Glossophobia is defined as “the fear of public speaking, or speaking in general” and is often referred to as speech anxiety. Fear of presenting is experienced by many, and affects individuals of all ages and in all positions. While many of us do not fall into the category of a diagnosable medical condition, it is estimated that 75% of the population experiences some kind of anxiety when it comes to public speaking. Let’s examine a few ways to help relieve this all too common fear.
1. Know your stuff!
Everyone has occasional moments of apprehension. It’s only natural and it can present itself throughout all stages of life. When we experience fear and anxiety before an event, whether it is a new job, an important meeting or a presentation, a great amount of our unease stems from a fear of the unknown.
The higher the level of expertise on the topic you’re presenting on, the better, so it’s a good idea to try to master your topic and content as much as possible. A helpful tip when preparing a presentation is to anticipate any questions or points your audience may bring up. I recommend analyzing your content and identifying any logical questions or clarification points, and prepare how you want to answer those prior to your presentation.
However, it is unrealistic to think that you can prepare for every possible question, so don’t get tripped up if there’s something you cannot answer. Simply let them know it’s a great question and you’ll have to look into it. An audience will always appreciate honesty over the alternative.
2. Don’t equate nervousness with negativity
Something to keep in mind when the anxiety starts to set in is that it is perfectly normal to feel this way. Remember that 75% of the population experiences some sort of anxiety in public speaking situations, so don’t let this get you down. In fact, experiencing some level of anxiety prior to an event shows that you are personally invested in what you are doing and that you care about the outcome.
A tip for calming the nerves is to try and start your presentation off with something interactive to ‘loosen up’ the room. Think of some relevant conversation topics to get things going. This will take the focus off of yourself, and you’ll be amazed at how much more comfortable you feel once your audience has had the chance to contribute. So, embrace those nerves, take a deep breath, and have confidence in your preparation and skills to make it a great experience.
3. Avoid memorizing your content
A common mistake made by those who are trying to control all aspects of their presentation is attempting to memorize the entirety of their content. It is hard to touch on all types of public speaking experiences, as they vary greatly in nature, but one way to easily mess yourself up is to try and go word for word from memory. We’ve touched on how nerves are a common part of public speaking, and even with adequate preparation, nervousness can interrupt the brain’s normal flow and ‘take over’ in the heat of the moment.
If you rely exclusively on reciting a presentation word for word, you’re operating only on memory. Nervousness can cause a mental disconnect, and all of a sudden you’ve forgotten what comes next. A nice tip to avoid this ineffective method is to try and speak in ideas. Know the main points you want to cover and allow yourself to naturally expand on them.
4. Have a structure in place
As we discussed previously, preparation is key to a successful and worry-free presentation. In order to stay on track, it is essential to take the time to organize a consistent structure with your main topics outlined. Having an outline of your presentation is sure to make you feel more calm, relaxed, and confident. It also never hurts to have an agenda prepared to go over prior to diving into the details. This overview will keep everyone informed and involved.
HON offers training to its internal members through HON University to equip people from all areas of the organization with tips and tricks for stronger presentation skills and effective public speaking.
What has helped you stay calm during a big presentation?