Personally, I enjoy speaking in front of groups and have almost none of the jitters so many other people feel at the prospect of talking to a crowd. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the anxiety they feel, though. Studies show that glossophobia -- fear of public speaking -- ranks up there with fear of death, spiders, and Rottweilers.
You can relieve your anxiety, though, by practicing, preparing, and following the advice of expert speakers. Toastmasters International has these 10 tips for public speaking:
- Study your material. It's important to know more about your subject than what you are actually planning to speak to in your presentation, which will give you more comfortable with the subject matter and allow you to answer unexpected questions, personalize your speech, and be more fluid and conversational.
- Rehearse. Practice your presentation, ideally in the same setting and using the same equipment that you will use when you actually p[resent. Practice with a timer and be prepared for questions or sidebars that unexpectedly use extra time.
- Know your audience. Even if you're talking to strangers, try to meet some before you step up to the front of the room. It's easier to talk to people you know than a group of anonymous faces.
- Scope out the room. Don't be surprised -- arrive early, and know how to operate the AV equipment.
- Ease in slowly. Don't dive into your prepared speech; greet the audience and use that time to calm your nerves.
- Use visualization techniques. This might sound like it's straight out of the Age of Aquarius, but it works. Imagine yourself speaking clearly and confidently. Visualize getting applause - it will boost your confidence.
- Know that the audience wants you to succeed. The audience really is rooting for you. After all, they want to enjoy themselves and learn something. No one hopes to be bored by a poor speaker.
- Don't apologize. For anything. If you're nervous, just push through and the audience probably won't even notice.
- Concentrate on the message. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.
- Gain experience. Of course, the more experience you have, the more confident you will be. Especially if you are a reluctant speaker, seek out opportunities to talk to groups to bolster your skill and your confidence.