Top 5 Strategies to Beat Your Fear of Public Speaking

leadership Dec 10, 2018

If the thought of speaking it public makes your heart race and your hands begin to sweat… well, you’re not alone. Glossophobia (or, the fear of public speaking) is one of the most prominent fears amongst adults. In fact, a reported 78% of people have a fear of speaking in public. But as project managers, this phobia can have real-life consequences on our bottom line (reportedly, this has a 10% impairment on wages across the board for individuals with public speaking anxiety). Whether you are presenting to stakeholders, reporting your findings in an organization-wide meeting or just having weekly team meetings, this anxiety can prevent you from effectively communicating.

However, even with a pronounced fear of speaking publicly or in front of a large group, there are tactics you can employ to help you seem more confident and to make sure you are getting your points across effectively. Don’t worry, none of these involve picturing the audience in their underwear. Here are our Top 5 strategies for reducing your fear and getting your point across more effectively:

  1. Be prepared. If you are used to seeing this tip at the top of most of our lists, there is a reason. Flying by the seat of your pants is strongly discouraged in most areas, but even more so when you are presenting to an important audience OR when you are anxious about the situation. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to get out the required information, even if your brain is in ‘panic’ mode.
  2. Breathe. Part of anxiety is physiological as well as mental. This can manifest in increased blood pressure, racing heart, and faster breathing. Calm down and take deep, slow breaths. Allow each breath to last five seconds in, hold for 5 seconds, release for 5 seconds. This pattern has been proven time and again to fill the body with needed oxygen and help reduce stress and anxiety within the body. Allow yourself 5 minutes of deep, mindful breathing before the start of the meeting to put your body in a stage of relaxation. It will thank you by reducing your physical feelings of anxiety.
  3. Focus on the material. One trick to overcoming speaking to people is to focus more of the content than the audience. It may seem simple, but shifting your thinking to really studying and concentrating on the data you are presenting can help remove those outside distractions. Really focus in on your mind and get excited about the results or reports. This was your content and delivery is more exciting and more accurate for those listening.
  4. Find a friend. Usually, particularly in a business setting, there is someone in the audience you are acquainted with. Focus on this person, and not all of the people around them. A public speech or presentation is usually one-sided, so hone in on that friendly face and present the information as if you were in a one-on-one meeting. If you don’t know anyone, look for an audience member who is giving you positive feedback with their body language and focus on them. 
  5. Visualize a victory. Remember, your presentation won’t last forever, and neither will the anxiety. Focus in the feeling of relief you will feel when it is all over and you have successfully made your point to everyone present. While the event can be stressful, the exhilaration of being done can be glorious. So go into your next presentation or update with your focus on how you are going to feel 15 minutes from now- and remember that you will be there before you know it.

The fear of public speaking can be crippling both personally and professionally. For most project managers, we face a time in our week, month or year where we are expected to report on the efforts of our group. These opportunities can be a great way to increase confidence in your work and that of you team, as long as you can confidently and clearly convey your victories. Use these 5 proven techniques in your next meetings to practice overcoming this anxiety and communicating effectively, no matter who is in your audience.  

Need more tips, tricks and techniques for communicating effectively with your team and stakeholders? Check out PDUs2Go’s Communication for Results, and learn the secrets our expert authors employ to master both inter-office and everyday communication. From emails to public speaking, this 60 PDU course will provide you will the tools you need to master these critical skills.

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