There is a renowned adage that among all the fears in the world, Glossophobia (fear of public speaking) tops the list and the fear of death follows suit. I feel it would sound aggrandized if I say people prefer a guillotine than a stage, but survey says so.
Image source: www.psychologytoday.com
When I was asked to do a session on “How to overcome the fear of Public Speaking”, I instantly refused as I do not have the credibility to do a session on that topic. No one in my opinion would have overcome this phobia. But by taking up recurring speaking assignments at Toastmasters and beyond, what we probably learn is how to eclipse this fear and make sure the audience aren’t aware that our legs are shivering and our palms are sweaty.
“Stage fear is like diabetes. You can never get rid of it. But by taking appropriate steps, you can keep t under control”. I have shared a few tips that have helped me control the fear of speaking on stage. Leave aside speaking, standing on stage demands courage at the first place and these tips have always come in handy. I hope they help you as well.
Let me now present to you a “PACK” that may help you mask your stage freight.
The pack contains a “P” that denotes Preparation – A self explanatory term. Being prepared for a speaking assignment helps you reduce your speech anxiety as you have a clear picture of what you would be talking for the next few minutes/hours. Preparation doesn’t just mean keeping your content ready. It also implies a string of activities like doing regular vocal exercises (to keep your voice in perfect condition till hell freezes over), doing a mirror practice to help you understand how you look when you deliver your speech (this helps you understand the gestures and facial expressions that look good on you) and rehearsing your speech over and again until it becomes naturally yours. Another recommended practice by Toastmasters International that I have been following is a “Success Visualization”, wherein just before delivering my speech I visualize myself giving a great speech and the audience giving me a standing ovation. Though a standing ovation seldom happens, this fashion of visualization gives me enough confidence to mask my fear of being on stage.
The pack contains an “A” that signifies Appearance. With enough grooming comes enough confidence that helps to shun your stage freight. Let us assume you have a sentimental shirt, wearing which you have delivered the best of your speeches. On the morning of your speaking assignment, you find a small stain of ink on it – small enough to be neglected. After thinking for a while you still decide to wear that shirt for this speaking assignment. There might be someone in the audience who perhaps has a problem in seeing the projector clearly and starts to squeeze his eyes. Human mind is so vulnerable that we start processing his expressions and end up thinking that he has noticed the stain which we thought was unnoticeable. You start to feel nervous. When you are well dressed, your focus can be on your speech and a portion of your mental CPU doesn’t go wasted in manipulating the expressions of audience.
The pack contains a “C” that stands for Continuous Upgrade. This is the only tool that can help you make your speaking assignments successful. Especially when it concerns impromptu speeches, a continuous upgrade of your knowledge base is very essential. A widely recommended way is to read books. However, we are in a digital world where we are just a few YouTube videos away from knowledge. Just like Craig Valentine (1999 World Champion of Public Speaking) says, “Don’t get ready, stay ready!!!”.
KNOWLEDGE OF AUDIENCE/PLACE/TIME
We often believe in keeping the best for the last. That is why the pack contains a “K” at the end which is a vital component in controlling your fear of public speaking. K speaks about Knowledge of Audience/Place/Time. It is necessary to know what to say to whom and when. I once happened to address a group of college students. This happened when I had just started to learn how to stand on stage and speak to people. My script had a joke about software engineers which happened to invoke laughter in a massive scale when delivered at a corporate. With a lot of expectations that the students would get entertained, I delivered the joke and waited for the audience to laugh. Nobody did and the joke fell flat. Delivering a joke on software engineers to a bunch of students during a post lunch session made me feel embarrassed on stage. This brought down my confidence level and increased my fear for a moment. Your mental equilibrium gets shaken when your audience do not respond the way you wanted them to! I eventually had to wear a sheepish smile and continue speaking as if nothing had happened. Whenever you write a speech, kindly remember to keep these factors in mind. To quote the words of Toastmaster Chendil Kumar – “Writing a speech without keeping your target audience in mind is like writing a love letter to whomsoever it may concern”. Regarding knowledge of place and time, the best practice is to arrive at the venue at least 30 minutes in advance so that you get enough time to eyeball the venue and get used to it.
I hope you now got the pack that can help you control your speech anxiety. Despite having this pack if you still find a few butterflies flying in your stomach – IT IS GOOD!!! You need a small amount of fear that can give you the adrenaline pump to give a rocking speech!!!
All the best for delivering great speeches!!!