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Overcoming Shyness

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Overcoming Shyness
Take on Public Speaking with Some Helpful Tips

Overcoming Shyness Article Portable Podium™ by ProProductions™If the thought of public speaking makes your heart race and your stomach churn, a majority of Americans share your sentiments. But you can manage your nervousness and speak in public with confidence.

Start Small
The first step towards overcoming shyness or stage fright is eliminating negative self-talk. Vance Van Petten, author of, Ten Minutes to the Speech: Your last-minute guide and checklist for speaking in public, says, “If you push out all your negative, fearful thoughts, there won’t be any room for stage fright.”

Textbook authors Paulette Dale and James C. Wolf say fearful speakers should, “Identify why you fear public speaking and replace those negative beliefs with positive beliefs.” So instead of saying, “I’m afraid to give a speech because everyone will think I’m stupid,” tell yourself, “I can speak confidently because I’ll be adequately prepared, and my audience will learn from me.” Having a positive attitude about your speech will lessen your fear and make the speech preparation more enjoyable.

Also, if you’re not used to talking in front of people, take small steps to make yourself heard. Dale and Wolf encourage shy speakers to start speaking up on a smaller scale. “If you’re scared of speaking in front of a group, take a few small steps in everyday situations; give the order in a restaurant. Ask a question when you are an audience member during another person’s speech.”

Furthermore, consider speaking up more in conversation. Let other people know what you think. Pickyourbrain.com, a website dedicated to self-improvement says, “The best way to get accustomed to sharing is practice. Force yourself to speak up, especially when you don’t want to. Sit in the front of the room and make yourself visible. Understand that sharing your insights with people is doing them a favor. Once you get used to opening up, you’ll notice how positively people react. This will build your self confidence and faith in the goodwill of others.”

Obviously, adequate preparation will significantly reduce your speech anxiety. According to Dale and Wolf, “Preparation is one of the best antidotes for presentation anxiety. With proper preparation, you will feel confident that you know your subject matter and have just the right amount of information for the allotted time.”

Give yourself plenty of time to research your speech and outline what you want to share. If you’d like to write your speech word for word, be careful that you don’t read it to your audience, even if you have it memorized. Practice your speech often both in front of a mirror and in front of family and friends. The Speechmakers’ Bible, released in 2006, says “Nerves are often driven by fear and unfamiliarity. Rehearsal makes you familiar and comfortable with your content and environment.” Ask your practice listeners for honest feedback. Where they bored? Did you look and sound confident?

Be sure to time your rehearsals so you’ll know whether to add or subtract content. Record yourself with a video camera and watch your speech from the audience’s perspective. Listen to your tone of voice, and watch your facial expressions and body language. Do you sound bored? Are you non-verbally telling listeners you want to be elsewhere?

When possible, try to replicate the physical surroundings at your actual presentation. Will you have a podium? According to, Van Petten, “If you have not given many speeches, a podium provides you with the most comfortable setting.” If you’re using a device like the Portable Podium, you’ll have the benefit of practicing and speaking with the same equipment.

If you choose not to memorize your speech in its entirety, you may still want to memorize the beginning. Speechmaker’s says, “Know your intro: Most speakers are at their most nervous at the beginning. By making the start almost second nature, you’ll ease comfortably into the main body of the speech or presentation.”

Speakers who have a naturally quiet voice may want to practice some vocal and breathing exercises before their speech. Although we don’t think about it, the way you breathe can have a huge impact on vocal quality. Speechmakers’ shares, “Breathing is a natural function that we don’t often think about. However, paying it some attention is necessary for those who find it difficult to project their voices in public.”

Several weeks of practice will make a marked difference in your ability to project your voice without straining it. And you’ll be able to relax knowing your audience can hear your clearly and your voice will be less likely to crack or give out.

Arrive Early
Few things are more upsetting than running behind schedule. Arrive early and give yourself time to check out the venue, maybe mingle with your audience a little, and prepare for your presentation or speech.

Take a few minutes before your speech to check your appearance in a bathroom mirror. Be sure and remove all loose change from your pocket, keys, and any jewelry you may finger during your speech. Be very aware of your breathing. When people are nervous we naturally take shorter, shallower breaths. Reign in your nervousness by breathing deeply and exhaling slowly. Van Petten says, “Breathing deeply a couple of times before you being to speak does several things for you—and they’re all good. Breathing deeply gives you a moment to collect your thoughts while bringing oxygen to your lungs; this oxygenates your blood better and more clearly. Deep breathing also allows your throat and stomach muscles to relax—therefore relieving tension and stress and preventing stuttering or stammering.”

Remember that your audience will not be able to detect how nervous you are. Van Petten says, “You will always feel ten times more nervous then you look: ‘You looked so confident up there.’ Little do they know the serene swan was paddling like mad below the surface.”

When you’re on stage, keep your head high. Don’t let your body language apologize to the audience. Visualize how confident you look and you will feel more confident during your speech and afterward, when your audience is congratulating you!

Speechmaker’s Bible published by Cassell Illustrated, 2006

Speech Communication Made Simple by Paulette Dale and James C. Wolf. Published by Pearson Longman, 2006

Ten Minutes to the Speech: Your Last-Minute Guide and Checklist for Speaking in Public by Vance Can Petten. Tallfellow Press, 2007.

Ashley Barrett is a professional writer, editor, and researcher for ProProducts™

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