Last week, I was nervous.
I’d agreed to give a talk at Social Circle – a local social media event held by a few members of our team. I was going to talk about ‘Creating content that feels like you’ and that should be no issue at all for me. It’s quite literally what I do every day as a content marketing manager.
On top of that, I’m well aware that there are a lot of benefits of public speaking:
- Personal development – Getting your name out there for yourself or your company is incredibly important and can lead to brand awareness and new leads.
- Networking – You may get the chance to network with others in your industry (or even outside of it), opening your eyes to new opportunities and partnerships.
- Increased confidence – Becoming a more confident person is all about doing things outside of your comfort zone, so there’s never a bad time to continue that journey.
But still, the thought of public speaking turned my stomach and I know a lot of people who’d have the same reaction at the idea of standing in front of a crowd of strangers
So, as much for me as it is for you…
My 5 tips for tricking yourself into public speaking confidence
1. Commit yourself.
Been asked to give a speech? Just say you’ll do it and worry later…
Do you know what scares me more than speaking to a room full of people?
Letting someone down (including myself).
Over the past 10 months, I’ve spoken at two events and lectured for three hours at Birmingham City University. Each time, I said I’d do it, but I was scared… and that’s fine.
What wouldn’t have been fine is if I’d agreed to speak or lecture and then bailed. I’d have let someone down and given up the chance to improve my own development. That disappointment is much worse than the fear of speaking.
2. Know your stuff.
One of the biggest fears is linked to my incessant Imposter Syndrome. I believe that, while I’m talking, they’ll figure out I don’t know what I’m talking about.
The only way to combat this voice is to Know. Your. Stuff.
Chances are, if you’re planning to give a speech or presentation, you’re talking about a topic that you know a lot about – it’s probably even related to your day-to-day work. If anyone knows about this topic, it’s you.
Give yourself plenty of time to know what you want to say and trust that your knowledge and preparation will squash any nerves before they can take over.
3. Don’t write a script.
I doubt everyone would agree with this point, but hear me out…
When you write a script, it’s very easy to fixate on using those exact words and phrases. But, knowing what you want to say that well also means you know when you’ve missed something out, which lead to more nerves and more forgotten words…
That’s why, when I’m presenting or lecturing in more recent times, I don’t write a script.
I might make some notes to help me remember, and I’ll definitely run through my presentation a few times beforehand so that I know roughly what I want to say, but I don’t commit myself to set words.
It’s an extra pressure that’s not needed and you’ll appear more natural if you’re not reading from a piece of paper.
4. Speak to people beforehand.
Don’t just wait, trapped inside your own head, until it’s time for you to speak. Chat to people in the room. Understand who they are and why they’re there.
The act of chatting to people can help nerves because:
- You can’t think about how nervous you are if you’re having a conversation.
- You’re no longer talking to complete strangers when you get up there.
- You can focus on these people while you’re talking. They’re now friendly faces.
5. Ignore your self-doubt.
If you’re anything like me, you could spend your entire time leading up to speaking (and then afterwards) thinking about things going wrong and how people will notice if you’re nervous. But think about it like this…
You’re giving a talk because someone either asked you to speak, or because you offered and they believe you’re up to the job. Somebody already thinks you’re good enough to do this, so why listen to your own self-doubt when you could just believe they might be right?
It’s much easier said than done, but you’re already committed to the talk, remember? So, there’s nothing to lose by believing you have the skills and knowledge to give a good talk.
You’re not really alone up there…
If you didn’t already get this from my self-deprecating blog, you’re not alone.
Public speaking doesn’t come naturally for everyone and that’s nothing to be ashamed of – I couldn’t perform open-heart surgery without a lot of time to prepare, but I’m not going to spend my time feeling bad about it.
The main thing is to face your fears, do your best, and see your confidence grow over time.
If it helps in any way, I ended my talk by knocking over someone’s drink… Avoid that and you’re already on the right track for a great talk.
More tips from people who feared public speaking and did it anyway:
- The Uneasy Speaker’s Guide to Confident Public Speaking – Joe Chernov
- How even introverts can be confident public speakers – Judith Humphrey
- 5 tips on how to gain confidence with public speaking – Dr Alice Boyes