I’ve posted before about my struggles with public speaking. Last semester, I started looking for resources to help me improve my oral communication skills and reduce the anxiety that makes my voice crack and my hands shake when I give a presentation. One of the most helpful observations about public speaking anxiety that I’ve found so far is courtesy of Scott Berkun in Confessions of a Public Speaker: “Can you guess what most people who are worried about their presentations refuse to do? Practice … Their fear of speaking leads to procrastination, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of misery.”
This is SO me. Practicing for a presentation seems like such obvious advice, but I always find myself tempted to put it off because I’m anxious. And guess what? When I give in to that temptation, I always regret it. Here’s why Berkun thinks we all should force ourselves to practice before a presentation even if we don’t want to:
“The most pragmatic reason for practice is that it allows me to safely make mistakes and correct them before anyone ever sees it … The confidence that comes from practicing makes it possible to improvise and respond to unexpected things – like hecklers, tough questions, bored audiences, or equipment failures – that might occur during the talk. If I hadn’t practiced, I’d be so worried about my material that I’d be unable to pay attention to anything else, much less anticipate what’s coming from the audience … An entire universe of fears and mistakes goes away by simply having confidence in your material.”
I will probably always be anxious before giving a presentation, but, as Berkun points out, practicing can help significantly, so take the time to practice your presentations even if you hate doing so. You won’t regret it!