10 steps to kill your fear of public speaking

The stomach full of butterflies synonymous with stage fright often prevents us from getting the best ideas out of our head and into the world. But don’t fret, public speaking doesn’t have to be nerve-racking. Once you can learn to get out of your own way and get those creative juices flowing, it can actually be quite fun. Here are 10 steps to enjoying it.

Discover your story

The fear of public speaking is very real, with the average person ranking public speaking higher than death when it comes to fear. Don’t overthink it. Start by asking yourself, “what message do I want them to remember?” and let that be the foundation of your presentation.

  1. Set a clear goal and a key takeaway. What’s the purpose of this presentation? Are you establishing yourself as an expert on a particular topic, or trying to expand your network of industry contacts? Once you know the point you want to make, you can easily come back to it several times throughout your presentation. Not only does this make things clearer for the audience, it keeps your mind on the right track.
  2. Choose a theme that ties your ideas together. By having a theme throughout your presentation, the audience is able to feel more engaged as they begin to anticipate the recurring ideas.
  3. Focus on the story. There are no rules when it comes to the structure of your presentation.  If you choose not to follow a logical or chronological order at the expense of more “oomph”, follow your gut! As long as your key takeaway is the shining star of the story, you’re heading in the right direction.
  4. Create a framework for ideas. You might be nervous about getting tongue-tied, but creating a script isn’t always the best way to overcome this. Try focusing on an outline of your ideas instead. Dropbox Paper is a nice tool for writing your notes out on a clean, nicely formatted template (so your eyes won’t be distracted with too many options). 

Prepare your delivery

Next comes the fun part. After your content is created, you get to jazz it up and add some style. Think about visual ways to portray your message and bring it to life in a visual way. 

  1. Use impactful imagery. With your brain being able to identify images you’ve seen for only 13 milliseconds, there’s no arguing that images can make your message more powerful.
  2. Keep it clean and simple. Slides should be complementary to your presentation, not the main attraction. Keep one point per slide. This will allow the audience to absorb your idea, rather than be distracted by extraneous details.

Remember that Dropbox Paper document? You can hit the ‘Present’ button to turn your words into a series of clean looking slides. Or use Dropbox Showcase to present your work in a whole new way! 

  1. Remember, it’s a performance. While it may not feel natural to stand on a stage and talk to a room of strangers, it’s important to use this nervous energy to your advantage. Put on your extrovert hat and create an onstage persona. Your body language and movement on stage work as a visual aid and can add a lot to the way your message is received.

Connect with your audience

So, you’ve created your content and prepared your delivery with your audience in mind, but now it’s time to face the music. Deep breaths. 

  1. Build the presentation with the whole audience in mind. If you’re speaking at a conference, chances are there are going to be some VIPs in attendance. While they are big players, they aren’t the most important. Play to the average person in the crowd and aim for mass appeal. 
  2. Be conversational. From time restraints to no-shows, there are a variety of things that can throw a spanner into your presentation. Keep it cool. By choosing not to read from a script, you’ll be prepared for any sudden speedbumps during your presentation, while also strengthening your rapport with the audience.
  3. Invite participation. Be sure to close with a call to action. Let the audience know how to keep in touch and ask them for feedback. Make being accessible and receptive as part of your personal brand.