I have been speaking publicly for years. From speaking to audiences of over a hundred people to conducting workshops with small groups of people, I’ve had a lot of experience with having to stand in front of an audience and share my story.
I’ve even been humiliated publicly in front of hundreds of people. Not fun.
Yet and time I find myself in front of a new audience, I dread speaking. I worry about the first thing that’s going to come out of my mouth. I’m worried someone will just walk out or heckle me.
I get anxious, scared and nervous before I speak publicly.
I believe that everyone who speaks publicly gets anxious. Even if they’ve been doing it for years, part of them is probably panicking.
The feeling of fear before speaking is normal.
Let me repeat that: The feeling of fear before speaking is normal.
Just read this quote by Beyonce:
I think it's healthy for a person to be nervous. It means you care - that you work hard and want to give a great performance. You just have to channel that nervous energy into the show. - Beyonce Knowles
The simple truth is that everyone gets nervous before they speak. They could be a professional or they could be speaking for the first time - they will feel fear and be nervous.
And it’s not a bad thing. If you’re nervous, chances are you really care about what you’re doing and you don’t want to mess that up!
The difference is that there are some people who lets that fear stop them from doing what they do, believing they aren’t cut out for it. And I think that is far from the truth.
Now while I definitely don’t believe you will ever feel totally and completely comfortable in front of an audience, here are a few tips that helped me become less anxious in front of an audience.
Practice speaking in front of an audience
Although you will never feel totally and completely fearless in front of an audience, continuous practice helps make it easier. Talk to the server at your local Starbucks and ask them how their day is going. Make small talk with the person next to you. You may have bad experiences, but you will also have good ones.
The first word is always the hardest.
Say the first word. The first word is the scariest word, because once you say the first word, you can’t go back. Your mind is terrified of that word. But trust me. Once you say the first word, everything will come out as well. The first word is your bottle stopper. Once it comes out, the rest of the liquid comes out as well.
You look the way you feel. So feel confident.
Your audience can’t read your mind (luckily). They don’t know what you’re going to say and they don’t know if you’ve made a mistake.
The only way they will know is if you show it.
The way you look is so important. Your audience will judge if you’ve nailed a speech by how you look. If you look like you’ve made a mistake, you’ve made a mistake. If you look like you’re nervous, you are nervous. If you look confident, you are confident.
So put on a smile and have a good time.
The feeling of anxiety you get before a speech is the absolute worst. I know because I still get it too. It wants you to quit and walk away. It wants you to give up.
This is when you tell your fear ‘Not Today!’ and you give the best speech of your life. All it takes is for you to say the first word.