Three Easy Freaking Ways To Stay Calm During Public Speaking
By Steve Pavilanis
There I was, sitting in a small room with my good friend and his family, about to walk out and greet the crowd of 100 people that were there to see a wedding... that I had been asked to officiate.
This was a couple of years after my anxiety book had been published, and I had worked hard to overcome my once paralyzing fear of public speaking. Now it was time for a true test!
Was I nervous? Of course! You see, conquering fears doesn't mean that fear is no longer present... it's just that you learn through experience how to turn the volume down on the fear, and how to crank up your courage and positive thoughts so you know and believe that things will go just fine.
So how did it go?
I'll get to that in a second... but first, I want to share with you 3 easy ways to stay calm and confident while public speaking.
By the way, in the many surveys I've sent to tens of thousands of followers of this website over the years, the fear of public speaking is always #1 - so if you dread getting up and speaking in front of others, you are not alone!
Okay, let's get to it:
Sounds stupid doesn't it? Well, it freaking works. I'm not going to dig them up but I've read plenty of studies about the power of smiling - that it can help lift your mood and fool you into feeling better, even when you're nervous or feeling depressed. Ever heard the saying, "fake it til you make it"?
This is how it works. When you physically smile, your brain associates that with feeling good, relaxed and light-hearted. Your brain thinks, "well we're smiling, I guess we're feeling good now?", and accordingly your mood will lighten. Hell if more people just smiled more throughout the day they'd be a whole lot happier.
2) Start With A Long Pause And Look As Many People In The Eye As Possible Before You Start Speaking
The intimidating thing about speaking before a large group of people is that it feels like everybody against one: you. Something I learned years ago while attending Toastmasters was to see the individuals in the crowd, not the crowd itself.
So before I ever go up on stage, I make it a point to look as many people in the eye as possible. If we lock eyes it forms a connection, and they no longer feel like a stranger, more like a friend or at least a friendly face. And it's a lot easier to present to a group of friends than a group of people you consider hostile or judgmental.
After you are introduced and before you begin speaking, take in a deep breath and slowly exhale as you scan the room making eye contact with as many people as possible, while not forgetting 1) above - you are smiling during this too!And then, get started with your presentation. This is also an advanced ninja speaking technique - pausing and making eye contact demonstrates confidence and commands the attention of the crowd - well done public speaking ninja!
3) Understand That Your Anxiety Dies Once You Get Going
Listen, I was once paralyzed by public speaking, and for many years I thought if I had to get up and give a presentation that I would likely:
* Crap my pants
* Run out of the room screaming incoherently while pulling out my hair
* All of the above at once
But that's not how it works. The fear of public speaking is classic anticipatory anxiety, meaning the fear of the actual event is far worse than the event itself. Your out of control "what if..." thoughts make you imagine all sorts of doomsday outcomes, most of which are completely ridiculous.
So here's the key, understand that once you get going with your presentation, your anxiety will almost completely disappear within 10-15 seconds. I know it sounds nuts, but that's how it works. Trust me, I've tested this well over 100 times giving different types of presentations, and this is just how it goes.
Your anxiety disappears because you are occupied by the task at hand - giving the presentation. After you start spitting out your third or fourth sentence, you also become very aware of that fact that you haven't fainted or ripped off all of your clothes and started yelling frantically as you thought you might... in fact, hey, I'm doing pretty freaking good!
And thus the wave of confidence rushes over you, the same one you feel any time you face a fear, and you my friend, are on cruise control the rest of the presentation. Before you know it, that smile isn't fake.
So there you have it, 3 totally easy ways to stay calm while public speaking.
Oh yeah, how did the wedding go? I freaking nailed it :-)
About Author: Steve Pavilanis
Steve Pavilanis is a former panic attack and extreme social anxiety sufferer and author of the award-winning book "A Life Less Anxious".