Make Your Fear of Public Speaking Work for You
“If you have a crippling fear of public speaking, recognize that that is perfectly normal. And know that the only way to get over those nerves is to fully understand the material, the points, the policy you are trying to explain – and then practice it a little bit.”– Dana Perino, American political commentator, and author
Do you have a fear of public speaking? If you think you don’t, think again. Of course, we all get nervous speaking to an unfamiliar audience.
Did you know if you think you are fearless speaking in public, your delivery will suffer? Believe it or not.
This article is about how to make your fear of public speaking work for you in your presentations.
Below are three ways you can use your fear of public speaking to improve your speaking delivery:
Use Your Fear of Public Speaking to Plan Your Presentation
Fear can sometimes be used to do something we know we ought to do, like planning your presentation, but don’t want to do.
Think about fear for a second.
When you first learned to drive, you were fearful, but you still did it because you knew being able to drive would give you more freedom.
You were fearful on your first day of college—no more friends from high school. But you knew a college degree would be a significant stepping stone to a good life. So, you stuck it out, and here you are, a college graduate with a good job.
You were fearful when you joined your high school soccer team as a freshman. You were worried about if the team would accept you or not. But you were accepted and made some of the most profound relationships of your life with the other players.
You can use your fear of public speaking to force you to create, practice, and deliver your presentation.
You can also use fear of public speaking to animate your body language, which is an essential part of your communicating with your audience.
Use Your Fear of Public Speaking to Animate Your Body Language
I tell my public speaking clients if they are utterly fearless about delivering a presentation (I haven’t found anyone that was yet), their presentation will be flat. It will detract from their message to their audience.
The key is to use your nervous energy to animate your body language. You already know a significant percentage of your communication with your audience is through your body language.
A key to using the nervous energy you feel when you have a fear of public speaking is to practice moving your body, arms, and hands in sync with what you are saying and how you are saying it. This doesn’t happen overnight but is entirely within your capacity to do.
You may not think you use your body language and gestures well. Believe me. All it takes is practice. Purposely plan where in your presentation you will move your body a certain way or how you will gesture in unison with the words you are speaking and the tone of voice you are using.
Above all, be yourself. However, realize you are constantly changing. You are a better speaker than a year ago, six months ago, or even a month ago if you regularly speak and use audience evaluations to improve your speaking.
So, you can use your fear of public speaking to force you to create, practice, and deliver your presentation and to animate your body language, which is an essential part of communicating with your audience.
Just as your fear of public speaking can energize your body language and gestures, you can also use it to energize your audience.
Use Your Fear of Public Speaking to Energize Your Audience
You’ve heard it said before if you are not enthusiastic during your speaking delivery, there is no chance your audience will be.
On the other hand, if you are enthusiastic about your topic and show it through your delivery, the chances of your audience being enthusiastic about your subject increase dramatically.
That said, no matter what you do, everyone in your audience will not be enthusiastic about your subject. So, don’t expect it. Shrug it off.
We, humans, are funny. When people don’t respond to us in the way we expect, we usually blame ourselves. However, there likely is an entirely different reason they are not enthusiastic, which has nothing to do with you or your presentation.
I believe someone is not enthusiastic during my presentations because something else negative is happening in their lives. Maybe they just were fired from their job, or their spouse just told them they were leaving them, or their dog ate their homework. It could be a million other reasons. The key is not to let another person’s sullen disposition affect your enthusiastic one.
Perhaps the best way to use your fear of public speaking is to tell a story that has a physical aspect to it, like a scout camping trip, the time you walked up to that girl or boy at the dance you liked and asked them to dance with you, or bumbling through your first job interview.
The point here is that nervous energy from fear will energize you and your audience.
So, you can use your fear of public speaking to create, practice, and deliver your presentation, animate your body language, which is an essential part of communicating with your audience, and energize your audience.
So, don’t avoid your fear of public speaking.
Use your fear of public speaking to deliver your best presentation!
Call to Action
Use your fear of public speaking to:
Motivate you along in planning, practicing, and delivering your presentation
Animate your body language to increase communication with your audience
Energize your audience
“It is said that the fear of public speaking is a fear greater than death for most people. According to psychiatrists, the fear of public speaking is caused by the fear of ostracism, the fear of standing out, the fear of criticism, the fear of ridicule, the fear of being an outcast. The fear of being different prevents most people from seeking new ways to solve their problems”– Robert Kiyosaki, an American entrepreneur, businessman and author
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals by improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”