Public speaking terrifies almost everybody-even the people who do it all the time. The veterans, however, triumph over their fears with painstaking preparation and dedicated practice

It's the stuff of nightmares. People wake-up screaming from hideous overnight visions of standing before large crowds attempting to jump-start frozen brains, immovable lips, and paralyzed vocal cords. The cold sweat, wake-up-screaming nightmare visions frequently include nakedness and much weeping. And when they awaken from these terrors, they do not wonder why public speaking seems so terrifying; instead they attempt answers for the more perplexing question, "How did I ever get myself into the place where I had to stand up and talk? How did I land in that quicksand slough of despair?"

Sometimes, however, civic and professional situations demand that you find your voice, engage your conscience and passion, and forthrightly speak your mind. You cannot, however, afford to fast forward beyond the fundamental questions. Why is public speaking so terrifying to most people? And what can you do to overcome your mortal fear of openly, honestly, articulately expressing your views?

Turning self-consciousness to self-assurance

Talking is not so terrifying. People gleefully, happily, confidently talk all day and night. Talking comes perfectly naturally. Speech coaches advise that novice public speakers have no trouble articulating their ideas, but they fear and loathe exposure. "The people will discover I am a pious fraud," beginners worry. "My jokes will fall flat; my information will be wrong; my opinions will be stupid," newbies plead. "I will develop a huge facial blemish an hour before I ascend the podium," first-timers insist. "I will miss a button; my fly will fall open; I will spill red wine on my tie," they feel certain. In other words, novice public speakers fear revealing all the distinctive human qualities that make them extra ordinary. Whereas we revere the occasional Great Orator, we depend on plain-speaking everyday people for Truth. So long as you resolve to tell the whole truth and nothing but, you have nothing to fear.

Most novice public speakers place far too much emphasis on image and far too little on substance. You have been invited to speak because you are an expert; your natural beauty ranks a distant second behind your brilliance. One professor at USC's prestigious Annenberg School of Communication stresses, "The people are not looking at you. They are listening to you. In fact, the more anonymous you look, the more your audience will listen attentively. You definitely do not want to be your own biggest distraction."

Practice, practice, practice.

Professional speakers and their coaches emphasize the importance of rehearsal. "Practice, practice. Practice!" they insist. A southern California psychotherapist specializing in anxiety disorders reminds, "Repeating frightening tasks desensitizers us to our fears. The more you practice a speech, the more it, literally, becomes a part of you. And the more you 'own' your speech, the less you fear delivering it. If you rehearse patiently and deliberately, your presentation will become as familiar and comfortable as your favourite jeans. That's just the way the psyche works."

Author's Bio: 

If you've ever experienced nervousness at the prospect of speaking in public, you are not alone! Positive public speaking courses are based on the Speaking Circles technique, and offer public speaking classes in Bristol and London