Faye B. Roberts
Speaking with confidence in public can be a tremendously difficult thing for some people. There are a number of things you can do to to overcome your nervousness, but realize that even experienced speakers get nervous. Instead of trying to eliminate your jitters, turn them into energy you can use to boost your delivery. When Carol Channing was asked, "On opening night, do you get nervous?" she replied, "I don't call it nervousness - I prefer to call it concentration."
Being prepared is the first and perhaps the most important step to speaking with confidence. If you attempt to give a speech without being prepared you should be nervous. So do your homework, make notes and get everything organized to help you make a good presentation. And practice.
Practice in front of a mirror, practice with your spouse, practice with your children or even the cat, but practice. Walk around as you speak, talk the presentation through point by point. You can use these points in your notes to remind you of each part of your speech. If you're using an overhead or a power point system, test it before your speech. Nothing will make you feel more nervous (and the audience more impatient) than equipment that doesn't work or needs adjustments.
In the thirty seconds before you begin speaking, take a slow, deep breath through your nose, filling your belly. As you breathe out, say to yourself, "Relax, relax." Concentrate on only your breathing until you can feel yourself relaxing. Give yourself a pep talk. "I am a powerful public speaker. I have what it takes to be an effective speaker."
Keep in mind that most stage fright is caused by self-preoccupation. ("How do I look?" "Am I making sense?" "Am I making a fool of myself?") Stop focusing on yourself, focus on the audience and how your speech is going to help them. And keep your speech short and simple. Most beginning speakers try to put too much information in a single speech. Instead, aim to communicate what your audience can understand in the limited time you have.
Practice relaxation techniques for two days before your presentation. Lie down or sit comfortably in a quiet place and breathe slowly with your eyes closed. Scan your body and consciously relax any tense muscles. Imagine yourself behind the podium, speaking powerfully and with confidence. Make the details as sharp as possible, see yourself accomplishing your goal, hear the applause, bask in the feeling of success.
Just before your presentation talk to a few individuals who will be in the audience. Look them in the eye during your speech, one person at a time. Invariably they will nod in agreement with some point you make during the presentation, increasing your confidence. If you can get your audience to identify with you, your job as a speaker becomes much easier and you can relax.
The only person who will know how nervous you really are is you. The audience can't tell if your palms are sweating or your knees are knocking or your heart is pounding so don't tell them. Use the Alcoholics Anonymous credo: "Fake it til you make it." Hold your chin up and smile. Stick your chest out and speak up. Look confident, even if you don't feel it. After awhile you'll begin to feel it.
Accept that mistakes are part of the learning process. After all what skill have you ever learned perfectly the first time you tried it? Continue speaking in public and soon you will be able to overcome your nervousness and fears and be speaking with confidence. You may even grow to enjoy it so much that you will consider a career in public speaking.
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