5 Secrets of Great Public Speakers

mark twain public speaking

Subtitle: How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking (Glossophobia). In preparation for my speech at the Big Sisters Gala tonight, I researched public speaking tips and uncovered the secrets of the best public speakers!

More or less.

Here’s my favorite public speaking tip:

“Even if you’re not the most confident person in the world, you can still get up there and make it not about you,” says P.E.I. singer Meaghan Blanchard in She’s Gonna Fly: set for takeoff. “My  grandma told me, ‘Meaghan, there are people sitting there in the audience who are having a far worse day than you. You need to look them in the eye and sing to them because you don’t know what that might mean to them.’”

Okay, I’m not a singer – and I’m not a public speaker. I’m a Big Sister who is matched with a Little Sister through the Big Sisters of Vancouver organization. Tonight is the big Big Sisters Gala, and my Little and I were asked to speak. How exciting! How scary.

Hence this article about public speaking tips, great public speakers, and glossophobia (the fear of public speaking). I’m trying to overcome my fear of public speaking. At the end of the article, I list several resources for on how to overcome fear of public speaking.

5 Secrets of Great Public Speakers

1. Don’t write articles on how to overcome fear of public speaking. Researching, writing, and reading articles that describe tips for public speaking isn’t the way to learn how to be a great public speaker.  The best way to learn how to speak in public without fear is to do it, over and over and over again. I’m in my second year of my MSW (Master’s of Social Work) program at UBC (the University of British Columbia), and I practiced “public speaking” by talking in class. It wasn’t just the class presentations, it was sharing my opinion about controversial topics during class discussions. This helped me overcome my fear of public speaking.

2. Believe that the crowd loves you. Here’s a tip I found from Jill Shapiro in 5 Tips to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking: “Know that the audience wants you to win: People just want you to win. They are not sitting there waiting for you to mess up. They are secretly (or outwardly) cheering you on and also admiring you for having such courage!” This reminds me of Byron Katie’s encouragement to believe that everyone in the room loves us – they just don’t know it yet. When you walk into a room, believe that everyone wants the best for you, thinks positively of you, and wants you to succeed. This changes how you act and speak, in positive ways.

3. Hit the pause button. In How to be confident at public speaking, Martin Smith writes, “The most powerful tool in the public speaking tool box is silence. We all use it in conversation but it is a testimony to the power of pause in speech, both conversational and even more so in public speech.” Why is this a great public speaking tip? Because it allows you – the speaker – to gather your thoughts and prepare yourself for the next sentence. And it allows your friends – the audience – to gather their thoughts and reflect on what you’ve just said.

4. Write and give speeches that you’re passionate about. I’ve watched several TED talks, and I notice that the speakers are not only excellent, they’re excited and passionate about their subjects. They’re experts. I’m passionate about being a Big Sister, and I’m speaking about my experience as both a Big Sister and as a Little Sister (I was a Little when I was 11 years old). It’s easier for me to give a public speech about something I know and love, versus something like, say, giving birth to twins. If you’re serious about learning how to overcome your fear of public speaking, watch the TED talks. Don’t think about the content of the presentations; rather, watch how the speakers use their arms, facial expressions, bodies, and voice to connect with the audience.

5. Do laughter yoga to overcome your fear of public speaking? When researching tips on how to overcome fear of public speaking , I found an article about how laughter yoga helps with glossophobia (by now, you should know that means “fear of public speaking”! I taught you a new word, yeah?). But I’m not convinced laughter yoga is one of the best public speaking tips. It’s purported to bring a sense of calm and ease, which will release your fear and anxiety about making a speech in public. But I feel like I need to focus on practicing my speech, making sure I bring enough deodorant to the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver, and not drinking too much champagne.

Here’s the real fifth secret of great public speakers: find ways to reduce your anxiety about speaking in public. What reduces your fears and allays your anxieties? Laughter yoga may be a tip on how to overcome fear of public speaking for some people, but it wouldn’t work for me. What works for me is speaking in public whenever I get the opportunity. The more I practice public speaking, the less I fear it. That’s one of the best tips for public speaking – and for learning how to do anything well – do it over and over and over again.

Resources on How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking (Glossophobia)

Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun. In this hilarious and highly practical book, author and professional speaker Scott Berkun reveals the techniques behind what great communicators do, and shows how anyone can learn to use them well. For managers and teachers — and anyone else who talks and expects someone to listen — Confessions of a Public Speaker provides an insider’s perspective on how to effectively present ideas to anyone.

No Sweat Public Speaking! by Fred Miller. “Glossophobia is the Fear of Public Speaking. The word comes from the Greek glōssa, meaning tongue, and phobos, fear or dread.  It’s a word, not a disease, and it can be overcome. People who regularly take and make speaking opportunities grow the perception they are Experts, and grow their businesses and their careers.

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