3 Tips to Reduce Your Fear of Speaking in Public

"Courage is the mastery of fear, not the absence of fear." - Mark Twain

Although I do disagree with the frequently heard anecdote that people fear speaking in public more than death, it is a source of major anxiety for many professionals in joint ventures and multinational firms in China. Your promotion can often count on your ability to not only use English, but also to effectively persuade and influence your superiors from overseas.

Although nothing can remove the nervousness you feel before a presentation, you can prepare yourself to make your butterflies move in formation:

1. Confidence

Coming in front of people and speaking (in a second language) is a major change of behaviour for most people, so it is natural to feel nervous. Confidence in yourself is a vital way to project your opinion to your colleagues. Remember most audiences are very supportive, don't think they are against you. After all your manager wants to hear what you have to say.

Practical tips: - remind yourself that you are an expert in your field and know the market, culture and customers. Let your manager feel this confidence next time you speak with him.

2. Eye contact

A sign of a confidence is good use of eye contact. In a small meeting, you can clearly see your audience. As you speak, smoothly move your eye contact from person to person. Hold contact for a second or two and move on. Remember not to stare too fiercely or too long. That may give your audience the impression you are hostile or aggressive!

With larger groups, position yourself so that you can see the whole audience without obstructions. Divide the room into 9 sections. Front-Middle -Back and Left - Middle - Right. Then as you speak, move your gaze from left to right, and from front to back. Remember to move your head smoothly and not too fast. With audiences over 20 people it is difficult to make individual eye contact, so just pick out a reference person in each section.

Practical tip: - The more eye contact you can make with your audience, the closer they feel to you.

3. Body gestures

Less is more. Most speakers are nervous when they speak, so this nervous energy comes out in the form of movement. Body movement. Remember the speaker who constantly whirls her arms around, or jangles the coins in his pockets? This distracts the audience and makes them forget about what you are saying - your message.

Practical tip: - Be aware of your body. Use limited gestures and vary the type of gestures you are using. Stand with a straight back with weight balanced evenly on both feet. This will help you breathe which reduces your nervous energy.

Warwick John Fahy is an international speaker, seminar leader, professional speech coach and expert in presentation skills, public speaking and communication skills. You can contact him for more information.


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