Public speaking is one of the most common fears— more than 25% of people cite it as their biggest fear.
But you don’t have to be afraid of something forever, just because you’re afraid of it now. Public speaking is a skill, just like running,or playing an instrument. It can be learned.
Public speaking is an integral part of your personal and professional life. How you present yourself matters.
Personally, it matters for big moments — like when you want to give a toast at your sister’s wedding. Professionally, public speaking skills are critical to advance in the workforce.
Think about pitching to a client, or leading a meeting with your boss’s boss in attendance. When you can lead presentations, you appear competent, intelligent, organized, and in control — traits that your organization needs.
If you can’t speak in front of a room, then you’re relegating yourself to a lifetime of sitting in the audience.
The fear of public speaking has deep roots in our fears of embarrassment and failure. When you take those things away, what you have left is confidence in yourself.
Here are a few tips to connect with your bravery.
Find role models that appeal to you!
Find people that are great at public speaking, and watch them do it.
Watch Ted Talks. Watch famous speakers online.
Don’t put any pressure on yourself. Just watch and listen.
Think about how they speak and try to identify why they captivate you. Do they have fantastic body language? Do they have the perfect speech pattern? Do they have great vocal variety or uncanny comedic timing?
Find role models, watch, and learn.
Take small steps
If the idea of public speaking makes you want to throw up, don’t start with a speech in front of a thousand people.
At work, keep an eye out for small opportunities to get in front of a group. Create a monthly meeting to pitch ideas in front of your boss or department.
There is no shame in fear. Working through our fear is our bravery.
Practice as much as you can
If you never speak in public, then getting in front of a room can feel like climbing a mountain. But if you practice every week or every month, that insurmountable mountain will start to shrink. If you keep practicing, then soon it won’t seem like a mountain at all. More like a hill.
Before a presentation, grab a colleague and ask to rehearse with them. Practice in the bathroom mirror! The more you practice, the more prepared you will feel. Feeling prepared instills confidence, which will help you connect with your bravery!
Find your style
So you’ve watched a lot of Ted Talks and started practicing with your friends. Maybe one of your friends is hilarious, or your favorite Ted Talk presenter has a soothing voice. You love it. You admire it. But you can’t seem to recreate it.
You don’t have to be funny or graceful or have the voice to be a good public speaker. Those things make up other people’s comfort zone — not yours. You’ll never feel comfortable on stage if you’re always trying to be someone else.
Everyone has their own style. Everyone has something different to contribute. Play around. Try different techniques until you find the one that feels right, and resonates with both you and your audience. That’s when things will start to click.
Learn to differentiate between your nerves and your capabilities
I get it. You might never be fully comfortable with public speaking. I personally get sweaty palms and butterflies in my stomach every time I present.
The difference is that through practice, I have learned to have more bravery than fear.
That’s the key — knowing that you can do it. Even if you’re scared, even if you hate the idea of it, you know that you’ll succeed. That’s the bravery you need to move past your fear.