• Advice

5 steps to becoming a better public speaker

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“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” - Mark Twain

If you’re reading this then you are probably one of the millions of people that hate speaking in public.

And worse yet, you know you are missing golden opportunities in both your professional and personal life because of this paralyzing fear.

You’re not alone - studies show fear of public speaking outranks fear of spiders, heights and zombies!

Here are a few simple techniques which can help you overcome your fear of public speaking and become a confident orator:

1. Get into your body and out of your head.

Warm-up for your public speaking engagement with a few exercises:

  • **Breathe: **Take long inhales and even longer exhales.
    Do this until you feel yourself slowing down. It may take 1 minute or 5.
    Focus on your breath. If a thought intrudes, let it pass rather than following it.
    This simple technique reduces cortisol levels, that pesky stress hormone that sends us straight into fight, flight or freeze mode.
  • Make sound! Eaise your shoulders on the inhale and let them drop with a loud “hah”. Drop your jaw and hear your voice; bring it into your gut. Do this at least 3 times.
  • Move: Shake your body all over, like putting your finger into a light socket.
  • Speak: practice some tongue twisters or favorite poem or rhyme, focusing on the consonants as well as the beginnings and ending of the words.

How we use/see/experience our bodies is critical. Amy Cuddy’s fabulous TEDtalk explains the relationship between body and brain and how the body sends messages to the brain – so, stand on two feet, shoulders back. Assume the pose of someone who is confident and you will trick your brain into believing it.

As Amy says, “fake it till you are it!”

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2. NOW use your head to reframe the experience.

Now that you are comfortably in your body you’re going to take those awful, “I can’t do this” “I’m so nervous I’m going to faint” and “What if I make a fool of myself” thoughts and reframe them.

Neuroscientists have proven that we really can rewire the brain to believe anything we tell it to believe.

So, how do we do that?

An example may start this way; “I’m so nervous, what if they see how nervous I am?” or “I’m nervous because I want them to think my presentation is good . . .that I’m good.”

Great. You’ve acknowledged your fear.

Now reframe it: “I know so much about (fill in the blank) – I know this is important information to share because (fill in the blank),” and finally, “It’s really pretty exciting – they chose me!”

Be your own advocate. Talk to yourself lovingly. It works. And those positive feelings will start to flood you with endorphins, and that will make you feel good.

Ah. Now let yourself be saturated in the good feelings.

**3. SEE your audience. **

Remember, you’re not alone. You're actually in a conversation with your audience.

See them. Really, see them. Know that they want you to do well.

Remember that laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Even if you’re not a comedian, a “light touch” is so appreciated.

Think how delightful it is when we're NOT trying to impress, when we listen and laugh and can even make fun of ourselves.

It's frequently the ‘mistakes’ that change the dynamic for the better and endears us to our audience. Enjoy the ‘conversation.’

**4. DON’T try to be someone else. **

Be you. Too many people get caught up in, “I wish I was smarter,” “funnier,” “more eloquent,” “more interesting,” and so on.

Turn off all that noise and take notice of how YOU relate to people.

Are you great with facts and figures and find them fascinating? Are you a delightful storyteller? Naturally funny? A fantastic listener? Is empathy your strong suit?

Whatever your style is, embrace it! You do not have to be like anyone else.

Lead with your strengths and that will make you a great speaker.

5. CONGRATULATE yourself.

Like learning to kick a soccer ball or play a musical instrument, every time you speak publicly, you’re developing a skill.

Each opportunity is practice for the next –and you WILL get better.

Now, congratulate yourself for taking the challenge and for pushing yourself past your comfort zone. It takes courage.

You’d be surprised to know how many astonishingly successful men and women floundered miserably in front of an audience.

But they had a message to share, and they got better, and better and went from timid to tremendous!

Nancy Maloy is a speaking coach and founder of Speak UP Speak OUT with Confidence, an actress, director and educator. Please see her website: