Advice For Anyone Who Struggles With Public Speaking | Emily Bashforth

Advice For Anyone Who Struggles With Public Speaking


'Presentation' has got to be my least favourite word in the English language. My stomach does a triple somersault whenever someone tells me I have to prepare a presentation to deliver in front of a group of people.
Everyone has things that scare them in life, even the toughest of us all. For some, it's heights, for others its spiders, for some its the dark but for me, it's public speaking. Well, it just so happens that I'm terrified of everything else I just mentioned, however, if you asked me would I rather look at a spider or give a five minute presentation, I definitely wouldn't opt for the latter.
Public speaking is never nice, unless you're filled with someone and are just generally someone who enjoys addressing crowds, it's good that there are people like that in the world but, for some, just the thought of even having to stand in front of a group of people, no matter how small it may be, is sickening. I have spent the entirety of my life being shy, quiet and hating attention so, trust me when I say I understand how you feel. I have always suffered immensely with feeling nervous/anxious at the best of times and those nerves just multiply whenever I have to give a presentation.
Throughout high school and college, school in particular, I have had to give many presentations because teachers seem to think it'll help develop your skills for the real world (doubt it) and there have been many times when I haven't physically been able to give the talks due to panicking and getting upset in the middle of class over nerves. To be honest, this probably caused me more embarrassment than giving a presentation ever could. 
I wanted to share some of my top tips with you to help you whenever you have to speak in public, as I feel like it's something I can speak knowledgeably about. Not all of these may work, perhaps all of them will, and some are extremely simple but I just hope that you will take something from this blog post, maybe. :)

So, without further ado, here's a list of things that you can do and things to remember when faced with the horrific task of speaking in front of a group of actual human beings...

1) Honestly, the people listening to your presentation really aren't that bothered and would probably much rather be somewhere else just as much as you would. For example, in a classroom, your fellow students probably just want to get out and go to lunch and, in the workplace, your colleagues will just want the day to hurry up so they can go home to their families. Usually it isn't nice to think that people aren't listening to what you're saying, however, in this situation, it may help. Okay, they may be making notes because its compulsory, but they aren't taking it all in and, if they are, they're simply listening to what you're saying, not paying attention to your shaking hands or short breaths. Additionally, if everyone else in that room also has to deliver a presentation, they're definitely worrying about their own presentation rather than yours, I know that was always me.

2) Following on from that, when your audience leave that room, chances are they'll have forgotten 99% of what you've just said because they have other things on their mind. We spend the majority of our lives worrying about what other people think of us but, in reality, everyone is much more bothered about themselves.

3) If it helps, try imagining your audience naked or picture them as a room of teddy bears or cartoon characters, whatever you like! Although, just make sure your thoughts don't make you burst into laughter in the middle of your presentation!

4) If you're reading from a piece of paper, write each line or every other line in a different coloured pen. This will ensure you don't lose your place on the page and will be less likely to stumble on your words. There's nothing worse than forgetting which bit you last read and having to scan the page frantically to find the last sentence you read with a room full of burning eyes on you!

5) This is a simple one but just BREATHE. We don't take enough time to breathe in life at the best of times but in a situation that is likely to cause your breathing too quicken and heart rate to increase, it is important to keep yourself as relaxed as possible. Before you start, just close your eyes, count to ten, think ten positive thoughts and take ten deep breaths just to remind yourself that this isn't going to be as bad as you think.

6) In relation to my previous point, this presentation isn't the end of the world. Its just something that you have to do that will be over within a matter of minutes. This time next year, nobody will even think to bring it up in conversation. There are bigger things to worry about in life and this presentation isn't going to impact on any of them. Once its done, its done and you'll be able to feel a sense of pride once you've faced your fears.

7) Perhaps you could give yourself a reward when you finish your presentation? This will give you something to look forward to and will ensure you don't back out. For example, when its all over you could go to the shop and buy yourself a chocolate bar.

8) Something else to do before giving a presentation is to just take some time out. It can be extremely difficult to calm yourself down if you're surrounded by friends who are also stressing out over the idea of public speaking. They wont mind if you tell them you're just going to take a couple of minutes to compose your thoughts. Its much better to take a little time to compose yourself beforehand so you feel as ready as possible than to go in there absolutely panicking out of your mind. If you've worked yourself up into a right old state, your presentation wont be as smooth as you'd like and, if you're going to put yourself through this hell, you may as well make sure that you do a good job of it. Its okay to totally dread the whole thing but, if you work yourself up, you'll rush your speech and will only end up feeling annoyed with yourself over the fact that you could've done better. Just take your time, do things properly and remind yourself that you can do this.

9) And yes, you CAN do this. You have overcome so many bigger struggles in your life than speaking in front of a group of people. You have fought through so much that you didn't think you'd be able to so, if you can get through all of that, you can get through this five minute presentation. EVERYONE is much stronger than they give themselves credit for so just have a little bit of self belief for a moment and tell yourself that you're going to smash this. If you go into things with a positive mindset, you'll get a positive outcome.

10) At the same time, though, remind yourself that it is totally okay to feel nervous about this. Even if its just a presentation in front of three people, it doesn't have to be on national TV, fears are all relative. Just because someone else doesn't see a reason for you to feel scared, doesn't mean you aren't allowed to. Its perfectly normal to feel terrified in this situation and you shouldn't feel guilty for not wanting to do it as it will only work you up even more.

11) If you're able to, practise your presentation before hand. Read it out loud to yourself in front of a mirror at home, then read it in front of your teddy bears, then read it in front of your parents, just keep going over it and over it and then, by the time the real thing comes around, you'll be able to speak much more clearly and will feel better within yourself as you know what you're talking about.

12) Another simple one but make sure to drink water. The last thing you want is to get a dry throat in the middle of your presentation and have a coughing fit. Plus, it'll mean you're less likely to get a headache if you start to feel slightly ill from nerves.

13) If you think it will help, see if you can have a friend at the front of the room with you. This is something I did in primary school when speaking to my class, my friend wouldn't speak but it just helped to know that somebody else was sitting there with me and peoples eyes were focused on them as well as me. Never feel ashamed about asking for someone to 'hold your hand!'

14) In relation to that, if you need to change the circumstances of the presentation in order to make things better for you, see if that's possible. For example, if you want people to turn their backs to you or you want to hold something in your hand to play with whilst speaking or if you want less people in the room - just ask whoever is in charge and things can be arranged, you don't always have to just settle for the way things are set out. Even if they decline your requests, you tried and, if they see your nerves, they're bound to want to make things as painless as possible for you. Public speaking is something we just have to get on with but it isn't supposed to torture us.

15) Sometimes, just talking to someone about your nerves can help. Whether its a friend, parent, teacher or someone else, just telling someone that you're feeling a little anxious can lift a little bit of the weight off of your shoulders when you know that you aren't bottling it all up and someone actually knows how you're feeling, they aren't just staring at you thinking you're a weirdo.

16) Another silly one but, the night before the presentation, get some sleep! Its likely that you'll be up all night, worrying about the doom that awaits you in the morning but do try to get some shut eye. Switch your brain off for a few hours and think about something other than the presentation. Also, you don't want to have to stop to yawn in the middle of your speech!

17) When it comes to the actual content of your speech, obviously this depends on the situation, but make sure you're comfortable with everything you're saying. For example, if you get to choose the topic of your speech, choose something you enjoy talking about and feel that you know a lot about. Remember when we said we want to make the situation as pain-free as possible? This is another way of doing that. Also, if your speech maybe contains words that you stumble on or things that aren't really you, take them out and switch things up. If you're going to put yourself through such an ordeal, you may as well speak about what you love! It'll relax you a little too.

18) Another thing to do is to avoid eye contact. Each to their own on this as you may find it easier to look into people's eyes. However, personally, I find it easier to look at the back at the room so I wont be distracted or go into a state of sudden panic after realising that OMG these people are actually looking at me. You can also look at the piece of paper you're reading from but try no to do this the whole time as you still want people to be able to understand what's coming out of your mouth.

19) Whilst waiting to do your presentation, listening to music can help to relax you. Either put on your favourite song which never fails to put you in a good mood or just something slow and calming to get you in the right mindset.

20) Confidence is definitely something that makes public speaking easier but, sadly it isn't something which just comes overnight, however, if you know you have a presentation coming up, there may be little things you can do to slowly develop your confidence. Start being more outgoing, do other things that scare you, talk to more people, join a sports team, go to a doctor's appointment on your own, just do little things that will slowly but surely make you feel a little more at ease around people and speaking to them. This will also help you in the long term.

21) If all else seems to fail, there are always public speaking classes you can attend and people out there to help you if this just seems to be a massive issue that wont go away. Don't settle for the fact that you'll never be able to speak to another person ever again. There is always a way to fix things. Although, a lot of the time, simply just giving a lot of presentations can help you overcome your fear of, well...presentations.

22) Finally, JUST DO IT. It isn't a nice thing to do but just repeatedly tell yourself 'I'M GOING TO DO THIS, I'M JUST GOING TO GET ON WITH IT' because sometimes you have to force yourself into things, but you'll thank yourself for it. Be a little tough on yourself because you CAN DO IT! And you're going to have to do it at some point so why not just get it over with?

I really do help that some of my points were of some sort of use to you! GOOD LUCK with your next presentation, I believe in you. Trust me, it wont kill you! <3

Love, Emily :) xx

3 comments:

  1. This really helped. I have a presentation on Tuesday and I am absolutely dreading it! This has helped me so much, thank you, Emily! - Mollie xxx

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    1. Ah I am so glad it was of some use to you, Mollie! Thank you for reading and GOOD LUCK with your presentation! They're never nice but use the pride and relief you shall feel when its over to help you push through the nerves. You'll do great!! Have a wonderful week! Xx

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