Giving speeches is part of what I do for a living. When it comes to fear, glossophobia or speech anxiety is second only to death. Yup – death!

When I was a kid my dad traveled the country as a journalist and Precious Metals Specialist giving long expert speeches with no notes. Although the idea of being on stage simultaneously terrified and titillated me, I assumed that it was just part of being a successful person.

I got the question of how to conquer this fear enough that I reached out to our guest blogger Michelle to put together our best tips for you. If the old “picture them in their underwear thing” doesn’t work (how distracting is that!) try these ideas… -aa

Let’s Talk About Fear…

People have many fears – a fear of heights, spiders, sharks, and the list goes on. But the fear of public speaking is probably one at the top of many people’s lists.

However, for many, the fear is simply of people not accepting you, the speaker. Judgment, being made fun of or simply misunderstood are the reasons we are fearful. But with practice and the right mindset, even the most timid amongst us can become eloquent public speakers.

1. Get Your Mind Right 

Conquering any fear is many times simply mind over matter. But the fear of public speaking is a fear that is definitely one that can be altered when one thinks of the reasons they are fearful. If a person is scare of spiders or snakes, they are actually substances that can realistically bring them harm. A spider could be poisonous, a snake could be as well.

But the fear of speaking publicly is not something that can literally harm us. It is simply our mind tricking us into believing that people will judge us and ridicule us. Many times the reasons behind the fear are deep seeded from childhood or elementary school.

When the speaker truly asks themselves what they fear about the task at hand, simply presenting a speech to a room full of people that probably want to actually be there, the speaker will actually realize that they are fearing their own minds more than the people in the room. This is a bit harder in younger school situations where middle schoolers might bully the speaker later or possibly make fun of what they said, but especially when adults are the fearful ones, the chances of the audience actually doing anything the speaker fears is pretty nil.

2. Preparation is the Best Defense

Never give a speech unprepared. Most things in life we would not do without having prepared properly at first.

We wouldn’t jump off out of an airplane without instructions and a parachute, nor would we take a driver’s test never having been behind the wheel of a car or having taken a driver’s course.

The same preparation will guard against any mishaps in your speech giving. Write, memorize, practice and adjust anything that feels awkward or unnatural. Give the speech in front of a mirror to yourself. Hold a “mock speech” in front of some close friends, family or classmates. This gives you time to feel how the speech will feel in front of the group and if anything feels off or doesn’t flow naturally, fix it ahead of time. Additionally, any items you might be having trouble remembering will also show themselves allowing you time to either eliminate those items and add new ones, or at least really concentrate on the problem areas.

3. Try Emotional Freedom Technique

Watch EFT Tapping Video and tap along…

4. Work on Roaming Eye and Eye Contact Techniques

When giving a speech in public, many times the very successful speaker is simply using tools and techniques they have either been taught or developed on their own. A lot of times what you see in a confident speaker is simply smoke and mirrors. They are just as nervous as you many times!

Work on making eye contact with certain audience members. When you practice your speech ahead of time, don’t just look at the floor, but work on eye contact with your practice audience. You may feel silly at first, but it will be hugely helpful for the end result.

Make eye contact with someone that returns it. If you glance at a person that looks bored, don’t give into “oh no they don’t like me!” scenarios in your head. You’ll ruin your own speech by your mind games. Instead, keep scanning the crowd with a slight or even bigger smile and confident air about you and you will quickly see the body language of the audience shift as they sense you are in control. Even if you feel you are not!

Another good technique is simply scanning the crowd above their heads or at chest level. If you use this technique, make it so the person you’re looking above thinks you’re actually looking at the person directly behind them, by stopping during your scan as if to gaze upon someone. You don’t actually have to make eye contact if that makes you more nervous, but if you pretend that you are, the audience will be none the wiser.

5. Fake It Until You Make It

Again, it’s all an act! Pretend you are confident and you will be. The audience does not have a clue what is going on in your head, only you do. So don’t let them know your knees may be knocking and you may be terrified, just create the illusion of confidence and the illusion will be truth to your audience.

6. Never Let Them Know You Made a Mistake

If you screw up something in your speech, you wrote it, not your audience! They don’t know what you are going to say until you tell them. So if you leave something out, don’t suddenly stumble and shuffle your papers and make it obvious you did something wrong. Simply gracefully keep going and let your inner mind be the only one that knows the boo boo. Later if you are mingling with the crowd, you could even say yes, due to time I had to eliminate this or that point and talk about it then. Again, they will never know it was on purpose.

Public speaking is like anything else you practice as well. The more times you do it, the better you will get at it. And the more you realized that there was really nothing to be scared of after all.

Michelle Rodriguez is a social worker who writes all about self-help and personal development. Her recent work is on the Top 10 Accredited MSW Programs (On-Campus).