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The fear of public speaking is the #1 fear of all fears. It ranks far above the fear of death, heights, sickness, jumping out of a plane or loneliness.

Even some of the world’s most famous presenters have freely admitted to nervousness and stage fright.

“There are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars.” ― Mark Twain

Why is public speaking so scary?

When faced with standing up in front of a group, we break into a sweat because we are afraid of being embarrassed and judged. The fear is so strong that we’re not only afraid of being ashamed, we’re also afraid of being rejected from the social group.

Overcoming this fear is the first step to becoming an effective public speaker, powerful communicator and influencer. It’s a skill that’s essential if you want to have impact at work, at home or in your community.

If you’re only able to talk with people one-on-one, you’re greatly limiting your ability to grow and succeed in life. Everything at a higher level involves being able to talk with groups of people.

12 tips for calming your nerves

1. Stop being a perfectionist — we tend to go over our mistakes while ignoring the best parts. Even the best, most experienced speakers make many mistakes. The audience will never know most of them unless you tell them.

2. Accept nervousness — everyone gets nervous. Most seasoned speakers experience a bit of nervous excitement before a performance. In fact, most believe that a little anxiety actually makes you a better speaker.

3. Forget yourself — focus on your audience and what they want to hear. Not yourself. When you stop thinking it’s about you, that’s when your greatness begins to emerge.

4. Talk about what you know — you’ll speak with more confidence and passion if you are knowledgeable about your subject. Don’t talk about things you don’t know about.

5. Remember the six P’s — proper preparation prevents piss poor performance. The longer you leave your preparation, the more anxiety you will have.

6. Arrive early — walk around the venue and talk to some of your audience members. Getting comfortable with the venue and seeing a few friendly faces will make you relax and calm your nerves.

7. Memorise your opening — the beginning of a presentation is often the most nerve racking. Learn your opening off by heart. It will give you confidence to start strong. Once you get going you’ll settle down and your confidence will increase.

8. Smile — it will make both you and your audience relax.

9. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse — nothing will calm your nerves more than knowing you have a winning presentation. Rehearse out loud at least 4 times before you deliver your speech.

10. Your audience wants you to succeed — novice speakers commonly feel that people in the audience are extremely critical and want them to fail. This is rarely the case. They are on your side. People want to listen to someone who’s interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining.

11. Dress for success — the clothes you wear are important. Not only for your audience but more improtantly, for you. Choose clothes that make you feel confident. If you feel good about how you look in front of your audience, you can put all of your focus on your message.

12. Gain experience — one of the best ways to combat nervousness is to gain speaking experience. Take any opportunity you can to speak to an audience. The more public speaking you do, the better you’ll get.

Keep in mind that you don’t look as nervous as you feel. Looking nervous and feeling nervous are two different things. Though you may feel like a bundle of nerves, this is not what the audience sees. Take comfort in the fact that your nervousness is nearly all subjective.