Fear of public speaking is a very common form of social anxiety. Fear of public speaking has often been called the ‘Greatest Anxiety,’ due to the large number of people who actually experience this fear. Fear of public speaking does not just mean that you have a fear of making a speech in public. It can mean that you experience stage fright, or even that you have a fear of talking to other people in a social situation.
Fear of public speaking often holds people back from many things that they want in their lives. It may be job promotions, or fund raisers for causes that they believe in, but the fear of public speaking will, at some point, stand between you and what you want or need.
Symptoms of fear of public speaking include shortness of breath, inability to speak, a shaky voice, shallow breathing, rapid heartbeat, sweating, nausea, dizziness, or lightheadedness. There are many things that can cause fear of public speaking. Social anxiety can cause a fear of public speaking. It may also be caused by an earlier traumatic public speaking experience. There is no one answer as to why some people experience fear of public speaking, but for those who experience it, the fear is quite real – but it can be dealt with.
There are many tricks a person can use to get past their fear of public speaking. The first trick is to know exactly what you are going to say, but not to worry about memorizing every word of your speech. Use note cards, and write down your key points – in sentences that make sense. This way, if you freeze up and forget what you were going to say, you can refer to your notes, and pick up where you left off. Use big print on the note cards, and if possible, keep up with where you are on the cards during your speech, so it will be easy to find your place if you need to.
Once you have prepared and practiced your speech, stop. Put it away, and do not think about it again, until you are on the stage, ready to deliver the speech. Often people over practice, and this just causes the fear to grow and grow. Remember it is okay to mess up when you are giving a speech. Simply laugh at yourself, the audience will laugh with you – not at you – and you can continue your speech. In fact, most people are much more relaxed after they’ve made that first mistake in the speech and laugh about it. They know, at that point, that they are going to be okay.
Speeches do not need to last for hours. You only need three or four main points. Say what needs to be said, accept the applause and say ‘Thank You,’ and go off and enjoy the rest of your day or evening. Another trick that works well is to have someone you know well to look at throughout the speech, and concentrate solely on that person. Give you speech to them, and them alone – even if the room is packed. This means that you bring your spouse along with you, or bring a friend. This must be someone that you are always comfortable talking to.
Many people feel that they must include jokes in their speeches. Unfortunately, many of these people fear that they are not funny, or that their joke will flop, and this causes more anxiety and fear. If you are worried about this, omit the jokes from your speech and be serious. The people are there to hear the information, not the jokes.
If all else fails – picture everyone in their underwear. This is an old standby that really does work. The point of doing this exercise is that it makes everyone in the room seem less intimidating. You do not even have to picture them in their underwear. Picture them with hair curlers in their hair, or picture the men with facial cream on their faces. There are a variety of ways that you can envision them in your head. Before you start the speech, simply look out over the room, and get that less intimidating mental picture in your head – but do not laugh outloud!