It’s often said that death is the only fear greater than being forced to speak in public. Fortunately, most people only die once, but you may face multiple occasions in your career or civic activities in which you’re forced to get up and speak.
There are many folk cures for reducing the anxiety associated with speaking. Some recommend that you pretend your audience failed to dress themselves. My Midwestern upbringing means the thought of speaking to a large group of naked people only makes me more nervous, so I had to find a better way to overcome those fears. And I did.
It’s called preparation. Being prepared for a public speech does more than simply keep those butterflies down to a quiet flapping. It dramatically increases your ability to capture the audience’s attention and deliver the message you want them to absorb.
Preparation doesn’t have to be complicated. First, take the time to write out your speech. Yes, I know some experts recommend that you use notes, bullet points, or just give it your best shot, but writing your speech provides two benefits. It helps you think through and organize everything you want to say, and it offers a life preserver when your mind goes blank as you’re standing at the podium. Write it in a large font with at least double-spacing. Triple-spaced is even better.
Second, rehearse your speech. Not once or twice, but nine or ten times in the days before your presentation. You don’t need an audience — just a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed. You’ll find that each rehearsal will make you more comfortable with the material. And, by the time you’re actually presenting it to an audience, you’ll know it so well that it will seem natural.