Public Speaking: For Some, a Fear Worse Than Death

Standing before my class I can feel my heart pounding. My stomach is tied in knots and nothing I do can distract me from this huge task that I must face. Stumbling over my words I face the class with a tremor in my voice. My legs start to tremble and I feel like they will give out on me. I lean against the table for support.

From the way I speak you would think that this was my first time in a public speaking setting. It’s not though. I have been doing this for two years now and I still get butterflies in my stomach at the thought of having to teach a class. This is not to say that I haven’t gotten better at it because I have. As the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect”, so does public speaking. Well, maybe it doesn’t make you perfect but it does alleviate the fear somewhat as you continue to make speech after speech. They say that death and the fear of public speaking are among the top fears of people. Can you believe that people fear public speaking more than they fear death? What is it about public speaking that puts fear into people’s hearts?

You may be the most prepared person in the world but when it comes to public speaking you can never predict how nervous you may feel. Even the most successful speakers get nervous. So why is it that we have this fear? Maybe it is because we are afraid of looking bad. Or doing or saying something stupid. For me, the fear is in just getting started. Once I am started, my nervousness tends to go away. I still may stumble over my words. When I do that I feel stupid. I feel like the biggest idiot in the world because I can’t say something correctly.

The number one reason I fear public speaking, is my lack of confidence. I fear that I may say something really stupid. I also fear that I will forget everything that I planned on talking about. The problem with having a lack of confidence is that you may very well be capable of doing the task at hand but the thought that run through your head that tell you “no, you can’t do that” or “you’ll fall flat on your face” will doom you to failure the majority of the time. This lack of confidence will be evident in the way you talk, move around, and make eye contact or lack of eye contact and the way you carry yourself. Overall, this will effect your presentation.

Here are some suggested methods to improve your public speaking:
Practice, Practice and Practice
As they say, practice makes perfect. If you are nervous in front of groups, try practicing your speech in front of a mirror. Also, engage your family in your speech preparation. Let them be the audience.

Visualize
Visualize yourself in front of the group confident as you make the speech. Also, it helps when you first approach the front of the room to imagine all of the audience in their underwear. Just don’t visualize too long, you might start laughing and never stop.

Toastmaster’s International
Join the Toastmaster International organization. This is a non-profit organization that assists people in improving their communication skills. During these meetings you will be able to: deliver great presentations, easily lead teams and conduct meetings, give and receive constructive evaluations and become a better listener. On their website you can find information on where to find a local group near you. They also have informative articles on public speaking on the website. The website is www.toastmasters.org

Improve your Self-Esteem
Easily said than done, right? Well, there are a lot of books and articles that deal with this specific subject. Deep issues with self-esteem may need further assistance by going to a therapist.

Take Public Speaking Classes
Look around at your local universities and colleges and see if they offer any adult study classes on public speaking.

Whenever you have a chance to do public speaking, just do it. As I mentioned before the more you practice the better you will become. Gradually as time passes you won’t even notice the nervousness anymore.

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