This week and next, I am republishing my two most blog posts ever!  It’s a two-parter on help for nervous public speakers.  Part 2 will follow next week, so watch for it if you missed it the first time around!

Apparently, the prospect of public speaking ranks right up there, second only to death, on the average person’s list of “things I am afraid of!”

It makes sense, then, that anyone looking to conquer that fear can find all kinds of advice on how to do so.  There are loads of self-help books, on-line articles, courses and tips to access should a nervous speaker be so inclined.  As with any other subject these days, there’s probably an overload of info to wade through before you get to something of value, something that works for you.

Here’s the thing, I’ve discovered.  A lot of that advice is written for people who are either forced or wish to do A LOT of speaking in public.  Perhaps their job requires it.  Perhaps their school or course requires it.  Perhaps their aspirations or beliefs thrust speaking in public upon them.

But what about the occasion public speaker……those people who are asked to give a wedding toast, deliver a eulogy for a loved one, say a few words at a retirement or anniversary event,  or maybe make a pitch to raise funds for a cause that is important to them? Public speaking is not their life’s work….they just don’t want to seem like a goof in front of a roomful of people!

Telling those people to imagine that each member of their audience is a head of lettuce is not going to help those folks, I’m guessing.  Nor is telling them not to use notes.  In fact, I’m sure that would instill even more fear.

Here’s more unhelpful advice, “imho”:

  • Talk only about things you are an expert on (not always possible, unfortunately!)
  • Remember everyone in the audience is on your side. (really? If the audience is made up of family and friends, the most important people in the world to you, you may rightly feel that those are the people you LEAST want to appear to be an idiot in front of!)
  • Never write out or memorize your talks (Oh, sure! Fine for professionals, but there are some important qualifiers to discuss here!)
  • People want you to be spontaneous, so preparation isn’t necessary in a social setting. (oh, dear! What’s wrong with this logic? Let me count the ways….and for heaven sake, don’t add alcohol to this bit of wisdom!)
  • Here’s a doozy: “Close your eyes and imagine yourself suspended from the ceiling by a thin thread. Just listen to your breathing and tell yourself there is no rush. Slow your breathing until you can count to six seconds of in-breath and six seconds of out-breath. Now you’ll be totally relaxed and confident!” (Are you kidding me? My heart would be racing, I’d be gasping for air, fending off a panic attack and hoping I hadn’t asphyxiated myself!)

What tricks have you tried over the years to allay your fears about speaking in public?  What works?  And have you received bad advice?  What hasn’t worked?  Let us all in on your experiences, and I’ll tally up some of my best advice for dealing with nerves in my next post.