Public speaking can cause deep anxiety and fear. Most of us dread even the thought of speaking in front of others. Now is not the time to let fear take over—on a personal or political note. If you've been asked to speak, here are five ways to overcome your fear of public speaking:
Develop your content. Easier said than done. The usual script we tell ourselves is rooted in shame and assumes we aren’t good enough. Those inner voices tend to flood in and create an inability to have coherent thoughts—let alone organize them. As you write your content, say it out loud until it actually sounds like something you would say. This is not your moment to become a professor. The simpler the message, the better.
Don't memorize. Unless you are part of the 2% of people I know who can do that. What you need to remember is each point. Each idea. What you can memorize is the opening and the last few lines—and the beginning phrase of each paragraph. That’s enough.
Rehearse. I mean, really rehearse. Don’t read it to yourself. Rehearse in the space. Rehearse in front of others. The first go around you may sound awful - flat as the first pancake. Do it again. And again. And again. Don’t try to use the exact same words every time. Rehearse so that you know the sequence of your points. Rehearse until you are connected to what you're saying.
Speak from your heart. Literally your heart center. This will remind you to breathe, plant your feet and look at people. Don’t sweep the room, either. Find one or two people. Speak as if you're having a conversation with them. Even if you look at just one or two people, the whole room will feel as if you're talking to them. Promise.
Turn your fear of judgment from others into a desire to give a message to others. This could be the most important point. You've been asked to speak for a reason. It may be that you're an expert, Board Chair or recipient of an award. Whatever the reason, you have something important to say. All of us have a gift to give.
I recently saw the Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy speak and he said if we, in our interactions, can turn towards love instead of fear, we’ll be okay. Sworn in over two years ago, listening to his common sense and kindness gave me a sliver of hope there are leaders who are still standing up for what is right and who are... yes, speaking to what matters.
The simple messages are the ones we remember—and can hold onto.
Turn towards love not fear!
PS If you need help with an upcoming speech or presentation, here's how I can help.