Most of us have a fear of public speaking which can affect our performance at work or our ability to enjoy a special occasion.
A really good friend has asked me to be chief bridesmaid at her wedding. I was thrilled to be asked until she told me that she would really like me to make a speech at the reception. She knows I can’t bear even the thought of public speaking (I’m pretty shy and I blush a lot), and said that if I really can’t bring myself to do it, she’ll let me off. However, since we spoke, I’ve been thinking that I would really like to do this for her and wondering whether I could use her wedding as an excuse to get rid my fear of public speaking once and for all.
I know most people say they don’t like performing in front of an audience, but they seem to me to manage okay. I can make a complete idiot of myself even just saying a few words at a training session at work. When people look at me and wait for me to deliver, it fills me with terror. There is almost nothing I would rather do less. I would so love to lose my self consciousness and have the confidence to give a short speech about my friend – without the help of a bottle of red wine! Please can you give me some advice …
Fear of public speaking is one of the most common social phobias and can cause crippling nerves in the most confident people. Often, it’s not just the bride who is blushing on her wedding day. Terror-struck guests are prone to blush when delivering speeches to a reception full of people. So, well done for having the courage to have a go. Here are my top tips to help you be the best you can be:
- Instead of writing a script, write a list of bullet point on an index card as prompts. That way, you can scan the room for friendly faces and smile at the audience as you speak. If you do that, they’ll listen and smile back and you’ll be reassured.
- Unless you’re a natural at telling gags, you’re unlikely to be able to do so when under pressure. Stick to well remembered stories and anecdotes which show the bride and your friendship with her in a good light.
- Don’t be critical, crude or rude. It’s unladylike! And don’t drink too much red wine or fizz before your moment in the spotlight or you may well regret the effect it has on your performance. A glass or two at the most should be all the Dutch courage you need.
- Practise running through your bullet points and rehearse them in front of a mirror or to a supportive audience whose can be trusted to offer constructive advice and feedback.
- Keep it short and sweet, sentimental too if you like. If tears are shed over a soppy tribute to your very best friend, you’ll be a special lifelong (or at least, fondly remembered) VBF.
- If there’s any concern that anything you say might cause offence to anyone, don’t say it!
I’ve got more advice in this article.
There are also a variety of tools, techniques and strategies to help you give an Oscar-winning performance in my ‘Beat Performance Anxiety and Stage Fright’ audio session. Others to help with general social anxiety include ‘Confidence Booster’, ‘Stress Buster’ and ‘Releasing Negative Thoughts’.
Be assured in the knowledge that around 80 per cent of the population has a fear of public speaking. This is a problem I’ve helped many deal with over the years. They range from high-powered executives who quake at the prospect of boardroom presentations to those, like you, who rarely have to speak in public and find the prospect so daunting they avoid it at all costs. Once the nerves have been overcome, it is possible to actually enjoy these occasions and lap up the applause afterwards.