Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking

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Oh, public speaking! Everyone’s most favorite thing to do, eh?! Not. Apparently Americans are more afraid to stand up and talk in front of crowd than we are of dying. Yo, that is MAD CRAZY! But, perhaps even crazier, I totally get it. Public speaking is completely terrifying and for quite a long time, it was a fear of mine that was very much alive and kicking.

Being in a position where you can be publicly judged is one layer. And then for me, I have the extra added oh-so-lovely layer of social anxiety. To give you some perspective, a few years ago, I could barely speak in front of my three coworkers at the start up I worked at during a weekly catch up meeting. Forget speaking in front of any type of audience!

But times have changed for me. I have a completely different life now that involves speaking to 160,000 people on Instagram everyday. And though I can hide behind my screen a good amount of the time, I’ve had more and more opportunities to speak on panels, give talks, host meet ups, speak on camera, speak on podcasts etc.

When Communispond, a company focused on developing public speaking skills, approached me last Fall and asked me if I wanted to take their two day Executive Presentation Skills class, I said, “YES!” despite being terrified.

I signed up. It was time to face this fear head on.

What I appreciated the most about the class was how interactive it was. We weren’t just learning about public speaking skills, but we were actually taking the knowledge and implementing it right there on the spot.

The flow looked like this:

Learning > Practicing > Accepting Feedback > Making Adjustments > Perfecting the Skills

The other part that I found extremely beneficial was that every time I stood up in front of the class to practice, I was recorded. I was then able to watch my recording back and take notes on the strong and weak points so that I could make improvements for the next time.

Also, let me just say, it’s a totally different perspective to speak and to then watch yourself speak. You can pick up on things that you do/say that you’re unaware of as you speak due to nerves. It’s quite eye opening!

I’m happy to say that I completed the course with flying colors and I learned so much in the process. I took the skills I acquired and have been able to put them into practice in real life at things such as panels at Google and Create and Cultivate, a talk for the UPenn Future Women and Health Club, and more.

So, now I get to spread the love and share with you the top take aways from the course that you can start using ASAP for any type of public speaking that you have in your life:

(Spoiler alert, I saved the most game changing one for last so make sure you read everythaaaang!)

 

Balance Your Stance

I think most of us can identify someone who looks confident when they’re speaking. Usually that person takes up space both physically and energetically. But for some reason, when it’s our turn, we tend to resort to stances that do the opposite.

For example, when I got up in front of the class for the first time to do my baseline recording (so I could compare what I was like ‘before’ to my ‘after’ once I completed the course), I had my hands in my pockets quite a bit, I leaned on one hip, and I shifted weight from leg to leg often. That was something I was able to correct right aware after learning about balancing my stance.

So, what are the elements of a confident stance?

Read all about how to create a confident stance here.

And here are some helpful tips to help with your overall body language.

Just a note, I think a lot of people often feel more comfortable doing something with their hands, like putting them in pockets or on your hips, fidgeting with an object, or nervously gesturing with them. I certainly felt that way before! So it can feel a little weird at first to stand with your hands at your side. But after practicing it and viewing my fellow students, I promise ya this is definitely the way to go.

And one other note! We’re not always standing when we speak in front of others. We could be sitting at a table during a meeting, or on a stool during a panel. But the same principles can apply.  


 

Speak with Confidence 

I know, I know. Easier said than done! And it certainly takes a lot of practice. But the more aware you become of the various elements that contribute to sounding confident, the stronger at speaking you’ll become.

Here are some key components to be aware of: 

Speak at a Volume level that’s 6-8: This was something that came naturally to me.

Eliminate Non-words: I was also surprised that I was good at this straight off the bat as well.

Pause and breathe: This was the biggest thing I needed to work on when it came to speaking with confidence. When I’m nervous, I tend to speak very quickly and take barely any pauses.

Inflect key words: I had a little bit of work to do in this area.

For more details about how to speak with confidence, check out:

Tip #1 in “The Three Measures of Public Speaking Success”

“I Can’t Hear You!”

Tip #4 in “4 Skills - and 1 Attitude- Needed to Move A Large Audience to Action


 

Gesture with Purpose

You definitely want a little movement when you’re speaking, and gesturing with your hands is a great way to do that. You can use it to emphasize certain words, and it can be used as a tool to drive home important points that you make throughout your speech or talk.

Here’s what Communispond suggests to do with your hands while speaking.

 

Eye-Brain Control®  

Ok you guys. Are you ready for the most game changing piece of advice I learned?! BECAUSE I AM SO READY TO SHARE IT WITH YOU! Drumroll please, it is called Eye-Brain Control®.  

Before taking this course, anytime I spoke in front of people, my eyes would dart around the audience as I talked, not stopping on a single person. But here’s the thing, this nervous habit actually contributes to feeling even more nervous. It leaves you, the speaker, feeling ungrounded and frazzled. Cue Eye-Brain Control®.

 To learn about the magic if Eye-Brain Control®, check out these nuggets of wisdom from Communispond:

“Control Your Brain’ in “Presentation Skills: 5 Tips for Overcoming Stage Fright

“Eye-Brain Control” in Public Speaking as a Sport

This process sounds simple, but it takes some practice. Most people are so used to scanning the audience when they speak, so locking eyes with one person per thought can feel awkward at first. But the benefits are tremendous! Ultimately you’ll find that you feel more confident, and your audience will perceive you as more confident.


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So my sweet friends, there you have it. The top tips I learned while at the Communispond Executive Presentation Skills that I have since put into practice and have found incredibly helpful. When you start to practice speaking with confidence, eliminating non-words, gesturing with confidence, and using Eye-Brain Control®, all of these elements will begin to fall into place.

If you think you could benefit from Communispond’s 2-day Executive Presentation Skills program, check out their upcoming public schedule here. They have public programs all around the U.S.

And if you register—use code Jera200 for $200 off the registration rate! The promo is good on any program through the end of June.

You can also check out Communispond’s ProSpeak app. It’s a free app downloadable for iPhones and Androids.

Let me know what you think below! Any questions? And if you end up using any of these tips, follow up with me and tell me how it went!

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