Wednesday, 2 November 2016

7 Tips to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

Your book has been published and you are faced with the monumental task of promoting it. Among the venues open to you is giving talks about your book and doing readings. This means (gasp / shock / horror) getting up and speaking in front of people.

The thought of oration can strike fear into the hearts of even the most experienced public speakers. It is estimated that over 90 per cent of the population suffers from glossophobia; otherwise known as stage fright or its literal translation 'tongue fear.' It is one of the top ten fears.

Here are some public speaking tips for authors from someone who has spoken to crowds for over 40 years (that's me, in case you hadn't guessed):

1. Prepare. Jerry Lewis (comedian, director, film star) used to say that some of his best adlibs took him 12 hours to prepare. Don't think you'll be able to stand up in front people and just 'wing it.' The better prepared you are the easier time you will have. That is not to say that you should memorize your speech word-for-word. Such intense preparation may lead to rigidity. If you are interrupted at any point in your speech you may find it hard to get yourself back on track. It is better to know what you are going to talk about. Figure out the key points of your talk and know what you want to say about each point. A little spontaneity adds sparkle to a speech.

2. Do some deep breathing exercises before you start your speech. Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale even more slowly through your mouth. Repeat this procedure a few times until you feel more relaxed. When you are giving your speech remember to fill your lungs before opening your mouth. Don't squeeze the air out with your words. Let the air push your vocalizations smoothly and flowingly (no, it's not a word, but you get my point)out to your audience. This will not only keep you calm, but will add a beautiful tone to your speaking voice. Announcers, narrators, and other voice professionals always 'speak from the diaphragm.' Slow down when speaking.

3. We've all heard about the trick of picturing your audience naked to relieve nervousness. This is not recommended. Most people, when faced with the nudity of another, do not become more relaxed. If anything they tense up. It is better to scan the audience for a friendly face. You may even want to picture a friendly face in your mind.

4. Maintain good posture. Slouching looks bad and makes it harder for you to breathe properly.

5. Remember that you have nothing to fear. You were invited to give the talk. As one comedian said to his hecklers, "You came here to see me. I didn't go out looking for you."

6. Smile and be of good humour. A friendly smile will take you a long way.

7. This one works well and is a great excuse for leaving, at least briefly, right after you have finished your speech. If you get extremely nervous speaking in front of a group you may want to delay any trips to the washroom until after the speech is over. Concentrating on getting your points across coupled with a need to relieve oneself make it very hard to be distracted or nervous.

These seven tips will help you overcome your 'tongue fear.' Try them and you'll see how much more enjoyable talking about your book in front of a crowd can be.

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