Nobody was born with a fear of public speaking, yet around 77% of the global population struggles with it. The fear is so common that there is a scientific name for it—glossophobia.
As we grow up, we get exposed to experiences that cultivate in us negative beliefs about ourselves, that negatively impact how we see ourselves, and, ultimately, negatively affect how we project ourselves to the public. When we feel that we are not good enough when we speak to an audience, we assume rejection and shame, which causes us to feel an aversion towards public speaking or even the idea of it.
The fear of public speaking is so common that even well-known speakers and speech coaches experience a level of anxiety when they are about to address a crowd. What makes them different? They know how to control their mind and body. And you can do that too with practice and with the right tools!
Below are some exercises to help you become a better public speaker.
Make an Instant Speech
You can do this every day with random things at home, at work, or wherever you go. It can be as random as you want.
Here’s how you can make an instant speech:
- Start with a key message.
- Provide three supporting points or arguments. Three is the key here! The Rule of 3 ensures that your message sounds balanced and satisfying.
- Have a closing statement that ties back to your key message.
To demonstrate, here’s an example of how the instant speech format works with the first thing we all see in the morning: the bed.
I love my bed.
- It’s where I go when I feel exhausted.
- It’s where I stay when I want to reflect.
- It’s one of the few things that make me feel instant comfort.
I love my bed and I look forward to tucking myself in every night.
You see? It’s that easy and it’s a great practice for your public speaking skills. If you want to make this more effective, try doing this exercise in front of a mirror or a camera so you can observe your body language, as well.
Have Fun Games with Friends to Practice
Some activities are just better with friends! Try some group exercises on public speaking that will allow you to get feedback as you practice.
Here are some examples of games that you can play with friends who are as interested as you in improving their public speaking skills.
- My Fictional Friend → In this game, the players take turns introducing each other but using a fictional narrative that can be a source of laughter for everybody.
- Impromptu Game → Someone from the group will have to give an impromptu topic and the “it” has to talk about it for a set time. You can try the rule of three here!
- Continuous Story → Build a chain of stories by giving each player at least 20 seconds to make up one until the next player continues it.
There are many other games that involve speaking, which you can definitely try with your friends! The point here is to mix practice with fun so you can build on positive associations around public speaking.
The source for your voice has to be prepared before any speaking opportunities. Warm up the muscles in your voice box before you engage in public speaking. Here are some vocal exercises that you can easily and quickly perform:
- Hum a song—any song!
- Run through some scales.
- Pretend you’re chewing to loosen your jaw and to open the muscles in your throat.
- Loosen the tension in your mouth, especially at the back of your tongue, by swishing your tongue around your mouth.
It’s important to keep your vocal muscles in shape so you don’t get tired right away when you talk for a long time.
Breathing exercises can help you relax especially when your nerves are at a high before a speaking engagement. To make your breathing exercise effective, make sure that you’re slowly filling your lungs with air through your nose and exhaling with your mouth.
There are patterns and rhythms that you can try such as the 4-7-8 technique wherein you breathe in for four seconds, hold the air for seven seconds, and exhale the air for 8 seconds. Proper breathing techniques have been proven effective to regulate the heart rate, clear the head, and relieve anxiety.
Watch Someone Else Speak
YouTube is saturated with content creators who are experts in public speaking. Watch them and get inspired from other speakers. You will learn some tips and other exercises, you can observe body language, and you can also be more inspired to improve your public speaking skills.
If you don’t know where to go, you can begin with TED talks. Witness how eloquent the guests are and take note of the different structures and styles in their storytelling.
Visualize Your Confident Self
The effects of a visualization exercise take time, but visualization is definitely one of the keys to improving your public speaking skills. The fear of public speaking is a matter of the mind so take the time to reprogram the negative and limiting beliefs that you have around public speaking. Summon your confident and powerful public speaker persona by imagining what that person would do during tough communication situations.
Your public speaking persona is braver, more confident, and smarter but, actually, it can have any attributes that you want. At the start, it’s like you’re pretending but, eventually, with practice, you can take on this persona and be the best version of yourself during speaking engagements.
It’s okay if you’re not yet ready to speak to an audience after reading this article but we’re hoping that this article puts you in a positive mindset to try leveling up your public speaking skills.
Get your mind and body in a space that will remove all the thoughts of what’s wrong with you or what could go wrong. The fear of public speaking is common but it is definitely not an excuse to not try to overcome it.
Be the public speaker that you aspire to be with these exercises. Remember that it’s never too late to make the change! Interested in bringing your Strategic storytelling skills to the next level? Check out our website for storytelling coaching, workshops, and free resources.