Fear of public speaking can be a barrier to success: here's how to overcome it

Published November 2nd, 2015 - 11:12 GMT

You may have been there before. You feel nervous, your palms sweat, your stomach ties itself into knots. You don’t want to do it. You would rather do anything else than talk in public. Is this you?

The fear of public speaking is very real and can be a barrier to career success. However, there are techniques to help you overcome your fear. There are even ways to help harness your energy in a positive way.

Below are 5 quick tips to help you:

1. Balance your confidence

Think back to your childhood, to the first time your teachers made you get up to present a project. “Be confident,” they said. They were right – as long as you moderate your confidence. Experts recommend that speakers improve their performances by striking the right balance of calm and anxiety. Low confidence comes off as weak, unpracticed and unprofessional. Too much confidence comes off as arrogant and could hurt your performance as a lack of excitement (associated with anxiety) is easily noticeable. Find your best balance.

2. The eye contact trial

You may have heard the legendary, “look over their audience’s head to the back wall, as a tactic to ease your nerves during a presentation. In reality your audience will feel neglected and will lose interest quickly. Next time you practice a speech play the eye contact game. Similar to preparing for a job interview, ask some colleagues or friends to be your ‘audience’ and then have them stand up by their seats as you begin your presentation. While you speak make sure you look at each individual in the eye; once they feel you’ve made eye contact, they may sit down. Try to have everyone seated in 5 seconds.

3. Include transitions

A successful speech depends on your charisma and creativity, no doubt. But keeping your speech coherent and memorable depends on your transitions. Insert clear, simple transitions between your main points. For example, after discussing the new product your company is launching, plug in “now that we’ve looked at our latest product, I’m going to show you its benefits to society.” It may sound cheesy now, but people retain information in chunks allowing them to remember it for as long as you need them to.

4. Fewer points

It’s easy to get carried away when you present a concept you have become an expert on. However, your desire to share every single detail with your audience could harm you. When planning your speech, sketch out a quick outline to settle on the three main points you wish to get across to your audience and make sure all other content supports only these points. This will keep your presentation focused on the big picture at all times.

5. Where do I put my hands?

Body language counts, and if you’ve got nowhere to put your hands, use them! Most people are familiar with the awkward feeling of their arms unnaturally hanging by their sides. Being conscious is distracting, so rather than worry about your hands, assign them a task. Point to presentation aids if you use any, make hand gestures, hold index cards if appropriate, mimic your descriptions, or count your points on your fingers. Just make sure you avoid fidgeting and becoming excessive with your gestures.

By Roba Assi

This article originally appeared in bayt.com.

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