This might seem like a lofty claim, since it may not be possible to ever completely get over a fear of public speaking. That comes with time and practice. But it is possible to get better at it. It is possible to get to the point where you are afraid but not feeling physically ill when you get in front of people. You can use this fear to make you better and stronger, as well as to empathize with the audience. And this fear may not go away, but you can push through it and give speeches and talk in front of people regardless, making the success so much more important. So, here are some tips to be less nervous when it comes to public speaking:
1. Rehearse your speech
Practicing your speech is the number one goal. This will help you know what parts you are struggling with, as well as find a rhythm and boost your confidence. The more you practice, the more you will memorize, which is not essential when giving a speech, but it helps. If there are time constraints for the speech, that can be ironed out beforehand. And lastly, practicing will make you so much more confident and will make sure there are no surprises on the big day.
2. Do not be afraid to use cues
Cues like notes and note cards can be helpful. Do not be afraid to use them if they are needed and allowed. However, if you do not need them, they will only hinder you. You can figure out if they are needed when you are practicing. If you do use them, use them for quotes or complicated pieces of information only.
3. Try to talk about things that interest you
If you have the option to choose your topic, choose something that you are interested in or something that you are passionate about. This will make any research and practice less like a chore, and will make you less nervous when you speak. If you cannot choose your topic, try to incorporate things you are passionate about into your speech. Your passion will show and come across, as would your indifference.
4. Go first
If you are in a classroom setting, and there are multiple speeches happening in one day, try to go first or in the beginning. Sitting in your seat, fidgeting and nervous while others are presenting and you are waiting for your turn is unproductive. It will just make you more nervous and less likely to focus on what you have to do because you are focused on their speeches.
5. Use visual aids/ props
Visual aids and props are great for your audience during public speaking, but they are also helpful for the speaker to aid in memorization. Visual aids and props can keep you on track and act as cues to talk about certain things without it being obvious that they are cues. For the audience, they can help with visualization and explanation.
6. Have a few main points
I have done many speeches that have rambled and gone completely off the rails, and this can happen. Be prepared for this, and have a few main points in mind or written down to make sure that you include, no matter how off topic other parts may go.
7. Speak slowly and loudly
When you are afraid, it can be easy to talk quickly. Resist this urge. This will make it harder for people to understand you and will make time constraints an issue again. Try to speak like you did in practice. Speaking slower and more clearly will also allow you to gather your thoughts and decide what you are going to say a couple of seconds before you actually say it.
The biggest thing to remember is that it gets better. With the more public speaking you do, the more effortless it will be, and you will look back on those harder times and see how far you have come.