Years ago I stood before a crowd of over 170 people as the final speaker for a weekend event our church conducts annually. I looked across the crowd and felt the weight of each person slowly crawling onto my shoulders. Each gaze stared up towards the platform I was standing upon, expecting to be given a life changing lesson, and a memorable sermon to cap a weekend of growth. My stomach jumped, and my mind began racing with thoughts.
Yes, professional speakers still get nervous.
I’ve spoken inside of businesses, at volunteer organizations, and churches over the past 22 years, in large and small environments. Here are three tips I use to overcome my fears and anxiety before speaking, so that when the moment comes, I am well prepared.
1.) Prepare your message. By preparing your message, I mean think about what you’re going to say. Write it down. Think about what you want to say and how you would like to say it. Picture the words coming out. Think of stories and illustrations to use. This time period should be a time of simmering (yes just like your favorite recipe in the kitchen!). Allow all your various thoughts time to age to perfection, as well as the opportunity to fit together in your mind. If you haven’t written an outline, do so after this marinating process.
I follow a very basic, and time tested outline:
Introduction – Tell what you’re going to tell them.
Body – Tell them.
Conclusion – Tell them what you told them.
Once your outline is complete review it countless times. This review process allows you the ability to revise it to the point of delivery.
The importance of your preparation, simmer, and review time is to ensure that you absolutely know your speech as well as the points you want to convey. This gives you freedom to omit sections if needed due to time constraints. It allows you confidence that if technology fails, you have your presentation engrained in your mind.
2.) While in the review process begin visualizing your delivery. Imagine the exact words you will use. Picture the audience reacting positively to your message. Visualize where you’ll be standing, how you will be mic’d up (or not). Review the nuances of the speaking location in your mind. All of these help me feel more comfortable in my eventual surroundings. I advise against picturing people in their undergarments for lots of reasons, one of which is that it adds no value.
3.) Consider prayer. Pray along the entire journey. Pray for the right opportunity. Pray for the audience. Pray for words. Pray for open hearts and minds. Pray for clarity, strength, and comfort. Pray for humility. Pray with thanksgiving. By doing this you are admitting that it’s not all about you and enlisting the support of one greater than us all.
If you follow these three steps, your confidence will improve and your nerves will be comforted. Will all fears and anxiety disappear? No. You will, however, be better prepared to handle/endure any fears that do try to stifle you.
What is a favorite tip you have for overcoming fears of public speaking? What other topics on public speaking would you like to learn more about?