Research shows that speaking in public is worse than death for most people and there are a couple of reasons why this is so. First, most people fear criticism and abhor the thought of people judging them for the way they speak, stand, or walk. There are so many other reasons also.
I remember my first public speaking experience in toastmasters. It was exciting and, it was filled with fears and self-doubts. My decision to engage in public speaking was because I wanted to increase my level of self-confidence.
I registered to a toastmaster’s club named Apo Hill Diamonds club in Abuja Nigeria. I can say that has been one of the best decisions I ever made because public speaking introduced me to a side I never knew existed. That’s the benefit of personal development – it makes you a better person. So far, I have given speeches in more than three countries now, and it’s been an exciting journey.
Before I highlight the tips on how you can overcome your fear of public speaking, here are some few benefits of improving your public speaking skill:
- Public speaking builds your confidence.
- It opens your eyes to new possibilities.
- You get to connect and make new friends.
- It provides you with greater opportunities in life.
- Builds your self-esteem, and self-worth.
- You master your fear.
- It makes you proficient in speaking.
- And it builds your leadership skills.
Tips to Help You Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
1. Understand that Public Speaking is a Journey.
Don’t get caught up in your head thinking everyone you see speaking on TV or on stage developed that confidence overnight. If you care to ask most of the speakers you see speaking, the majority of them will tell you they’ve been speaking for years, and not for a few days. It is something that takes practice just like every worthwhile skill in life. Understand that with dedication and constant practice, you’ll definitely be great.
2. Never Compare yourself With Others
“Comparison is the thief of joy” ~ Theodore Roosevelt.
One of the mistakes I see new speakers make is to compare themselves with older speakers. This to me is the most unfair thing to do. It’s like a newborn child comparing their ability to walk with their parents. Don’t compare your beginning with someone else’s middle, it’s simply unfair.
Understand that everyone has a unique ability and personality. It is this personality and abilities that make the world beautiful and fun to be in. Accept yourself for who you are and just enjoy the ride. Don’t be too hard on yourself, develop a growth mindset instead of perfectionist syndrome. When you stop comparing yourself with others, you’ll give yourself permission to develop.
3. Practice Makes Improvement
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
~ Dale Carnegie
Personally, I believe there’s always room for improvement, and I believe a growth mentality serves better than a perfectionist mentality.
If you wish to become a speaker, you must dismantle the thought of perfection, and understand that the only way to get better is through practice.
You should practice your skill constantly, and ensure to speak more often. Seek out speaking opportunities both large and small. The important thing is to keep practicing and keep speaking.
With enough practice, you’ll notice some level of improvement. For some, it will be significant while for others it might be mild. It all depends on your commitment.
Remember – Practice builds self-confidence and improvement.
4. Prepare but Don’t Over Do It
By don’t over-do it I mean don’t think it must be perfect. No speech is perfect, Dale Carnegie noted that “There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”
That’s how life is. Give it your best, prepare yourself, and then free yourself from compulsive thoughts of giving a perfect speech. Give your speech and then learn from your mistakes. Make improvements where necessary. And, always seek improvement.
5. Mistakes are Necessary Part of Learning
“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” ~ John Wooden
Like already mentioned, don’t think you’ll get it perfect the first time or even anytime at all, public speaking is a journey, you get better by trying, and by making mistakes. It’s the mistakes you make that improves your next speech. Learn from them and don’t beat yourself up.
Every great speaker would admit to you that they’ve made a couple of mistakes if not many.
6. Use Feedbacks to Improve and Not to Validate How Imperfect You are.
People who speak for the first time usually give up after receiving an evaluation of their performance. Like I mentioned earlier, mistakes are a necessary part of the journey. You should use the feedback you get as a means of improving your skill and not as a means to validate your imperfection. Never judge your ability by a single outcome. Also, remember that no great speaker became great as a result of a single speech.
Public speaking is a journey. So, enjoy it.
7. Seek out Mentors/Coach
One of the benefits of a mentor or coach is that they understand the journey, they understand what it takes to be a great speaker. And they must have also engaged in public speaking.
A mentor or coach would give you useful information, advice, techniques, and tips on how to improve yourself better. They’ll serve as your accountability pattern.
Public speaking is a learnable skill and not something some people are born with. It takes practice and retuning to become better.
As you consider starting your public speaking journey, I’d say that you should develop a growth mentality rather than perfection. Make mistakes, a lot of it. Learn from them, don’t judge yourself. Simply improve on areas you think you’re lacking.