CPD tips - How to overcome the fear of public speaking

CPD tips - How to overcome the fear of public speaking

25 Jul 2023

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Knowing how to speak well and be able to engage a live audience is a crucial skill to have and can be invaluable both inside and outside of the workplace. In this CPD article, we aim to equip you with the essential tools needed to become a confident public speaker, from understanding why we can find it so difficult to providing actionable tips to help develop your public speaking skills.

What is public speaking?

Public speaking, simply put, is the act of delivering a speech or presentation with the intention to either inform, persuade, entertain and inspire. Often this is done in front of a live audience, although online presentations are also becoming more common. The audience can be as small as a boardroom meeting or as large as a conference keynote. Irrespective of the size, public speaking demands clarity, confidence, and a thorough understanding of the subject matter to engage the audience effectively.

The importance and benefits of public speaking

In general, studies have shown that 75% of people have a fear of speaking in public, often stemming from a lack of confidence and experience. However, public speaking is a learned skill, not an innate ability. Its importance cannot be overstated in an interconnected world where clear and persuasive communication can impact decisions, inspire change, and influence perceptions.

For individuals, the ability to articulate one's thoughts effectively can significantly boost self-confidence, self-esteem, and critical thinking skills. These personal improvements can create a positive ripple effect, enhancing social interactions and personal relationships.

From a professional perspective, good public speaking skills can facilitate the expression of innovative ideas, the negotiation of beneficial agreements, and help to communicate a company's vision. It can amplify leadership qualities, inspire teams, influence stakeholders, and develop a culture of open dialogue within an organisation. Employees who are proficient public speakers not only enhance their personal credibility and value, but also contribute to an organisation's reputation.

Furthermore, experienced public speakers often find themselves with a broader array of opportunities, from networking events to industry conferences, and their ability to deliver compelling speeches can open doors that might otherwise remain closed. Whether you're an entrepreneur pitching to investors, a manager motivating your team, or a professional sharing insight at a conference, effective public speaking skills can be the key to achieving your objectives.

Importance of public speaking skills

Why do we find public speaking so difficult?

Public speaking is often viewed as an intimidating task, and there are a variety of factors that can contribute to the perception of it being so difficult. Some of these may include:

  • Fear of Judgement: One of the main reasons people find public speaking challenging is the fear of judgement. It's natural to worry about how your audience might perceive you, your ideas, or your presentation skills. The apprehension of making a mistake or being unable to answer a question can lead to anxiety.
  • Lack of Practice: Public speaking is a skill, and like any other, can be improved with practice. However, opportunities to speak in front of an audience may not come around frequently, making it difficult for individuals to practice and improve.
  • Poor Preparation: Crafting a compelling speech or presentation requires thoughtful preparation. Without preparing beforehand, speakers may struggle to effectively convey their message, heightening feelings of nervousness and uncertainty.
  • Physical Symptoms of Anxiety: The anxiety associated with public speaking often manifests physically — dry mouth, clammy hands, shaky voice, etc. These physical symptoms can further exacerbate fears and hinder performance.
  • High Consequences: Often, public speaking engagements come with high risks of failure — a business deal, a grade for a class, a promotion, etc. This pressure to perform well can add another layer of difficulty.

Acknowledging these challenges is the first step to overcoming them. By understanding the roots of public speaking anxiety, we can start to address these issues and cultivate the skills necessary to become a confident, compelling public speaker.

Developing the skills to become a confident public speaker

Public speaking is an art that relies on a variety of skills, each contributing to the overall effectiveness of your communication. Speaking in public doesn't come naturally to many. But, armed with the right strategies, anyone can deliver a powerful and engaging speech. To improve your public speaking abilities, consider focusing your CPD on the development of the following skills:

Verbal Communication: This involves articulating your thoughts clearly, employing an engaging tone, and varying your speech pace.

Listening: Public speaking is not just about talking. It's also about listening to your audience’s reactions and adjusting your speech accordingly.

Non-Verbal Communication: Mastering body language, facial expressions, and gestures can significantly enhance your speech delivery.

Stress Management: Public speaking often triggers anxiety. Learning techniques to manage this stress, like deep breathing or mindfulness, can be incredibly beneficial.

Helpful tips for delivering a good public speech

Gaining confidence in public speaking often involves a mix of mental conditioning, practice, and constructive feedback. This includes nurturing a positive mindset, welcoming opportunities to speak, and learning from each experience. The following simple tips will guide you through the process of crafting and delivering a memorable speech:

1. Practice Regularly: Like any other skill, public speaking improves with practice. Use every chance you get to speak in front of a crowd, whether it’s at a team meeting or a social gathering.

2. Know Your Material: Understanding your subject inside and out builds confidence as it reduces the fear of being caught off guard. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be when it’s time to deliver your speech.

3. Understand Your Audience: Knowing your audience allows you to tailor your speech, and enable you to make it more interesting and resonate with listeners. Having a focused audience will lead to a greater outcome and provide a self-confidence boost.

4. Structure Your Speech: Delivering a well-presented speech helps keep your audience’s attention. Make sure to have a clear structure, with a beginning, middle, and end. The audience must be able to follow along with the key points you want to convey.

5. Use Body Language: Your body language can set the tone of your speech. Maintain eye contact, use open gestures, smile and maintain a positive vibe.

6. Incorporate Storytelling: Stories resonate with people, making your speech more memorable. Opening with a relevant personal story or anecdote can help to connect with the audience, share your passion for what you’re about to discuss, or explain your expertise.

How to improve public speaking confidence

7. Visualisation: Visualising a successful speech can help reduce anxiety and increase confidence. Picture yourself delivering a compelling presentation and receiving applause from the audience.

8. Virtual Simulations: In the modern world of technology, Virtual Reality is helping people overcome all sorts of fears. Practicing in front of a virtual audience can give you a real cognitive boost to overcome your fear when speaking in front of a real audience.

9. Take a public speaking CPD course – Whether you are a beginner or already have prior experience speaking in front of an audience, a public speaking course will teach you how to share your ideas, inspire others and increase your confidence. Courses cover a number of related topics that will help you develop critical skills as part of your wider Continuing Professional Development (CPD) 

In conclusion, public speaking is an invaluable skill in both personal and professional life that requires persistence and ongoing practice. By understanding its importance and actively working towards gaining knowledge to properly engage and resonate with audiences, you can transform yourself into a much better, confident speaker.

Where to find suitable CPD courses to improve public speaking skills?

If you are interested in expanding and improving your public speaking skills, please visit the CPD Courses Catalogue. Here you will find thousands of accredited training courses and events across industry sectors and learning types, which would be beneficial for fulfilling any current or future goals.

All the certified providers, courses and training have been reviewed and recognised as meeting the required industry standards and benchmarks. To find out more about a particular CPD course listed on our website, you can complete an enquiry form and the details will be sent directly to the relevant CPD provider.

How to become an accredited CPD provider

We hope this article was helpful. Established in 1996, The CPD Certification Service is the world’s leading and largest CPD accreditation organisation working across all industry sectors. If you are looking to provide training courses, workshops, eLearning or educational events that may be suitable for Continuing Professional Development, please visit the Become a CPD Provider page or contact our team to discuss in more detail.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a free online CPD record tool to help manage, track and log your ongoing learning, as well as store your professional training records and attendance certificates in one simple place, go to the myCPD Portal page.

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