If you asked me about my feelings on public speaking 5 years ago, my response would have been a series of inaudible noises and mumbles.
I haaaaated speaking in front of large groups of people. In fact, I detested it so much that my anxiety would make me sick…physically sick. A knot in my stomach and a racing heart, these feelings would only intensify as the doom that was my presentation loomed closer.
For the longest time, the only way I could bring myself to present was by wearing fake, thick, black-rimmed hipster glasses. Yes, I was a hipster before being a hipster was cool. While I can gladly say I’ve retired my fake glasses, I know that my transformation didn’t happen overnight. Ultimately, what got me over the hump was the Director of Recruitment telling me that I was going to be a tour guide.
I may have been forced (re: strongly urged), but you shouldn’t be relying on something similar to happen to you. To assist you on your journey, here are 5 tips to conquer your fear of public speaking.
1. Let go of your inner perfectionist
We’ve all seen brilliant speakers. We’ve laughed at their witty jokes, and we’ve secretly envied their ability to just get up there and do what they do so well. Good news for you—you don’t have to be witty and funny. You only have to communicate your material effectively. This is especially awesome for you students, because…
2. Remember who your audience is
Students on students on students. And a professor. And maybe a T.A. or three. The point is: you are not presenting on nationally broadcasted television. You aren’t being recorded for the world to see. You’re presenting a project, a paper, or perhaps a case study to your fellow students. And really, most of them aren’t even listening, because they have their own presentation to worry about. It doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Just remember that you aren’t being critically judged and relieve some of that unnecessary stress.
3. Prepare, prepare, prepare…practice and repeat
Preparation is king. Much of our anxiety lies in this idea of the unknown, and in this case, the unknown is often the presentation we are giving. Know your material backwards, forwards, and sideways. Think about something you know really well. Think about how confidently you can speak about that. Why? Because you actually know it! Focus on your preparation. Prepare. Practice. Repeat.
4. Slooooowwwww dowwwwwwwn
When it comes to practicing your presentation—and the actual presentation itself—focus on speaking steadily. Concentrate on breathing deeply from your belly and let your preparation take over. You have no need to rush, as this isn’t a debate. By focusing on slowing your speaking tempo down, you’ll make fewer mistakes, jumble far fewer sentences, and lower your anxiety.
5. Face your fear
It feels a little cliché to make this last, but I’ll advise anyway. The best way to ever do anything is to just do it. You’ll quickly recognize that what you’re doing really isn’t all that bad. Your confidence will grow as your skills continue to develop. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” This simple question can easily diffuse so many problems in our lives. Ask it. Laugh at the answer. And get going.
If you compared current Rim’s confidence levels to past Rim’s confidence levels, you’d struggle to believe I was the same person. And hey, if all else fails, pull out some black-rimmed hipster glasses 😉 See you next time.