Sweaty hands, pounding heart, shivering hands. Some of you might know the feeling. Whether it’s room with just 5 people or auditorium with hundreds of audience, public speaking is an intimidating experience for most of us.
When I was in 1st grade, we had a fancy dress competition in school where kids were supposed to dress as a character and speak few lines regarding it, during my turn I just went there and couldn’t even utter a single word.
Later in High School, the fear increased exponentially. During the lectures, our English teacher used to ask students to read one paragraph each. I still remember the anxiety I used to get back then, it became so worst that I sometimes even considered skipping school. I had imagined all the worst possible scenarios in my head, and the speaking in front of the class was even worst for me, I used to shiver while speaking in trembling voice. It became so worst that some of my peers even made fun of me.
Even some of the top influential people like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have had this problem in their earlier days. Maybe it’s just the genetics or the stupid subconscious mind constantly thinking about how people will judge us, whatever the reason might be but they overcame that fear.
And following my startup journey I’ll have to constantly face this problem in my life, so why not improve myself.
Last year, I decided to beat that 5-year-old kid who was now 18, considered an adult by society but couldn’t even face audience properly. I taught myself how to be better at public speaking, I tried many different things which eventually led me to a person who’s now confident enough to speak in front of the audience.
Here are some of the changes I implemented in my lifestyle that helped me in overcoming that fear.
Interact with people
Yes, Public speaking is a problem for everyone but it my opinion introverts face it the most. The fact that they don’t interact with other people normally is actually a critical reason behind the fear. Not talking to other people was a comfort zone for me, but you know what “very little happens in comfort zone”. So get out of your comfort zone and talk to people rather I would say talk to random people.
Debug your mind
You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.
I read this technique in the book Mind Hacking, most of our problem or worries are generally high level abstract. To overcome those we need to go in depth, find the actual reason behind the problem and replace the negative outcome in each scenario with a positive outcome.
In particular, For me, it was something like this
1st Why? I lack experience in public speaking.
2nd Why? I am afraid about performing live in front of audience.
3rd Why? I think I will mess up my part.
4th Why? I think they’ll judge me for every mistake I make.
5th Why? I haven’t been on stage many times.
For me, the root problem was not going on stage. So one of the thing in 2017 did was voluntarily took classes for the topics I am interested in, asked people to allow me to take the session with other students. Went to other colleges to showcase my work. The idea for me was to face the audience, and from there you start taking on the things and building the confidence.
This the unconventional advice anyone can give you but seriously what’s the thing we are scared of the most? Getting rejected right. So why not do it ourselves, why not overcome the fear of rejection by getting rejected.
The TED video Jia Jiang is a great explanation of rejection therapy, the technique where you go out for 30 days and look for rejection. Even if you’re not looking for motivation, I would recommend you check out this video, the video is filled with the funny experience of getting rejected.
Change your posture.
“Change your posture, Change your life”. I got this tip while reading a book “How to influence people”, when you change your posture you change how people perceive you. To speak like a leader, you must look like a leader. Just figure out how the posture of leader inspiring audience would look like, he’s full of energy, enthusiasm and most importantly self-pride. So, from now on make sure your body is upright, and imagine your chin is being held high with the imaginary a hook and don’t forget to keep that gracious smile which does wonder to the audience.
Most of the top leaders have one thing in common, they meditate regularly. Meditation makes you calm, helps you avoid distraction and clear your head from your surroundings. Generally, it’s a good idea to make a schedule in which you could meditate in silence. I generally prefer to do it in the evening. Think of distractions as an enemy which are taking your attention away, as soon as you lose control of your attention to your enemy try to focus on your breathing pattern. keep track of the number of distractions you have and try to lower it down day by day.
People keep complaining about what’s wrong with their life, they don’t feel grateful for what they already have. The lack of gratitude is a thing which defines most of the people, they think their life has nothing good in it. Earlier most of the time even I felt the same, this resulted in radiating negative vibe from me, making me a person with whom will not get along so easily.
So, I did an experiment, I wrote 3 good things about my life every day for 30 days. And I was amazed by how good my life was and how I perceived it to be. This not only helped me in my public speaking but also in my day to day life. I became more approachable, likeable and probably the guy with whom people would want to interact.
One of the best compliments I received in 2017 was “I have changed a lot”, and I think this mainly due to this. Am I a different person now? No, I am the same person but a person who now makes other happy.
Get things done
Let’s be clear on this, ‘Most of us have sufficient time in a day and we tend to waste most of it”. And we actually utilize this time to build up negative thoughts. Think about when you think about the worst possible outcomes, times when you’re not doing anything. So what we could do instead of getting ourselves occupied some work, and can’t figure out anything to do, there are plenty of books to read, plenty of things to learn. So pick any of them and hold on to it.
For me in 2017 it was reading a book, learning about bitcoin, trying to learn a new language. Also, you feel more accomplished when you learn new things which boost your confidence and definitely improve your personal life.
Research and Practice
Aha! Most of these things were just about how to improve yourself. Now we’ll talk about how to improve your presentation. These are some of the key questions you should ask before any presentation
· Who’s my audience?
· What are they looking for me?
· How can I keep their interest?
· Can I replace the content of my slide with pictures?
So, this was how you can improve your slides but you also need to work on delivery. The thing that worked for me was initially practising alone and then probably practice my presentation in front of a colleague or a friend. Ask your friend to act as an audience, allow him to make comments on your presentation, this will not only provide you immense confidence but also improve your presentation.
NOTE — Don’t make last minute changes to your presentation. Instead try, to calm your nerves down, I prefer to listen to music before I do any presentation.
Get feedback from your listeners.
In my last presentation, we tried to include fun bits before our presented started, this not only kept our presentation engaging but we also received 10–15 people coming to us after our session to ask about a possible collaboration with us.
We thought it was great but we did receive few notable feedback. One of them was including more details about installing our project. So, ask people to review your presentation, this will not only give your good insight how you did but will also help you in improving your future sessions.
Note — Some people recommend breathing deeply before the presentation, this doesn’t work me rather it makes me more nervous. That’s the reason why I’m not listing this out.
These were some of the tips I implemented in my personal life, part of series of experiments which are still continuing. If you’re one of the people who’s trying to overcome this fear, then feel free to contact me. I can provide you with some tips that will help you.