5 Tricks for Overcoming a Fear of Public Speaking

There’s a famous joke from comedian Jerry Seinfeld about the fear of public speaking: “According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. 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.”

Honestly, I can relate to not wanting to draw attention to myself. Most of my childhood I was labeled “shy” and I find it easy to slip back into that mode as an adult. However, over the years in my career, I've simply had no choice but to give presentations or speak up in front of others now and then.

As administrative professionals, you may need to tackle a fear of public speaking head-on, too.

Here are five public speaking tips that can make things less painful:

1. Keep things in perspective. No one is expecting the Gettysburg Address when you talk about open enrollment procedures for your company’s healthcare plans. They’re just eager to get the information they need. The focus is on what you have to share, not you.

2. Don’t wing it. Write copious notes and stick to them. It’s better to have too much information written down as a guide than too little, in case you get nervous. Make sure everything is well organized, though, so you don’t have trouble getting on track if you lose your place.

3. Practice. Even if you’re not giving a formal presentation but perhaps just need to speak up about an issue during a meeting, it’s worth thinking about what you’re going to say in advance. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel. Do a trial run in front of people who will give you candid feedback. Ask for comments about the content as well as your gestures, voice quality and eye contact. If you’re really struggling to get it right, consider training to build your skills and confidence.

4. Use visual aids. A great way to clarify key points (and deflect attention away from you) is to show relevant charts or other graphic images. Just be sure they’re large enough for your audience to see and have a simple, easy-to-understand design.

5. Stick to the schedule. Make sure formal presentations start and end on time. It’s easier to feel confident when people are listening intently to you than if they’re anxious or distracted, worrying that your talk will run late.

So, how do you deal with jitters about talking in front of a group? Share any tips for overcoming a fear of public speaking below.

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