3 tips to avoid the public speaking freak-out

People often ask, “why do I get so nervous when I get up in front of a group?”

Well, if you think about it, it makes total sense.

You’re standing in front of a crowd of people, and they’re all staring at you, waiting for you to speak.

You want to put your best self forward.

So what can you do?

  1. The first thing is: normalize it. Expect to be nervous. It’s not just YOU, it’s part of the process. Most people feel a surge of adrenaline when addressing groups.
  2. Know your material backwards and forwards — rehearse it out loud until you’ve got it down. Know your points, but don’t memorize it word for word.
  3. Find opportunities to get in front of people to practice as much as you can. Having live people in the room to speak to will model the situation you’ll be in. The more you do it, the less anxious you’ll be.

Remember, you’ll always have nerves or feel adrenaline, so check the box and don’t freak yourself out. It’s totally normal.

Avoid the dreaded monotone

We all have the ability to hit within three full octaves of notes when we’re speaking, but a lot of times, we hit just one or two. This can result in your voice being monotone where you hit just one note the whole time—which can put your audience to sleep. If you listen to announcers on radio or TV, you’ll notice that they’re hitting different notes when they speak to give variety to their delivery, which makes it easier to understand what they’re saying.

Borrow this technique when you’re speaking—try hitting different notes.  At first, it’ll feel awkward—partly because you’re focusing on something new, but as you get more comfortable with your new vocal range, you’ll start to incorporate hitting different pitches based on what you’re saying. 

If you’re around young kids, practice playing all the parts when you’re reading them stories. They’ll love it, and you’ll get a chance to see all of the places your voice can vocally go.

Another way to practice vocal variety is to get a book (that you want to read), download the audio book and read along with the voice over actor, modeling your voice on theirs as they raise and lower their pitch. Then, put the audio on pause and read on your own for a few minutes, recording yourself each day to track your progress.

Use these tricks to avoid the dreaded monotone delivery and keep your audience engaged.

Ditch the Critic!

We’ve all got it—that critical committee in our head that’s commenting on our delivery WHILE we’re speaking to a group—saying things like “That was a stupid thing to say,” and “Wow, you really blew THAT one,” and “You are so terrible at this—everyone is bored out of their minds."

These voices can sometimes be helpful and keep us from saying inappropriate things in our daily lives, but it’s NOT helpful when we’re speaking to a group.

What can you do about it?

Send the committee out of the room. When you’re doing run-throughs, practice seeing them leave the room and go out the door. When it’s time to deliver your talk, find the closest exit and visualize them leaving the room.

With the critical committee gone, you’ll be able to worry less, and focus on what’s most important—sharing your ideas with your audience.

How to have a conversation

You know more about speaking publicly than you think. We all do it every day when we’re having conversations. When you’re talking to a friend, you don’t really worry about your delivery. You’ve got something to say, some sort of message, and you want to assure they get it. Apply this same concept when you’re speaking to a group. Envision a supportive friend, and focus on making sure they understand you’re saying. If you’re using video – put a picture of that friend right next to the camera as a visual reminder. It’ll take your mind off of your nerves, and remind you of what you already know – how to have a conversation.

My #1 Tip for Public Speaking

When you’re presenting in front of a group, you want to do your best. There are a lot of things you can do to prepare, but I advise you to remember to remember one thing: “Be prepared, not perfect.” Think about it. When you’re talking to friends, do you focus on being “perfect”? The pressure you put on yourself for perfection can be like a vice grip, and you end up coming across as stiff, impersonal, and dull as dishwater. So prepare as best you can, do lots of run throughs, and cut yourself some slack. Try to have a sense of humor, and expect a stumble here and there. You’ll be more relaxed and hopefully, more of ‘you’ will show up.

Get set for success

When the day comes for you to present, there are 3 things you can do to get off on the right foot:

1. Exercise - Get a good workout out or take a brisk walk to get your heart rate up to burn off some of your nervous energy

2. Arrive Early - There are so many things you can’t control, but getting there early is one thing you can. 

3. Have a backup plan - What happens if your laptop dies? Have your entire deck printed out just in case. Have a copy of your presentation on a thumb drive so you can easily swap out your laptop if you need to.

Follow these 3 tips, and you’ll be set for success.

Public speaking in 3 simple steps

There are three simple things you can do right now to be a better speaker.

1. Speak Up

The majority of people just aren’t speaking loudly enough when addressing a group.  By increasing your volume, people will see you as more of an expert, and you’ll actually feel more confident.

2. Slow Down

Nerves can drive you to speed up your delivery, so remember to take your time, pause and don’t be afraid of silence every once in a while.

3. Eye Contact

Keep your eyes on your audience, not on your notes or slides. Have a conversation with your audience. Make eye contact. Check to see if they’ve gotten what you’ve said before you move on to your next point.  If you do these three simple things, you’ll be so much better than the majority of speakers out there.

How to calm down

You’re waiting to speak, and there are five people in front of you. Now four, Then three. Your stomach is in knots, you’re sweating profusely, your heart is racing and you haven’t heard a word anyone has said for the last ten minutes. What can you do in this situation to calm down?

Well, the one physical thing you can do is try to remember to breathe.

1. Take a deep breath through your nose relaxing and expanding your stomach.

2. Count to three.

3. Hold for three.

4. Release for three.

That oxygen will bring down your heart rate, and send messages to your muscles to relax.

This is a great technique any time you’re feeling stress and need to remain calm.

Your phone is your friend

Do you use “um” or “like” a lot when you’re speaking?

Do you speak in a monotone voice, where everything you say is on the same pitch?

Or maybe you have problems with “up-speak” where everything you say is a question? “Today, we’re going to cover communication basics?”

Your phone is your friend.

The next time you’re speaking at a meeting, in front of a group, or maybe on a land line–use the voice memo on your phone to record yourself and listen back afterwards.

I know, you hate hearing your voice–so do I. But hearing how you sound to others can be a huge motivator to take steps to improve.