Okay, so you have a speech or a presentation coming up and you have to do a bit of public speaking.
Let me guess, you’re starting to get a little nervous. Your hands are cold and clammy, you’re sweating, and maybe your limbs are shaking a bit. Your mind is racing, playing out scenarios of all the ways this can go wrong. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Over 70% of people have glossophobia, more commonly known as stage fright, or fear of public speaking.
Everyone has had to speak to a group of people at some point in their life. Whether you’re giving the toast at your friends’ wedding, doing a presentation at work, or speaking at a large conference, we’ve all been there. And, yeah, we’ve all been nervous about it. Whether you are a professional public speaker yourself or just a beginner, it is natural to ask how to overcome the fear of public speaking.
I’ve been on stage well over 1,000 times, so I know a thing or two about stage fright. Over the years I’ve found many ways to help combat my nervousness, and today I want to share some of my best tips with you.
As you keep reading, you’ll discover 5 Tips to help you overcome the fear of public speaking.
These are actions you can take that will help you control the anxiety and nervousness you’re experiencing so that you can become more comfortable and confident on stage.
The 5 areas we’ll cover in this article are:
By the end of this article, you should be more equipped for any public speaking event, and if you implement these tools, they’ll even help you in everyday life.
Let’s get into it.
Stage Fright vs Stage Anxiety
Everyone knows what stage fright is, in fact, most of us have experienced it firsthand. But I want to take a second to talk about what it is we’re actually feeling when that fear of public speaking arises.
What most of us call “stage fright” is more accurately defined as “stage anxiety.”
Those might sound like the same thing, but there’s an important distinction we need to make here.
FEAR is a physical reaction we have to ACTUAL threats that we are facing. If you were, for example, to encounter an alligator next to a lake, your body would immediately have a fear response because it senses the threat that’s right in front of you.
ANXIETY, on the other hand, is a mental/emotional response to an IMAGINED fear. The key word here is IMAGINED.
If, for example, you were going to visit a lake in a few weeks to go fishing with some friends, and you couldn’t stop thinking about an alligator coming out of the water and attacking you, you would be anxious because the threat has not happened yet.
You’re IMAGINING it will happen.
The difference between stage fright and stage anxiety is: Stage anxiety arises from imagining what could go wrong.
Stage anxiety is what most of us suffer from when we experience fear of public speaking.
You can get so caught up in your head thinking about all the things that could go wrong, causing you to be anxious long before you even get up to speak.
By shifting your perspective from stage FRIGHT to stage ANXIETY, you can recognize that what you’re worried about is being imagined.
So, instead of focusing on what MIGHT go wrong, the simple solution to overcoming your fear of the public, speaking in this regard, is to think about (i.e. imagine) what will go right.
Take a moment to daydream about the crowd loving you! Imagine them laughing at all your jokes, being fully engaged in what you’re saying, and giving you a standing ovation as you send them one last wave while walking offstage.
Now how do you feel?
Probably excited, right?
Learning how to turn anxiety into excitement is the first step to overcoming the fear of public speaking.
Once you learn to recognize the difference between stage fright and stage anxiety, you can begin to turn those negative thoughts into positive ones and get excited about your time on stage instead of worrying.
The Power of Authenticity
Back in 2006, I was emceeing a seminar. One of the speakers was late and my boss asked me to kill some time on stage.
To say I was nervous would be the understatement of the year.
As I couldn’t think of anything else to do, I did the only thing that came to my mind…
I dance hip-hop with the audience.
Now just for a little bit of context…
The crowd was mostly older men (baby boomers) who were at the event to learn about internet marketing. This was NOT a “hip-hop” crowd.
Their response to me dancing hip-hop with them?
They LOVED IT!
Most claimed that it was the most fun they’d ever had at an event.
Which begs the question…
WHY did they love my little soiree into the land of hip-hop so much?
Was it because they loved rap music? Nope, most of them hated it and told me as much.
The answer: it’s because I was authentic.
I wasn’t perfect. I didn’t know the exact right things to do or say when I was stalling for time. I didn’t know the best way to handle the situation.
But the one thing I did have, was the ability to be myself on stage and fully own me.
This wasn’t about some kind of false authenticity; where I do or say whatever I want no matter how rude or inappropriate, or I just bare my soul and get ultra-emotional for no good reason. Nope. I wasn’t any of that. Instead, it was about me just saying “here’s where I am and what I’ve got and I’m going to have the courage to put it forward.”
Authentically saying to the audience, “I’m a little nervous right now.” Wil endear you to them more than will you getting on stage and being whatever you imagine “perfect” to be.
The audience doesn’t want or need you to be perfect. They just want you to be real.
I’ve messed up more times on stage than I can even count. The good news for me (and you) is that messing up is OK.
Don’t strive to be the best, most perfect public speaker, instead focus on giving the crowd what they want: AUTHENTICITY.
Knowing that you can walk on stage and be yourself is one of the biggest secrets to overcoming the fear of public speaking.
Look To GIVE Rather Than Receive
When most people think about public speaking, they are often the most scared of what the audience will think of them. This is an extremely one-sided way of thinking.
Look To GIVE If you’re focusing on how the audience will react, you’re only thinking about what you could be receiving from the audience.
I challenge you to again shift your thinking from this negative perspective to a more positive one: what you are giving to the audience. Rather Than Receive
If you have to give a speech at a wedding, then focus on how you’re going to bring a smile to your friend’s face and a laugh to the audience when you tell the story about how the two of you got attacked by a raccoon in the 6th grade.
If the higher-ups at work asked you to give a talk on something you did well, then focus on how much you’re going to help the company by sharing what you know.
If you’re giving a speech at a conference or seminar – like I often do - then focus on (and get excited about) the fact that the information you’re going to be sharing with them is the same information that helped you level up in your life, and now you get to give it to them.
By shifting your focus from what you’re receiving to what you’re giving, you can focus on being authentic and giving them the best possible gift you can give: YOU!
When you give a birthday gift to someone you care about, you’re probably not focused on .whether or not you’re going to get a thank-you card in return in a few weeks. Instead, you’re focused on watching their eyes light up and bringing a smile to their face when they unwrap the gift you’ve given them.
Especially if this is a person you care about, and you’ve put a lot of thought and effort into this gift. You get excited about watching them get excited!
Taking this same approach to public speaking can shift the focus off of the crowd’s reaction to you and help you replace that nervousness you’re feeling with excitement to watch the crowd get pumped about what you have to say.
Practice Makes Comfortable
There’s nothing that can make your fear of public speaking worse than feeling unprepared. Being unprepared for anything can cause an enormous amount of self-doubt and nervousness.
It only stands to reason that in order to fix this problem, you need to get more prepared right? And what better way to prepare than to practice?
If you walk on stage knowing that you’ve practiced your speech many times before, you will automatically feel more relaxed and mentally prepared.
Practicing ahead of time is one of the best ways to help calm your stage fright, conquer your fears, and get more comfortable on stage.
Wanna know the best part?
You can do this anywhere!
Practice in front of the mirror, practice in your car on the way to work, practice in the shower, practice everywhere, every chance you get.
If you walk into class and your teacher immediately hands you a pop quiz, you’d instantly get nervous right? What chapter is the quiz covering? Did I do my homework last night? What if I didn’t study these questions?
Now, compare that feeling to a time when you knew the quiz was coming. You knew all the answers forward, backward, and side-to-side. You probably don’t feel as nervous this time, do you?
This holds true for public speaking as well.
If you’ve rehearsed your speech to the point that you have internalized the information and are fully confident in what you’re saying, you won’t be worried when you stand up in front of people! Actually, you’ll probably be excited!
When you’ve practiced your speech to the point of internalizing it (i.e. you can literally start from any random place in your presentation and complete the speech from there), then your nerves subside because you know that even if you get thrown a curve ball or get off track, you’ll be able to pick things up right from where you got off track.
This gives you a level of comfort and confidence hard to find anywhere else.
The Power of Body Language
We’ve all seen those posts on social media about “life hacks,” things you can do to make your life easier.
This is a life hack that will not only help you to overcome your fear of public speaking but will also help you in your daily life.
Body language is a very important part of how humans communicate with each other. In your mind, picture someone that looks scared. They probably look pale, their hands are shaking, and their shoulders are tense, you can see the sweat starting to break out on their forehead.
Conversely, picture someone that looks confident. Likely, they’re making eye contact with you. Their shoulders are back, their head is held high, and they’re smiling at you.
Okay, now put yourself into the confident person’s stance. Relax and pull your shoulders back, raise your chin, smile, and make eye contact with the crowd.
Taking a few seconds to draw in a deep breath, puff out that chest, and smile with your heart can make you look like the confident, put-together person you imagine in your mind.
When your body moves in a way that oozes confidence, the people you’re speaking to will unconsciously assume that you know what you’re talking about. They will assume that you’re as confident as you look.
But that’s not all.
When your body language screams confidence, it will also begin to convince your brain that you FEEL as confident as you LOOK. You can literally trick your own brain into believing that you’re not nervous!
This applies to any situation that requires public speaking, such as: introducing a key speaker at a large event, giving a presentation at work, or giving a toast at a wedding.
Act confidently and you’ll convince not only the audience but also yourself that you’re not nervous and that everything is going to run smoothly and according to plan.
Let’s do a quick recap. Today we gave you five practical tips to help you overcome the fear of public speaking.
You now have a game plan for how you’re going to overcome the fear of speaking in public.
And the great thing is these tips don’t just apply to public speaking, they apply to many aspects of your life.
Start using them now and prepare to see the amazing results as you continue your journey of overcoming fears and becoming the best public speaker you can be.
Before You Go
If you want to know how to be the best public speaker in virtually any room you walk into, check out the world's most complete public speaking course below.