The vast majority of the population experiences some form of public speaking anxiety, whether it's night-before insomnia or breaking out into a sweat when stepping up to the podium.
These jitters are actually a form of adrenaline, revving you up to do a great job. If you can find a way to calm your trembling hands and speak clearly, you can actually use your nervousness as an advantage.
I've even been known to drop an anti-stress lozenge under the tongue to help keep nerves under control. Some people use supplements containing GABA and L-Theanine to help take the edge off. Most local supplement stores, even supermarkets, carry them in their homeopathic sections.
But you shouldn't need to rely on those.
Here are five ways to win over those fears and do a great job:
1. Get Experience
As with anything in life, the more public speaking experience you get, the more natural it will feel to you.
If you feel uncomfortable committing to speak in front of large crowds, start with smaller groups. Offer to speak at a local networking meeting or at an event that helps out a nonprofit.
Many professionals hone their speaking skills through Toastmasters, a group that allows participants to practice public speaking in front of a peer group and get feedback in return.
This setting gives you a chance to hone your skills before you stand in front of a group, but you may find you continue to attend meetings long after you've begun doing speaking engagements.
2. Take Deep Breaths
Deep breathing is a proven remedy to stress and anxiety. As you find your heart starting to race, simply closing your eyes and taking deep breaths in and out can help your mind relax.
Try this technique in the moments before you step in front of your audience and you'll likely find you start feeling calmer and more in control.
Even during your presentation, be mindful of your breathing, since nervousness can lead to quick, shallow breaths.
3. Use Visuals
Experts believe more than 65 percent of the public learns visually, a fact that has driven marketing teams to use content like infographics to reach customers.
If you're trying to convey concepts to a roomful of people, you'll likely lose most of them if you rely solely on your words.
Craft a visually-appealing PowerPoint presentation that demonstrates your concepts in a fun, easy-to-understand manner. Offer copies of your presentation afterward for those who want to be able to refer back to the information you shared.
In addition to ensuring your message connects with your audience, you'll also find you relax and enjoy yourself more when you have the support of your visuals.
4. Make It Interactive
One of the biggest risks you face as a speaker is keeping your audience engaged. Minds can easily drift, especially if you're dealing with a roomful of high-energy entrepreneurs.
You can shorten your speaking time by bringing your audience into the discussion, either through asking them questions or having them participate in an exercise. You can even bring several volunteers up to help you demonstrate a particular concept.
Not only is this a great way to take the focus off of you temporarily, some of the most memorable workshops at a conference are the ones where participants were allowed to be part of the action.
5. Mistakes Are Inevitable
Author and speaker Scott in his book that some of the best speeches can be a bit messy. It's the nature of human conversation.Berkun points out
If you make a grammatical error or add in a stray filler word occasionally, consider it part of what will make your speech a little more interesting. Chances are, your audiences won't notice nearly as much as you think they will.
If the information you're conveying is interesting, they'll focus solely on the content. They may be so busy scribbling notes that they don't even notice your blunder.
Realizing that everyone has the same fear of public speaking can help build your confidence. Practice boosts that confidence even more, so it's important to start leading workshops and meetings, even if you start small.
You may find it easier to participate in panel discussions or dual-presenter workshops where you can share the stage with other professionals in your field. Over time, you'll become comfortable enough to venture out on your own.