Would it surprise you if I told you that it’s estimated that 75% of people suffer from speech anxiety or the fear of public speaking, making it one of the most common fears that exist?

Many of us have heard that some would rather die than speak in front of a group of people.

That was so me!

My mom and dad would practically force me to speak in front of my church when I was younger and I hated every minute of it.

My fear of public speaking followed me into college.

Before I was called up to give a presentation my heart began to beat faster than the speed of light, my palms dripped with sweat, my stomach tied into knots, and all I could think about was what could go wrong.

What if they don’t like my speech? What if I mess up? What if they stare at the big pimple on my nose? What if I get cold feet? What if they don’t like me? What if I faint?

The thoughts went on and on, and more times than not, I never experienced any of these perceived threats. It was all in my head.

Over the past 10 years I’ve been developing my public speaking skills and I would love to share a few nuggets that can assist you on your journey to becoming a better public speaker.

6 Tips to Help You Overcome The Fear of Public Speaking

1. Prepare- Nothing takes the place of preparation. Organizing your thoughts and materials will allow you to become much more confident and relaxed. Write out your key points and try to elaborate on each point using a story, a statistic, a game or something interactive to get your audience involved.

2. Observe Yourself- Once you’re finished mapping out your key points or the purpose of your message, get your camera ready and hit record. Recording yourself on camera can be awkward and if you’ve never done it before, you’re probably doing to despise me for recommending it. BUT, it’s an invaluable tool that will allow you to pick up on your style, your areas for improvement and see yourself the way others will see you when you speak. Record and watch the playback. Observe your nervous tics and your “ums” and “uhhs” and be proactive about how you plan to respond to nervousness.

Side note: Your voice doesn’t sound as bad as you think it does. Trust me. Practically everyone hates the way their voice sounds on playback. 

3. Remember Your Mission- One of the most valuable pieces of advice that my mentor gave me in regards to my fear of public speaking is, “It’s not about you Terri.” Dang. But it’s true. Many times before we’re asked to speak we talk ourselves out of the opportunity. We conjure up a false narrative about why we aren’t worthy or aren’t qualified to be speaking and quite frankly, we’re egocentric. We are consumed with ourselves and not thinking about who or what truly matters.

Now when someone called me egocentric I was totally offended, but it was true. I was asked to speak and all I did was think about myself, how I looked and how I came across.

Regardless of who you’re speaking to, as a speaker, your message is important. You have something to offer your audience and that should be the main goal. When preparing your message you should be focused on how you can offer the most value and the best experience possible for your audience. Now, the focus is on what matters. Them. Your mission. It’s hard to focus on you and the “what ifs” if you’re focused on the end goal.

4. Test Out Your Material- Once you’ve prepared, observed yourself and crafted an audience-centered message, test out your material on someone close to you who can provide additional feedback. Whether you have a few good friends who can watch you practice or if you create a private scope on Periscope where some of your trusted followers offer feedback, let others in on your practice session and you’ll get more valuable feedback about how to deliver your message in a way that connects with your audience.

5. Embrace You- Once you’re fully aware of your strengths, weaknesses, insecurities, quirks and idiosyncrasies, no one can use them against you and you’ll exude confidence and security because of it. When I first started speaking much of my focus was on me and my insecurities because I was uncomfortable with myself. When I began to embrace my quirkiness and accept myself flaws and all, I could truly connect with my audience because I wasn’t consumed with myself.

6. Visualize Your Success- Many of us have heard about the power of positive thinking and visualization. The theory is that, you become what you constantly think about, whether your thoughts are positive or negative. Visualizing a series of events, makes it more likely for your plan to come forth the same way you saw it in your mind.

Before every speech, workshop, webinar or live event, I can be found meditating and visualizing my success. This simple ritual has been a great source of relaxation, confidence and calmness for me.

All you have to do is close your eyes and visualize your speech going the way you’d like it to go, from to start to finish. Couple this with the tools above and you’ll be on your way to overcoming your fear of public speaking.

If you’re interested in developing your speaking skills further, subscribe to Coolspeak’s newsletter for updates on their transformative trainings.

Coolspeak is a Youth Engagement Company that delivers unique speakers, programs, and events to keep students inspired, parents involved, and teachers engaged. They also host special trainings geared toward helping aspiring speakers and those you want to enhance their public speaking skills.

Reflection Questions: What topic would you like to speak about? What’s the number one thing holding you back?