74% of Americans have fears and anxiety towards public speaking. According to Forbes Magazine, the number one fear for the average person is public speaking. The second fear is death. This means that most people would rather die than give a speech in front of a crowd. So what is it that makes us so afraid? We narrowed it down to seven fears that can get in the way of a great speech.
1. Fear of Doubt
Any doubt you feel will show through in your speech. And when you doubt yourself, so will your audience. Don’t let it show. Instead, build up confidence and self-assurance that can beat out that doubt. Research your topic thoroughly to assure you know what you’re talking about. The more you know about what you are saying, the less likely you will be wrong.
2. Fear of Nervousness
Never let them see you sweat. If you are afraid that your voice will start to shake or your stutter is out of control, tame that nervous beast through preparation. Rehearse your speech out loud and frequently. The more you practice and go through the motions, the more you will be accustomed to speaking. Gather a few friends, sit them down, and rehearse your speech in front them. Putting yourself out there in the spotlight will prepare you more. Get into the “just do it” attitude.
3. Fear of Forgetting
“And another point I wanted to bring up was… uh… so…” Blank. We’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced that moment of awkward silence when you forget what you’re going to say next. Again, a way to prevent this is by rehearsing frequently. Remember what point follows next and memorize a basic outline for your speech. Practice flowing one concept into the next and memorize that order.
4. Fear of Technology
You can’t always count on technology. And nothing can throw confidence and preparation out the window like a malfunction in a PowerPoint. Don’t let this fear win by arriving early to the venue and testing your presentation before the start. Test your presentation beforehand, and bring a back up plan. By the time your ready to speak, the presentation should have been tested at least once or twice.
5. Fear of Tough Audiences
Audiences can be good, bad, or ugly. Be prepared for all three. If you plan on telling a joke or a one-liner, brace yourself if it tanks and know how to recover from it. You can’t control how the audience behaves but you can control your emotions. Develop a thick skin and remember to always put your best face forward. If a joke sinks, brush it off and keep going. Don’t let a small slip ruin the rest of your presentation.
6. Fear of Time
“Time’s up!” Now what? You’re not even halfway done with your speech. Make sure this doesn’t happen and give yourself some wiggle room. Try this: If you’re scheduled to speak for 45 minutes, time yourself to finish 5 minutes early for Q & A’s. During an actual presentation, those 5 minutes can be used for Q & A’s, and can also be used for recovery time from a tangent. Get a feel for how long you want to spend talking about each concept.
7. Fear of the Unexpected
The unavoidable fear that something will go wrong, and a lot of times, it does. Scenarios can include a question from an audience member that you don’t know the answer to, or negative reactions from the audience.
Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe trains for the unexpected at each of his practices. In the 2012 London Olympics, the swimmer’s goggles fell off during the match, but this didn’t throw him off. Thorpe’s coach had prepared him for anything to happen by never having a single practice go according to plan. This strategy built psychological confidence and preparation for the champion. The same tactics can be applied to public speaking. Have a recovery plan for failed jokes, tough questions, glitches in technology, and any other curve balls.
While we know that public speaking may be one of the biggest fears in America, rest assured it’s all a mind game. This is the main idea behind public speaking; it’s all in your head. But since it’s all in your head, it’s not out of your control, so don’t let them get in the way of a great speech and an opportunity to share your ideas. We hope you take the advice listed above and overcome these fears.