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Three tips for overcoming a fear of public speaking

Did you know that more people are less afraid of snakes than speaking in public? If you fear the stage, here are three tips you can use to lessen your fear.
Photo: Aliaksandr Zabudzko, Design: Carma Spence

Did you know that there are people in the world who would rather die, play with snakes or have a spider crawl across the palm of their hand than to speak in public? Are you one of those people? If so, and you want to over come your fear of speaking and become an active part of the Long Beach speaking community, here are three steps you can take.

Prepare in advance
The root of public speaking fear is often a fear of feeling foolish when you forget what you wanted to say. The cure for that is to prepare and practice your presentation until you know it well.

Of course, learning your speech by rote can have disadvantages, as well. So, a better way to prepare would be to learn your topic so well that you can give the speech off the cuff if you need to. Then you can prepare an outline … a road-map, if you will … to guide you through the important points you want to cover.

Speak to one person in the audience at a time
Many people get nervous on stage because they think of all those people in the audience and are daunted by the task. However, when it comes to members of your audience, each one is experience a one-to-one communication (you to him or her). Therefore, if you change your mindset by thinking of your presentation as speaking to a series of individuals, it becomes a lot easier.

Select a single person in the room and talk to him or her for a moment. Then move on to another person in the audience. And then the next. And the next. Make your presentation a conversation with specific individuals within the audience.

Of course, you’ll need to be mindful. You don’t want to linger with any one person too long. That could make her or him feel uncomfortable … and could leave the rest of the room feeling left out.

Bring support with you to the platform
If the first to tips aren’t enough for you, you can bring support material with you to help you through the speech. You can use index cards or a sheet of paper or even PowerPoint slides to help you remember the key points and their order.

Be careful, though. Keep in mind that using such supporting material in speaking is an art in and of itself. You don’t want it to be too obvious that this is what you are doing, or your audience will be distracted from your message.

Would you like more information about public speaking? Visit for tips, advice and plenty of videos about all the "powers" you can employ in your speaking endeavors.

NOTE: Are you a Long Beach based speaker? Do you know of an upcoming speaking event? Contact me to have an interview with you published in this column.

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