By Daisy Wong
Oftentimes, schools give out projects like class presentations and discussions, or other public speaking activities. Many kids fear these activities because they are afraid that they will sound dumb. In fact, Bartholomay from Minnesota University finds that anxiety from public speaking affects one in five people. John Bowe, an award-winning speech trainer, explains that the audience is more focused on trying to understand why what you’re saying matters to them. Research finds 95% of students responded that with proper advice and practice they could overcome their fear, so here are 5 tips to help.
Practice is the number one thing to do to improve your speeches. Saint Leo University observes that most public speaking fears come from not being fully prepared. The more you practice, the more you’re comfortable with your presentation, boosting your confidence and fluency. When you’re practicing, record and watch yourself speak. Sometimes we do things that we don’t even notice, but watching ourselves speak raises attention to these things.
2. Know what you’re talking about
The more you know about the topic you’re going to be speaking about, the easier it is to talk about it. Keep in mind that you’ll have to explain what you’re learning to your audience. If you don’t know much about what you’re going to be presenting, it’ll be difficult to continue talking about it. Try talking to your friends, family, and/or relatives about what you’ll be speaking about! Your passion for the topic is what will keep the audience’s attention on you.
3. Use an outline
Imagine your worst public speaking fear. You try to start your speech, but within a few sentences, you lose your place. Majorie North from the Harvard Institution explains that reading from a script “fractures interpersonal connection.” But keeping an outline will keep you focused and help speakers to make eye contact with the audience.
4. Be legible, in every way possible
Make sure the audience can understand you and what you’re trying to talk about. Bowe describes different methods in which you could carry this out including speaking slower and enunciating your words. Be sure to use filler words like “uh”, “like”, and “um”. Instead, substitute these words with two-second pauses. Let your brain catch up to what you’re speaking out loud. If you’re speaking with slides, make sure the text is large enough for the audience to read.
5. Keep the focus on you and your messages
Gestures and other movements are good to emphasize points, but too much gesturing or pacing can be distracting. Use inflection in your voice for varying themes and messages. If you feel too scared with all the eyes on you, incorporate visual prompts, so that you spend less time speaking, but still get your message across in an attention-grabbing method.
There is no such thing as a perfect speaker, but with practice, we can make progress to conquer fears of public speaking. Never forget, you aren’t alone—with advice and guidance, you will master your fears of speaking in front of an audience. It’s all about the process that will get you there.
Bartholomay, Emily M., and Daniel D. Houlihan. “Public Speaking Anxiety Scale: Preliminary Psychometric Data and Scale Validation.” Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 94, May 2016, pp. 211–215.
Raja, Farhan. “Anxiety Level in Students of Public Speaking: Causes and Remedies.” Journal of Education and Educational Development, vol. 4, no. 1, 2017, pp. 94–110.