via IM Free (edited by me)

For years, I have had  a profound fear of public speaking. In the past, I dreaded the period when speeches were assigned. The mere thought of stepping up to the podium in front of peers brought made me sick to my stomach and shaky all over. In the days and weeks that followed, I would review and rehearse until even my parents had my speech memorized. When the big day actually arrived, I would spend the whole day stressing about my performance before eventually killing it.

Now I used to be like you, I would stare in disgust at those who thought public speaking was fun. I opted out of doing certain activities that involved giving speeches, and secretly envy those who could present with such a comfort and confidence. I would ask myself, " Who gives presentations to an audience for fun ? ” and would continuously try (and fail) to understand how anyone would willingly put themselves under such unnecessary pain and pressure.

Little did I know, I would become one of those people. The kind that actually sign-up for speech contests and who devote countless hours and various weekends to practicing, editing and presenting. I became the person who people look at, shake their heads and ask the same questions I would ask myself not too long ago. What they don't know is that being one of those people isn't all that bad. I am now the person who people cheer and applaud for, who people listen to when she speaks and who now knows how to hold her own in front of a big crowd of people.

My journey to overcome my fear of public speaking taught me a thing or two about myself, but mostly about fears. The best way to overcome your fears is to face them head on. Once you do, you are sure to realize that they were never that scary to begin with. It's also helped me to acquire the two following things:
  • Experience (everything gets easier over time)
  • Helpful advice (which I can now share with you)

The Show Must Go On

Unless you suddenly break out into a song and dance routine in the middle of a speech about recycling, the audience won’t notice any mistakes that you make during your speech. Therefore, if you stutter, pause or forget a line, play it off and keep going. Even though you may feel frustrated that you did not give the flawless performance that you anticipated, don’t let it show. I’ve forgotten whole sections of my speech and  have had to improvise and finished thinking that I had sounded like a total buffoon. Only to have people come up to me later and tell me that my presentation was very smooth!

Talk the Talk

You could have the most well written speech in the world, about the coolest thing in the universe, but if you speak in a boring voice, it will become boring. I think that the key to  giving a speech is intonation and having expression when you speak! Over the years I’ve sat through countless school speeches and if the speakers voice sounds like a robot, almost instantly my classmates (and the teacher) begin to doze off. So try to add a bit of animation and life to your voice when you speak, because when you sound genuinely interested  about something the rest of the audience does too!

Fake it Until you Make it

Confidence is essential when presenting, anything. Whether you’re selling cookies or talking about the evolution of mankind, people are sure to listen if you seem and sound confident (a cookie doesn’t hurt either). The front of the classroom is your stage and you own it! Stand tall and proud, without any fidgeting or noises, and  get ready to impress everyone with your super speech giving skills. One tip to ace you presentation is to have tons of eye contact. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean staring into every single person eyes, this might make the audience a bit uncomfortable. Instead, choose several points in the room and alternate looking at them throughout your speech.

Visualization

This is no time for you to be imagining the worst case scenarios right now! This is the time to imagine the best possible scenarios and to stay and think as positive as possible. I’ve heard before that visualizing success in anything that you do is a great way to actually be successful in whatever you do. So, on the day of the presentation instead of spending time freaking out over your impending speech. Take this time to take a deep breath, visualize how awesome you will sound and how great you will feel once it’s all said and done.

Practice Makes Perfect

I think that practice is an important part of public speaking. Before you take centre stage, make sure that you know your lines to avoid too many mishaps. Try presenting to you family or your friends or your old stuffed animals, I think that as long as you take as much time as you need beforehand to get comfortable reciting your speech, you will do great! You can also get practice in by joining public speaking programs like Toastmasters! I did this program a while back, and it really helped me to get more comfortable with the art of public speaking.

Relax

As soon as you feel like you know your presentation well enough, you should relax. There is such thing as over preparing, you can over  prepare yourself so much that you can no longer remember your speech! It’s happened to me before and I was really annoyed because it was something that could have been so easily avoided.

My greatest worry was that people would laugh at me when I messed up. After completely forgetting numerous parts of one presentation, I was surprised to see that more people smiled and applauded me then when I get it 100% correct. Keep in mind that one presentation doesn’t define who you are or your whole life.  Try to remember that it’s just a speech, it’s just talking and that you have been doing this your whole life.  So as soon as you feel confident about your presentation, run away from you script and towards something fun!

Even though I’ve learned all of these tips and tricks, I still have a long way to go towards completely eradicating my fear of public speaking. So, I hope that these bits of advice are as useful to you as they are for me.

Do you have a fear of public speaking?