Stage fright: tips from TV

The first ever guest post on my blog! The contribution below is by Roger Kethcart,  a writer for who “fell in love with public speaking watching courtroom dramas as a boy”.

Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking: Tips from TV

Public speaking is perhaps one of the scariest, most frightening things that one can experience in their lifetime. Sweaty palms, shaking hands, stuttering, queasiness- all unfortunate symptoms that public speaking can have on you.

Whether you are a seasoned public speaker who still gets the occasional jitters, or an amateur seeking a way to stay calm through the storm, taking cues from beloved shows may be just the tranquilizer you need.

Go Slow
One of the reasons people suffer from public speaking is the feeling that they need to speak quickly to get the speech over with. In reality, however, the faster you speak, the more likely you are to mess up, stumble over your words, or skip parts of your speech. By simply slowing down, breathing and relaxing, as best you can, you will greatly enhance your speech. The King's Speech was a great example of what slowing down can do for one's public speaking. He's a clip of the original speech by King George VI, where you can see his pauses when a stutter would have incurred.

Tip: If using note cards for reference, write "BREATHE" and "SLOW DOWN" at places where you find yourself speeding up. The written note will help you relax and focus on what you are saying and your speed.

There is no way anyone can become great at anything without practice. Practicing not only makes you more confident in what you are saying and doing, but it also helps you get a natural rhythm you otherwise wouldn't have. This can be seen over and over again on cable TV, especially from news anchors and other public speakers like pastors. The repetition they endure is what truly makes them great public speakers. You will never get anywhere with your speech if you do not practice.

Tip: Practice in front of the mirror or for family and friends. You may still be nervous, but practicing in front of those you love will only help your speech in the end.

Appreciate your audience
In public speaking situations, many people fear that they will have to speak in front of, and for, people they do not know. Your mind may become flooded with ideas that these people are judging you, not paying attention to what you are saying, noticing your flaws or other negative thoughts. Ignore them all. You are your own worst critic, but you don't need to be. Look at the audience as your friends, colleagues and people who are interested in what you have to say, because they are. Realizing that everyone is interested in what you are saying will help you relax and be more confident in your speech.

Tip: If you are still nervous at the thought of speaking in front of a crowd, ask a good friend to sit in the middle for you. Make eye contact with them periodically, and scan the room the rest of the time. You'll seem like you're engaging everyone, while keeping your composure.

A great public speaker is not born overnight. Public speaking is a learned skill that requires practice and patience. By slowing down your speed and focusing on your words, you will succeed in your next public speaking engagement.