I think this should be the rule (not the exception). Don’t try to take on a persona. Be yourself and the rest will come easy.
  • Have a conclusion. The conclusion may be cliffhanger in a story. It might be next steps in a how-to presentation. Or a strong final idea. Be sure to end on that high note, followed by a quick, “Thank you for attending.”

 

Want more speaking help?

Here are some articles from the Writer’s Digest community:

 

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