Own Your Voice: How to Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking
Becoming an effective, charismatic communicator isn’t as hard as it may seem. We’ve put together the top tips, strategies, and advice from public speaking coaches to help you overcome the fear of your own voice.
by Rob Eades / 2021-08-20
Does the word 'presentation' send you into a cold sweat?
The prospect of public speaking is so scary for many that it can create panic dreams. Some individuals even report that they feel more afraid of speaking in public than of death itself.
We often look at the best public speakers of our time as a different species. How on earth can they stand up in front of so many people, and be cool, calm, collected, and so damn interesting?
We've compiled tips from professionally-trained public speaking coaches to help you not only wave goodbye to your anxiety, but deliver presentations that will leave everyone in the room hanging onto your every word.
Without further ado, here are the best courses out there for improving your public speaking.
Presenting yourself properly can be tricky. That’s why Andrew Whelan is here to guide us through how to become attentive and engaging.
1. Believe in yourself
It sounds simple, but Whelan says that by not believing in yourself, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.
Communication is a basic human function. We can all do it, but because you don’t see yourself as a “speaker”, you’re holding yourself back. Believe that you are worth listening to and put that belief into your delivery.
2. Break the barriers
When addressing an audience, it’s important to break any barriers between you and the crowd that may exist. If you fail to do this, your presentation can fall flat.
Break the barriers by engaging with your audience. Ask them a few questions, try to read their body language, or tell some personal anecdotes to break the ice.
3. Cater to your audience
This is the classic mistake that’s so often made; not knowing your audience can be a big deal-breaker when it comes to presentation. For example, if you’re speaking to the general public and you’re speaking in complex, inaccessible jargon, your audience will disengage and become uninterested.
Go in with a plan and an understanding of who it is you’re presenting to. Also, be prepared to learn more about your audience as you’re speaking; you can adjust your presentation according to what people respond to (or don’t). If your audience responds well to a joke you’ve made, for example, you can look for ways to incorporate a few more quick quips into your speech. The learning never stops.
Charismatic author and speaking coach David Nihill provides insights into the techniques that leading corporate speakers use to deliver their messages.
1. Take a tip from the pros
When you think of the best, most watchable public speakers, you might initially think of charismatic business leaders. In fact, the best storytellers are comedians.
Many top business speakers use humour techniques without even realising it. Injecting some emotion and light-hearted humour can make it easier for your audience to remember what you’re saying and to react.
2. Tell a funny story
Storytelling is a powerful technique. Everyone loves a good story - ever since we were children and we listened to bedtime stories or scary tales around the campfire, nothing can engage quite like a well-told story.
To really grab people's attention, think of a funny story that relates to what you’re talking about. Tell the truth with a dash of humour and people will listen.
3. Practice makes perfect
If you want to be an entertaining speaker you need to practise to build up your confidence.
Try out your material on family and friends before getting up on the big stage and get some feedback on what works and doesn’t work. This should help iron out and pre-talk anxiety.
genConnectU, a fantastic resource for expertise from the world's experts on a variety of topics, have over 3,000 courses' worth of wisdom to learn from. Our favorite course is this one on Owning Your Voice, in which we can learn how to speak with confidence and passion; amongst other important lessons, it deftly delves into the art of being creative live on stage and looks into the heart of what makes a good speaker.
1. Body language talks
Good communication starts and ends with body language. The way you hold yourself can instantly send a number of signals to your audience. If you’re slouched over and not looking at anyone then they will instantly lose confidence in you.
If you simply can’t find that confidence, then use the oldest trick in the book: fake it until you make it.
2. Listen before you speak
Being an active listener is an underrated communication skill.
To improve your listening skills, you should practise what is known as ‘active listening’. Think about how you listen - you may just discover that you believed listening to be passive when in fact talking and listening are both active.
3. Stop “sort of” undermining your message
If you can do one thing to be more effective, make sure it’s this: remove every ‘sort of’, ‘kind of’ and ‘maybe’ from your speech. These expressions are fillers that undermine your point and allow you to dance around your message.
Be strong and confident, and stop apologising for the points you’re making.
Kolovou, faculty at Indiana University’s fantastic Kelley School of Business, teaches how to make sure that your audience is fulfilled, informed, and ready to take the first step towards action.
1. What does your audience know?
Before delivering your speech, make sure that you have asked yourself one fundamental question: What does your audience know already, and what don’t they already know about this topic?
An audience either comes to you for information or to hear your take on a topic. They don’t want to just be told facts that they already know.
2. Credibility is key
When a speaker has some credibility, it can really sway the audience and influence their behaviour. So before you give a presentation, think about how you’ll come across to your audience.
Are you an expert in the field? Or are you an onlooker giving an opinion? Make sure you realise what you are and speak accordingly - before your audience figures it out for themselves.
3. Encourage engagement
Conversations are a two-way street, so why shouldn’t public speaking be the same? That’s not to say you want the crowd to be constantly shouting out and replying to you - but you do want them to be active listeners and to engage with you. So make sure you throw some questions into your speech, get them to murmur their agreements. This leads to a more active and engaged audience.