If you start sweating when you think of that big presentation you have to give to possible investors or clients, you’re not alone. Up to 75% of the population is estimated to suffer from some form of glossophobia—fear of public speaking—and that can be a real problem when you’re trying to grow your business.
Even though public speaking often induces anxiety, it’s a vital skill for entrepreneurs and business owners who are required to present an idea or close a deal in front of a crowd.\
Fortunately, there are steps entrepreneurs can take to get over a fear of public speaking.
Know Your Material
The most important step in successful public speaking is knowing your material so well that you don’t even have to think about it. Things don’t always go according to plan—teleprompters can break, cue cards can get lost, etc.—but if you’re an expert on the topic, you’ll have confidence that you won’t get lost during your delivery.
Know your material backward and forward before presenting, and don’t memorize your entire speech word-for-word. The most successful public speakers know their material by remembering not just the key points but also relevant subtopics and examples to cover during the presentation.
Practice, and Then Practice Some More
One of the best ways to confront this fear is through repetition. Practice on your own, practice in front of friends, practice in front of your cat who will likely be ignoring you anyway. The key here is to do it until it becomes natural, and that can mean stepping outside of your comfort zone—literally.
Before you have to give a big speech or presentation, look into signing up for a public speaking meetup or Toastmasters, which provides a safe space to practice your public speaking. This option might sound scary when you’re already nervous, but everyone is there because they want to get better, too. You not only get practice, but you’ll
also receive constructive feedback on your presentations from people who have been there, done that, and can help you improve.
Practicing in front of an audience without all of the pressure is a big step to becoming more comfortable with public speaking.
Get Creative with Imagery
We’ve all heard that imagining your audience in their underwear is a great way to overcome your anxiety, but there are some people you don’t want to picture in their tighty-whities. Instead, picture those CEOs or stakeholders in crazy polyester suits or with fruit baskets on their heads—something quirky that relieves your tension.
Fear of rejection and ostracism are 2 of the main reasons people have so much anxiety over speaking in public. But imagining a scenario that makes you feel safer and less likely to be rejected or cast off is a key to eliminating stage fright.
Make a Connection Beforehand
While you might be facing a room full of strangers, that doesn’t always have to be the case if you do a little planning. If you don’t have friends and family there to support you, the next best thing is to mingle before you speak and get to know some of the faces in the crowd.
Audiences with familiar faces are less intimidating, so take the time to talk to some of the group beforehand. Getting to know the people you’re talking to will make them less of a stranger. If it’s not possible to do this in person, do it virtually a few days before your big speech. Connect on social media, sharing who you are and what you’re excited to contribute to the conversation.
When you take the stage for your speech, you’ll already have a connection with the audience, which can help to reduce your anxiety.
Implement Calming Techniques
Even after taking all of the steps above, there’s still a good chance you’ll feel fearful before you start speaking. Don’t let the fear get the best of you, and instead practice techniques that can calm down your nervous system.
- It’s basic, but don’t forget to breathe. Deeply inhale your fear, and deeply exhale your anxiety.
- Put your hand on your head (not while you’re on stage, of course, but beforehand). When your body is in fight or flight mode, all the blood rushes to the arms and legs. It’s thought that touching your forehead helps to bring the blood back to your brain.
- According to natural healers and yoga practitioners, relieving tension in the jaw and face can be as simple as placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Doing this while focusing on your breathing can help to reduce your fear.
- Smile. This simple act—done right when you go on and throughout your presentation—activates feel-good neurotransmitters. As a bonus, it’s thought that people who smile are viewed by others as more reliable, relaxed, and sincere.
Ready To Tackle Public Speaking?
As an entrepreneur, speaking in front of people is part of the job—whether you like it or not. Implementing the tips above can help you overcome that fear and focus on what’s most important—building up your brand and your business.
But don’t aim for perfection. In fact, audiences relate to imperfection even more, as it makes you more relatable. Remember that the mere act of conquering your fear of public speaking is a huge victory, so be yourself, embrace the fear, and go out and make things happen.