Practice Helps Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

If you had to put a number to it, how long would you say it takes to be good at something? An hour? A week? A year?

The truth is, whatever it is you’re trying to get better at, your success is tied directly to the amount of time you spend doing it. Musicians and singers rehearse for hours; actors run lines for weeks. And if you want to improve your public speaking skills, the only way to do it is to practice public speaking.

Public speaking is no different than any other skill: Practice and you’ll get better. Your delivery, your non-verbal communication skills, and your ability to connect with an audience will all improve when you spend time working on it. You may even notice yourself overcoming your fear of public speaking the more you rehearse.

A Little Practice Goes a Long Way

When it comes to public speaking, practice is an integral part of preparation, and an unprepared speaker is pretty easy to pick out. Their presentations are all over the place. Their thoughts aren’t organized, they stammer, and they’re easily distracted. Even some practice ahead of their presentation would have been better than none.

Do these people not realize how easy it is to improve their public speaking skills with just a bit of practice?

They probably do. What holds a lot of people back is how difficult they find it to practice.

Fear doesn’t only paralyze people when they get up in front of an audience; just thinking about delivering a presentation can lead to anxiety. That fear is enough to deter a person from practicing—even if they’re doing it alone in the privacy of their own home. Overcoming your fear of public speaking starts before you take the stage. It starts by practicing not being afraid.

No one likes to fail. What’s interesting is the important role failure plays in ultimately being successful. Through mistakes, you learn how to do things better. When you deliver a bad presentation, you’re provided with valuable information on how to improve your public speaking in the future.

The wonderful thing about practicing is whatever sense of “failure” you feel is private. The mistakes you make are seen and heard only by you. If you ramble, stumble, use the wrong word or say something wrong, you’re the only one who hears it. Use those fumbles to become a better public speaker.

And by the way: you’ll feel like a failure of epic proportions getting up and delivering a speech you haven’t practiced, compared to how you’ll feel giving a speech you’ve rehearsed—even if you make a mistake or two while giving it.

Practice Public Speaking Every Day

There are 1,440 minutes in a day. Use 10 or 15 of them to improve your public speaking skills. You don’t have to wait until you’re scheduled to give a presentation to do it. Like a musician who picks up his instrument daily to improve his technique, you can do the same thing to improve your public speaking skills. Here are some things to work on:

How to improve speaking skills

Public Speaking Improves Through Repetition

There’s no better way to learn and master a new skill than by doing it. It’s one of the reasons we put so much emphasis on interactive training in our Public Speaking Classes workshops.

Think about it: You can learn a lot about a subject by reading up on it, but reading is passive and theoretical learning. The written word delivers information that your brain must find a way to process and store, and unless you apply the information in some way, it won’t stick around your brain for long. That means you need to do something with the information in order to retain it.

Humans learn from everything they do. That’s why we incorporate a lot of practical exercises into our workshops. We provide you with the information (the theory) you need to be a great public speaker, but it’s not enough to make you a public speaker. You have to work at it. You have to practice.

Practicing also helps you overcome your fear of public speaking. Practice allows you to feel prepared and confident, which in turn diminishes feelings of anxiety. Your fear may never completely go away, but it won’t be so crippling.

We highly recommend practicing in front of a camera rather than a mirror and the reason is simple: Practicing in front of a camera allows you to see your presentation as though you were sitting in the audience. When you review the footage of your presentation, you’ll see things that you probably won’t notice watching yourself in the mirror, such as the gestures you make and how fast you’re speaking.

Hopefully, you’ll also be a little more objective in recognizing where improvements are needed. People who practice in the mirror often spend more time worrying about their appearance instead of focusing on how they look and sound to their audience.

Does Practice Make Perfect?

Vince Lombardi once said: “Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.”

If you want to improve your public speaking skills, practice will make you better, but only if you’re practicing good public speaking skills. Pay attention to the qualities of presenters you admire. How do they speak? How do they move? Chances are good they spent a lot of time practicing those skills so audiences would enjoy listening to them speak.

You can do it, too, even if you’re someone who fears public speaking. With practice, you’ll not only get better at delivering strong, engaging presentations, but you’ll overcome your fear of public speaking as well.

Start preparing for your next presentation today by remembering they keys points:

  • Practice a little every day. Small changes can lead to big improvements
  • Practice the hard parts first. There’s no rule that says you have to rehearse a presentation in the order you’ll give it. Practice the most difficult parts first and the rest will seem easy.
  • Practice only what you need to. Facts and figures you know by heart don’t need rehearsing. Use your energy rehearsing the pieces that matter the most
  • Practice your opening and close. These are the two most important parts of any presentation. A strong opening draws your audience in; your closing is what they’ll remember the most.

Practice being confident. Even if you don’t feel confident at first, practice as if you are. A confident attitude is very compelling to an audience.

What other public speaking tips would you offer to people who want to improve how they practice? Leave them in the comments below or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.