HOW I OVERCAME THE FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING
As a fresh out of college graduate and an introvert, I kept a small circle of friends and took my time in learning skills relevant to my profession. I had never been big on talking in a crowd and almost flushed at the few interviews before I got a job.
From the moment I got employed, I was thankful I did not have to do a lot of talking all day. I just sat behind my computer screen and sent emails all day, quite simple.
People asked if I ever got tired of sitting without interacting with others around all day, but I was comfortable. Be that as it may, I was doing an excellent job in my own space and got commendations from my superiors. Everything felt right, and soon, I was promoted to head of a unit. Though I had to talk more around people, it was pretty much-giving instructions and the likes, except now, my primary role involved giving reports and handling presentations for my team.
Now, I excelled at almost everything at work. I had taken weekends off to build my capacity, but the one thing I still dreaded the most was public speaking. I know how important it is in the business world, but I tried my best to avoid it, and the fear remained rooted in me for a long time. I was terrible at debating in high school, I felt nervous and nauseous in front of crowds. I would stutter, and my voice would go off the few times I tried it. It was terrible for me at that point, but I had no choice. I looked up every resource I could on public speaking within that time-frame, and some things struck me.
There are specific techniques proven to help one get better at public speaking, and I tried every one of them.
- Prepare your facts meticulously: The audience is listening with the intent to get information. When you organize your facts thoroughly, you build confidence in your delivery. However, a poor preparation means you may misinform your audience.
- Practice and more practice: After gathering your facts, draft your key points, and practice with them. You do not have to memorize them word for word but well enough that you can confidently answer any question thrown at you.
- Pay attention to yourself: While practicing, watch yourself in a mirror and pay attention to not only your words but also your body language and facial expressions. You should try to maintain a rhythm with your delivery. Pause after making a key point to let the information sink in, and let your audience anticipate your next point.
- Have another person go over your slide/speech: You may not notice some errors in your presentation if you are the only eyes going over it. Also, it helps you practice better, as this person becomes your primary audience and may have questions that resonate with your general audience.
- Avoid speaking too fast: Speaking too fast interferes with your breathing and increases anxiety. Try to breathe deeply before talking, practice slowing down, and feel relaxed while talking. It also helps ease nervousness.
Having gone over these tips, I prepared my presentation, put a lot of practice into it, and in no time, I had mastered my presentation. The first presentation was quite difficult, but scaling through the first gave me the courage to have a go at it again. I discovered it was just a matter of time and continuous practice before I got better and picked interest in delivering speeches.