How to Get Over Your Public-Speaking Nerves

How to Get Over Your Public-Speaking Nerves

I recently wrote about how to turn your ebook into a workshop and ways to make sure it’s a surefire win. But then you have to get on the stage or in front of the group and talk. Nervous? Then this post is for you.

So you’ve decided to dip your toes in the public speaking world. You’re going to step on the stage and give a presentation or offer a workshop to people who want to learn from you, and you’re excited about this.

Awesome – you should be! You know your stuff. You’ve planned your speech. You’ve prepared the handouts. You’ve strategized the timing. You’ve put together an offer. You’ve booked the room.

You’re ready to go.

There’s only one problem: You’re sweating bullets because you’re absolutely terrified of speaking to a whole crowd of strangers.

Jerry Seinfeld said it best: “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.”

You’re thinking he’s absolutely right. You’d rather die than have to stand up and speak at the front of the room, with all eyes on you. What if you forget what you’re going to say? What if you fumble around and sound dumb? Or trip and fall off the stage?

And you’re thinking, “What have I gotten myself into? And how the hell can I get out of it?”

Before you start panicking, keep this in mind:

You’re Not Alone

It’s perfectly normal for you to feel afraid or nervous the first few times you speak in public. An estimated 75% of people experience public-speaking fear, says Wikipedia.

And Psychology Today says fears of public speaking mostly stem from the threat of being evaluated or judged by your peers – in this case, your audience.  In other words, you’re probably afraid that everyone sitting there watching you is totally passing judgment on every aspect of your presentation, your personality, your clothing, your facial expressions, your hair…

And you’re worried you won’t meet their expectations.

It’s performance anxiety at its best: You’re not afraid of speaking. You speak every day, in public, to all kinds of people. Your family, your friends, the checkout girl, the grocery bagger boy, the nice guy at the hardware store…

You have speaking in public down pat. What you’re really afraid of is that you might make a fool of yourself in front of a room full of people.

Here’s a couple tips you can try:

Focus on Your Audience

You can’t make a fool of yourself if you focus on the people sitting in front of you. That’s the truth of the matter: your presentation really isn’t about you. It’s about your audience – they’re the people who matter.

And believe it or not, not one person is there to throw rotten tomatoes at you while shouting barbed jeers. They didn’t wake up thinking, “Awesome! Today’s the day we get to watch someone FAIL. Call the media! We have to catch this idiot on film!”

They woke up thinking, “Oh cool. Today’s the day so-and-so is giving that presentation I signed up for. I’d better not be late. Don’t want to miss anything!”

Your audience came to hear you speak because they want to hear you speak. They’re interested in what you have to say, what you can teach them, and your thoughts and opinions on the subject at hand. They willingly volunteered their time because they feel listening to you is valuable and important.

They want you to succeed. Your success is their success!

Know Your Stuff

Lacking confidence in what you know can shake up nerves easily. What if someone asks you a tricky question? What if you don’t know the answer? What if you sound uncertain when you talk about that technique you’re not so comfortable with yourself?

You can’t sound uncertain if you know exactly what to say.

So prepare yourself for your presentation until you know it in your sleep. Know your material inside-out and upside down. When you know your stuff, your confidence comes naturally, and nothing will trip you up.

Think about all the potential questions you might be asked and the answers you’ll give if you are. Memorize a few humorous ways to slip out of tricky situations smoothly, just in case someone blindsides you with a surprise question you can’t answer quickly.

And rehearse. Practice your speech out loud. Practice in front of a mirror. Do it again and again – rehearse how you’ll walk, move, and talk during your presentation. Grab your closest friends and ask them to be a sit-in audience. Get them to ask you questions.

Go one step further and prepare a safety net. Take some index cards and jot down the outline of your presentation or key points and notes you want to remember.

You know the material, so it’s not a matter of reading from the cards.  Your index cards are just there to support you and help keep you on track in case you’re worried you might lose your spot.

You won’t need them, though. You’ve got this covered.

Just Do It

The easiest way to get over your public-speaking nerves is to just do it. You won’t die. Lightning won’t strike you dead. You may not give the most flawless presentation ever, but that’s just fine – very few people ever do.

And besides, you’ve rehearsed exactly what to do if you flub a line! Toss out a joke, laugh at yourself a bit and move on. Your audience will think it endearing or funny… and they’ll smile at your bravery for doing what most of them can’t do themselves.

See, that’s the real key to feeling confident about your presentation: Most people never even try to do what you will. They let fear hold them back. They spend their entire life saying, “I always wished I…” But they never did anything about it, and their wishes died a lonely death.

That fact alone nearly guarantees that after you wrap up your presentation, you’ll have at least one person come to you and say, “I wish I had the guts to do what you just did.”

Right after he tells you, “Great presentation!”, of course!

Don’t know what to talk about in your very first presentation? Why not revolve it around your latest ebook? That is, after you write it in James’ upcoming ebook-writing course, coming this April 8. You’ll learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about writing a great ebook – and take your overall writing skills to the next level at the same time. Now that’s what we call potential in the palm of your hand!

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.