By Victoria Brodsky, co-founder of Blockchain BTM

You probably don’t know many people who just love to get up in front of an audience and speak. The fear of public speaking, or “glossophobia,” is probably one of the most common phobias out there. As reported by Psycom, about 75 percent of us are fearful and anxious about speaking in public, and who can blame them?

There is a strange, yet almost universal, physiological response to public speaking. We get sweaty, anxious, nervous and sometimes sick to the point of vomiting. However, when it comes to sharing your business goals with others, public speaking is one of the most important skill sets. 

I believe that everyone, with some patience and effort, can not only overcome their fear of public speaking, but learn to love it. After all, it’s an extremely important tool no matter what field you’re in. Based on my experience, here are my top four ways to get better at public speaking for business: 

1. Learn how to breathe.

Breathing is an involuntary function our bodies perform for us, but it’s key in calming your nerves in preparation for delivering a great pitch. If you’ve never paid attention to your breath, now’s the time.

It’s easier than you think: Breathe in slowly, and count to six. Then breathe out slowly, counting to six. Practice this in increments of two to three minutes. As your lungs get stronger and more flexible, you’ll be able to count to higher numbers and start a meditation practice.

But for the sake of public speaking, learning to be mindful of your breath will not only help in the preparation for speaking, but also help you in the delivery and cadence of your speech. 

Before any speaking event, take one or two minutes to only pay attention to your breath. It will slow your heart rate and ground you for better delivery of your pitch. 

2. Video yourself pitching for two minutes, and watch it by yourself. 

Seeing a video of yourself speaking is the best way to give you a realistic sense of where you need to improve. Set up your phone camera, and pitch to yourself for two minutes. This is just enough time to see where you need to improve. 

Play the video back, and take notes on your delivery and your body language. Are you speaking too fast? Too slow? Too soft? Are there certain words that stump you? Getting familiar with how you deliver the language of your pitch is key to improving your comfort levels. When you get more comfortable speaking, you’ll stop fearing it and learn to love it. 

When it comes to body language, note what you do with your eyes and hands. These are two areas of body language that can make or break your pitch delivery. You want your eyes to gaze in the general direction of the audience, and your hands to gesture at the most important parts of your speech, such as open palms, pointing to the screen or gesturing for a suggestion from the audience. 

3. Give your two-minute speech in front of friends and family.

The next step in overcoming your fear of public speaking is to practice your pitch in front of close friends or family. The reason this step is important is that it is often harder than pitching to a crowd of strangers. Ask two or three close friends or family members to sit down and watch you pitch two or three times.

This will not only allow you to shake off your fears of testing out your pitch in front of a live audience, but your close family and friends can also often be the harshest critics, and it’s good to get those out of the way before taking your pitch to a real stage. 

Once you can pitch in front of people you know, it becomes a lot easier to pitch in front of strangers. 

4. Join a local public speaking group.

If you do a quick Google search, you can find public speaking resources and clubs nearest you and visit as many as you want to get practice. Many organizations offer fee-based memberships that are fairly cheap. 

Toastmasters is an incredible resource for anyone looking to improve their public speaking skills in a safe and supportive environment. It’s a nonprofit organization that helps members improve their public speaking via weekly meetings where you and other members practice speaking in front of each other.

If you know you’ll be needing to pitch your business soon, I suggest following these tips. They can greatly improve your confidence in preparation to give an irresistible pitch.

Victoria Brodsky is co-founder of Blockchain BTM.

Published on: Oct 31, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.