Top 10 things new speakers feel nervous about, and how to get over it

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” 
-Jerry Seinfeld

When you are new to speaking, the idea of getting on stage can be, to put it mildly, terrifying.

Some new speakers even resort to counselling and hypnotherapy before they get past the “scared-out-of-their-wits” stage. Even people who are extroverted by nature sometime struggle with the idea of getting up in front of a hundred people, and delivering a message.

We’ve complied a list of the top 10 things that most new speakers feel anxious about, and solutions for getting past the fears and onto presenting great talks.

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  1. ISSUE: What if I forget my intro?
    SOLUTION: Memorize word-by-word the first 3 sentences of what you will say, and the rest will follow.
  2. ISSUE: What if I forget what I want to say half way through?
    SOLUTION: Use a small cue card in your hand which has the numbered points and keywords to remind you what to say. Use slides with max 4 words on each to remind you of the key message you can then describe in your own words (or try Pecha Kucha.)
  3. ISSUE: What if my technology fails, or I forget to bring something important?
    SOLUTION: Use a checklist to ensure everything will go smooth (like this one.)
  4. ISSUE: What if the audience judges me negatively?
    SOLUTION: Do a thorough research of your audience beforehand to know what resonates with them culturally, and test your messages (and jokes!) with a small crowd before going on the main stage (read the book Little bets- there is a case study of a comedian doing just that.)
  5. ISSUE: Am I constantly making the same body language faux pas?
    SOLUTION: Record yourself with a smartphone or basic camera, and see if you fidget, cross your legs or other ways that are suboptimal on stage (here are a few tips about body language)
  6. ISSUE: How do I know if I am speaking too fast or too slow?
    SOLUTION: If you dictation on your smartphone, it forces you to slow down and enunciate your words, both of which are excellent ways to improve your speaking skills in public. There are also apps for public speaking practice that you may wish to try out.
  7. ISSUE: What if I get negative feedback?
    SOLUTION: Audiences usually get frustrated with a speaker because of the wrong proportion of 3 things: inspiration, information and insight.
  8. If you’re a motivational speaker, you’ll have lots of inspiration. If you’re a technical expert, you’ll likely share lots of information. If you’d like to be really great, you’ll share with them your wisdom and insights about what to do next. The book Made to Stick is an incredibly useful book for communicators of any kind.
  9. ISSUE: What if I come off really stiffly or boring?
    SOLUTION: Most speakers who are just starting out tend to be overtly serious and excessively formal. This is, however, seldom engaging. To find the right balance between being professional, and being engaging, remember that your audience is human. Try speaking to them like a group of friends. Smile a bit more. Your audience will read this as confidence, and you’ll have a lot more fun giving presentations.
  10. ISSUE: What if I can’t build a rapport with the audience?
    SOLUTION: Start off immediately with the reasons why your talk is going to benefit your audience. A great way to lose your audience is to start off with a long agenda, or even worse, a list of apologies for why your talk isn’t going to be very good. Begin your talk from the audience’s point of view, and always keep in mind what is important to them.
  11. ISSUE: I just don’t feel confident. I think that there are other speakers who are much better than me.
    SOLUTION: Be realistic with yourself as a new speaker. You are not going to start out immediately like Zig Ziglar or Tony Robbins. Stay focused on the task at hand: do your job well, be interested in your topic, and speak about it passionately. Sometime you might fail, but there will be other times when you will have great success. Keep practicing, and give yourself time and space to learn this new skill.

Sometimes, it can help to have a professional coach work with you on your public speaking. Here on SpeakerHub, we have coaches who can help you gain more confidence and can speed up the process of going from novice to expert.

Search for some of our best speaking coaches here.

This was originally posted on the SpeakerHub Blog