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5 key tips and trick to help you overcome the fear of public speaking

Be brief; Be sincere; Be seated.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

There is a popular belief that most people rate the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of death. In other words, they would rather die than speak in front of an audience.

This does not have to be the case for you. Honestly, I was one of those people but through courage and the recognition that public speaking is inevitable in my field of study and where I want to go in the future, which is entrepreneurship.

My personality is generally quiet and reserved. Every time I had to speak, I experienced symptoms of stage fright. Sweaty palms and forehead, racing heart, fast breathing and shaky voice.

I remember back in 2013, I had a braai/picnic to celebrate my birthday in one of the beautiful  dams in Pretoria, Roodeplaat dam. I invited a couple of friends including a classmate who knew me for some time before this event.

Moments before I was asked to say a few words, my classmate said she had never imagined me speaking in a crowd before and she can’t wait to finally witness me talk. I always strike her not just as a shy guy but someone who preferred to be backstage for everything that requires any kind of public speaking, she said.  

Fortunately for me, I had already prepared my speech and knew exactly what I had to say and stuck to that despite my shaky voice and noticeable nervousness. She was the first to hug me after finishing my speech and congratulated me for (to her surprise) speaking so well.

After this event, I felt a strong desire to improve and do better next time. I was determined to learn the tricks and tips that will help me not only be confident but look competent when giving a public talk.

How did I do it? The first and best thing I did for myself to get rid of my glossophobia (fear of public speaking), was to join Toastmasters International (TMI). TMI is a non-profit educational organisation that help its members not only to overcome the fear of public speaking but to be great communicators and leaders in their own right.

The brand promise is to help its members to fulfil their personal and professional assignments. They do this by ensuring everyone in their fortnight meetings is given an opportunity to speak by taking a role or two. They believe that two of the best ways to learn is by doing and by teaching others what you know. Quite frankly, I find this to be true in so many respects.

Generally, it’s the constant practice and iteration that re-enforces any skill you want to master.  Whenever you are presented with an opportunity to speak - whether at school, work, church, family gathering, funeral or any event, never turn it down.

In fact, you should be the one seek these opportunities. The more you do it, the better you get at it and before you know it, glossophobia will vanish from your vocabulary.

The following trick and five tips will help you prepare for your presentation and gradually get rid of your nerves that are induced by speaking to an audience. It is summarized into one meaningful and relevant acronym to a public talk and it’s always easy to remember. It’s called BRIEF.

B stands for Belief, R for rehearse, I for interesting, E for Edit and F for fun. Let’s dig into each of them and see how you can use them to your advantage.

1.    Believe.
A strong belief in what you say will help you speak with conviction and confidence such that there will be no room for nerves in your system. It’s imperative to do your research first and get facts and figures of whatever you are going to talk about.

Telling the truth with sincerity will not only help you gain trust from the people you speaking to, but establish a deep connection that make them like you.

2.    Rehearse
Practice and rehearsals are the foundation of any professional performance.  After finishing writing your own speech at least two days before the actual event, ensure you practice 7 times before performing in front of an audience.

Keep the 7 Ps in mind – Proper planning prior to presentations promote professional performance. When you know what you want to say by heart, you feel great about the performance and you wouldn’t wait to deliver that talk and when you reach this point, nerves will become a language you don’t understand.

3.    Interesting
When you are doing a research about your speech, make it a point you include stories and relevant quotes that will keep your audience eager to hear more. The stories that work best are personal stories that involve struggle, how you overcame them and eventually the lessons learned in the process.

It’s also important to speak passionately about your chosen subject because you trust your research findings and believe everything that you say. 

Use multi-modal communication style such as vocal variety, high and low pitch or volume, impersonations and other communication tools such as analogies, anaphoras, metaphors and other figures of speech that will help your audience understand your message.  

4.    Edit
One of the interesting thing you will discover while rehearsing your speech is that, the tone at which you practice/rehearse will differ somehow with the tone you used to write your speech.  When you notice this, change it such that it fits the tone of your oral speech.

Keep refining the words and phrases to match the tone of your multi-modal speech, other words make more impact when said in a low voice and slower, while others have to be said forcefully and faster.

5.    Fun
Have fun in the process and enjoy yourself. This does not mean you must tell jokes and make everyone laugh unless you are comfortable with it. It means smile, smile is contagious and its very rare to smile and be nervous at the same time.

In addition to the trick above, you can watch TED Talk videos on YouTube and observe how professional speakers smile and conduct themselves when delivering a presentation. Countless number of books have been written on the subject of public speaking that can also teach you other tricks tailored to your needs.

Above all, always seek and seize every opportunity to speak in front of an audience, there is no other better way to overcome your glossophobia. Remember, "Be brief; Be sincere; Be seated." - Franklin D. Roosevelt 


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