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How To Survive Public Speaking

Casey Mazzotti

April 18, 2021

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If the thought of getting up in front of a crowd, virtual or otherwise, fills you with anxiety, you're not alone. Public speaking can be a daunting task that even extroverts have difficulty dealing with. No matter how expert or novice you are, let's be honest, it's scary to have to get up in front of people and say stuff. Whether it's written down, you've memorized it, or you're winging it, as so many of us do, there are a lot of fears revolving around the task itself. So how do we make it easier on ourselves and survive public speaking?

Know When to Stop Preparing

Enough, already! If you're an overthinker and planner, like myself, you know that there's only so much planning you can do before your ROI starts diminishing.

Don't get me wrong; in public speaking you definitely should prepare - for some people, that's running through their presentation a couple of times in front of someone else; for others, it's talking out loud to yourself about what's good and what needs fixing.

There are many different ways you can prepare your material, but at some point, you have to know that you've prepared - and you can only prepare for so much! There will always be a scenario that you didn't or couldn't anticipate ahead of time - maybe we need to learn to get more comfortable with knowing that uncertainty exists regardless of how much we prepare.

Breathe

Don't eye-roll this one - breathing has been used as a mindfulness and meditation technique for...a while; it's not news that controlling your breathing can benefit you, and if you've never tried it before, now's the perfect time!

Before you get up there, take 5, 10, 15 minutes and be with yourself. You can find techniques that work for you (there's plenty to choose from), but keeping it simple with a slow, deep inhale followed by an exhale through your nose can be a good start. Maybe even sit down with some back support or close your eyes during the process, if you're feeling wild. You might just feel a little wave of calm come over you before you start your presentation.

Know What You Know

That sounds almost meaningless to put into this list, but knowing what you know, and knowing what you don't know can be huge in mentally preparing yourself.

If you know what you know, then that's it - stay in your lane. Know what you know and know when to say "I don't know"; in more professional speak, you can go with, "That's a great question, I'll have to look into that" or "I'm not sure about that, let me speak with a colleague who knows more."

Depending on your subject matter, you might feel like you need to know it all in order to do it right, but that's often not the case. Nobody expects you to know everything, or they shouldn't, at least. Saying "I don't know" is often a sign that you're thinking more thoughtfully about what's being asked of you, instead of just trying to get out an answer to a question.

Congratulate Yourself

Yes, you should celebrate yourself for doing the thing that scares you. Let's reframe the fear into a positive light, as best we can.

Fear will be there for many of us, and maybe that's okay! We're allowed to be scared of things, and that doesn't always mean our plans will get derailed just because we've got a case of the nerves.

Tell yourself you're doing something good for you and your personal development, not just for the professional in you. Public speaking can show you that maybe you know more than what you give yourself credit for, and maybe it's not so terrifying to get up there and tell a crowd what you've been preparing to tell them for however long. Maybe it even goes well and is well-received by everyone around you - the sky's the limit!

Try asking yourself, "What if everything goes right?" That happens sometimes, too!

In the End...

It may not be a perfect presentation, but it will be a presentation, nonetheless, and you'll make it through, probably relatively unscathed. There are a lot of ways in which you can prepare yourself to make a presentation, and maybe you even grab yourself your favorite ice cream afterwards for a job well done (or done, at least!). Long story short, just be kind to yourself, know that you've done what you can to prepare, and breathe.

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