Your hands are shaking, your heart is racing. Your knees are jittery and there seems to be about a million butterflies in your stomach. The notes in front of you are starting to blur and the audience is getting restless – why, oh why, you think by yourself, did the boss ask me to do this presentation?
It’s one thing freaking out during an oral exam at school. It’s quite another when the success of a project, or your career, depends on your ability to speak in front of an audience.
Rest assured - you are not alone. Research has shown that there are many people out there who fear public speaking more than they do death!
Regardless of the career you’ve chosen, there will most likely come a time when you will be required to get up and say your piece in front of a crowd. When that time comes, you will need to speak with confidence and conviction.
With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at some tips to help you overcome your fears in order to make a killer speech, and win some praise and recognition that will benefit your career.
Practice makes perfect
This may be stating the obvious, but there is no better way to overcome your fears than by practicing your presentation beforehand.
This applies to both the content of your speech and your body language while delivering it. The former speaks for itself – be sure to know your information like the back of your hand.
The latter also makes sense, once you think about it. Simply stand in front of a mirror and practice your posture and movements. Think about how you want to come across and then rehearse this vision of yourself until you feel comfortable with it. For example – you want to:
Practice these behaviours until they start to come naturally, until they are imbedded in your subconscious, and you should have no trouble performing them on stage.
When it comes to behaviours, a lot of people find it difficult to keep their hands steady while speaking. If you are worried about what to do with your hands, and if you know from previous experience that you tend to fidget when you get nervous, find something to keep them busy.
For instance, it might help to select a smart pen to keep your hands occupied. You can shift the pen from hand to hand if you feel you have to move, and use it to gesture at some points in your presentation, and still maintain a professional image.
Visualise your success
Some experts recommend visualisation techniques to gain confidence in speaking.
Picture in your mind your audience, then visualise their positive reactions towards your message. See them listening attentively.
Now focus on yourself – picture yourself on the podium. See how relaxed and confident you are. You are making eye contact; you are full of enthusiasm and energy. What’s more, you are moving naturally and are perfectly in control.
Utilise the power of some simple breathing exercises before getting on stage. Breathing deeply sends more oxygen to your brain, which will help you to calm down.
Sit down for a minute and breathe in slowly and deeply five times in a row, then another five times. Concentrate only on your breathing, on the sound of the air leaving your body, on the feeling of your lungs expanding. Think of nothing else. You should start to feel more relaxed in minutes.
Give your audience some credit
Why are we afraid of speaking in public? We are afraid we will mess it up, and that we will be laughed at.
But have you ever given thought to the fact that your audience is not actually rooting for you to fail? Most people are somewhat afraid of speaking in front of an audience, and have empathy with the poor guy on stage.
Also, just because you are painfully aware of your every stutter and hesitation, don’t think that your listeners are paying such close attention. To them a pause is just a pause – they will hardly notice the fact that, for five excruciating seconds, you forgot the next point on your agenda.
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Jeanne Calitz is the staff writer for Careers24. Careers24 is a South Africa based job and recruitment portal. Career seekers can search thousands of jobs and apply online. Recruiters can advertise jobs and search thousands of resumes to find the perfect candidate for the job.