Are you nervous before you speak in public?
Sweating, shaking, panic-stricken, and fervently wishing you were anywhere else in the world but here?
You are not alone. Countless people all over the world share this same fear. I even know extremely talented people who avoid public speaking opportunities simply because they do not want to experience the sheer anxiety leading up to the event.
The official name of this fear is glossophobia. I call it “throw-up nervous,” because so many people do just that because of that aforementioned fear, misery, and anxiety. In fact, 77% of people report having a fear of public speaking1.
As someone who has been on the Keynote Speaking circuit full-time for the last 14 years, I can give you four simple tips for managing your fear:
- Start your speech with an exercise or question. This will not only immediately get your audience involved, but it also alleviates the pressure on you right away. It also establishes a connection between you and your audience, which will further ease your anxiety.
- Be prepared. This includes knowing your material like the back of your hand. It is also helpful to memorize any visual slides (both their content and the order in which they appear), which means that you are much less likely to turn your back to the audience (a very common error made by speakers).
- Painstakingly prepare the event venue and environment. Send very clear instructions to the event planner or venue manager outlining your expectations regarding the following: the lighting, staging, seating arrangements, functioning remote control, pre-testing any videos in your presentation, and sending instructions to audience members asking to turn all electronics off, especially cell phones. I also recommend sending your list of high-energy “walk up” songs, one of which will be played prior to you taking the stage. This song will infuse great energy throughout your audience well before you take the stage.
- Have fun. This is how my Grandmother said “good bye” to people most of her life. It is also how I sign off all of my emails, largely in her honor. Fun is THE best medicine for anxiety and world-class organizations know and leverage that fact.
Finally, know that the audience wants you to succeed. As such, relax and have fun!
1 Study by Orai, 2020.