By Clare Gurton

The best way to overcome fear of public speaking is to be afraid and speak anyway. As silly as this may seem, it is an important and reliable way to gain confidence. Pushing through fear is often much less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.

The goal of public speaking is to give your audience something of value. If they get something they need, they will consider you a success. If they feel happy or entertained, they will consider their time with you worthwhile, and even if you stir them up, to ultimately benefit them, they will still appreciate you. But, in a large group of people, there will be a diversity of opinions, judgements and reactions; you cannot hope to please everyone.

Here are some suggestions to help you – and your audience:

  • Get rid of any negative anticipation and visualise yourself giving the talk the way you want to. If you anticipate success, you are more likely to achieve it. By visualising this way, you are programming your mind and body for the results you want.
  • Prepare positively, stop worrying about yourself and get excited about your subject.
  • Look your best – when you look good, you feel confident.
  • Assume that the audience is friendly and that they are there because they are interested in what you have to say – and know that you’re qualified to speak on the subject.
  • Remember, all good speakers probably started out as not-so-good speakers; they improved because they resolved to do better the next time.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before your presentation.
  • Eat lightly, or not at all, one hour before speaking – a full stomach can lower your energy level and concentration.
  • If you are experiencing butterflies just before you are due to speak, try to find a quiet space and breathe deeply, opening your lungs fully and slowly. Or, as one expert put it, get the butterflies to fly in formation.

Good luck!