Public speaking is hard for some people because they are afraid of being judged or anxious about what others will think of them. Whether you’re speaking in front of a class, at a conference, or even to your friends, public speaking can be intimidating.
Knowing how the audience responds to your speech is important for gauging feedback and making any changes needed before giving another presentation.
Even some of the most intelligent and talented people in our society do not perform well when they step on stage. Why is that? Why can some individuals stand in front of hundreds or even thousands of people, share their ideas and thoughts, and get good feedback while others struggle to communicate effectively with one or two people? Why is public speaking such a difficult skill to master?
Before we go into it, it’s important to understand that public speaking can be challenging. Why? It’s because many people fear public speaking even though they do not necessarily have a phobia towards it. Public speaking certainly has the potential to cause real anxiety and distress. The fear can be so intense that it can lead to panic attacks and other debilitating symptoms.
Luckily, with a little bit of understanding and know-how, public speaking becomes much easier over time.
Reasons Why Public Speaking is So Hard
Many people fear public speaking because we think others will notice every mistake or mispronunciation. In actuality, many people won’t be able to tell the difference unless you give them something to focus on, like a blatant mistake.
Some people are afraid of being judged, especially by an authority figure. They might have had a bad experience in the past where their teacher, professor, or parent made them feel embarrassed because they weren’t performing as well as they should have been.
Here are some other potential reasons why public speaking can be so hard for some people:
1. Fear of failure.
It is normal for anyone to be concerned about not doing particularly well, especially in front of a large audience. Some people seem to be more afraid of making mistakes than others. When it comes to public speaking, many individuals who are afraid of failing feel like they need to be the best at all times in order to be accepted. They may feel like they must impress others in order to receive their approval, which is why they are putting immense pressure on themselves.
However, this fear of failure makes it more difficult for the person to become a better public speaker. In fact, their fear can actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as they are likely to make more mistakes when attempting to speak in front of others.
The first step is to become aware of the fear and acknowledge its existence in the first place. Once a speaker is more aware of their fears, they can then begin to deal with them rather than ignore them.
2. Your Personality Type.
You may naturally find it more difficult based on your personality type, but it’s a learned skill, and you can certainly become competent at it.
However, it has been demonstrated that people with an extroverted personality type are more likely to enjoy public speaking, be confident with it, and have the ability to speak in front of others. Their outgoing nature means they are more likely to be able to understand the feelings of their audience and connect with them. They are also more likely to understand body language, intonation, and many other aspects that help them be good speakers.
People with an introverted personality type, on the other hand, are more likely to avoid public speaking in favor of smaller settings with fewer people. Their desire to speak with only a small group of people means they have less experience in front of big groups. They may also be more likely to become nervous when speaking or not know how to react.
The good news here is that public speaking skills can be learned by anyone, even those with introverted characteristics. In general, people need to recognize that they can overcome their fear of public speaking.
3. The unpredictability and the fear of being judged.
No matter if we’ve already given a presentation in the same room, there’s still an inexplicable level of uncertainty when it comes to how people will react or behave when we present. We can’t be 100% sure of the outcome, which makes public speaking a very unpredictable endeavor. For some, this unpredictability causes increased anxiety or stress levels, leading to a negative experience.
Sometimes when you speak in front of an audience, people will judge you on your appearance, the way you talk, your clothing choices, and more. Others might find one or two things to focus on so they can have something to talk about later with their friends or on social media. If you feel as if your audience is making judgments about you, it’s only natural to feel uncomfortable and not want to present or discuss ideas any longer.
4. Your mind goes blank.
Sometimes people are so nervous about giving a speech that their minds go blank, and it feels almost impossible to come up with something good to say on the spot. Even if you’ve given many speeches before, there’s still an element of unpredictability when you step into the spotlight because each presentation requires a different set of circumstances and variables to come together.
5. The audience may not be receptive.
Even when the presentation is well-prepared and thought out, it is still possible that the audience just may not be receptive to it at all. In some cases, this may be due to circumstances beyond the speakers’ control. For example, there could be a problem with the equipment used to broadcast the speaker’s voice or visuals on a screen which causes some audience members not to be able to see or hear important information. In other cases, what is being shared might simply go against the personal beliefs of some in the audience.
6. The stakes are higher in a public speaking setting.
When we speak publicly, there’s a level of scrutiny involved in what we do and how we present ourselves because so many people have their eyes on us. This higher level of scrutiny tends to cause more stress for many speakers who are not confident in their abilities. Whether you are speaking at a company event, town hall meeting, or an academic conference, the stakes tend to be higher when people are watching closely.
7. High expectations.
Most people fear public speaking because they let their own expectations take over. If you want to overcome the fear of public speaking, it’s important to manage your expectations effectively in order to enjoy better experiences in the future. When you put high expectations on yourself, you’ll likely become paralyzed with fear and only make things difficult. That’s why it’s important to manage your expectations effectively before, during, and after the presentation. There is no need to put unnecessary pressure on yourself that can lead to a poor experience for everyone.
Why does public speaking get easier with time?
Starting to speak publicly, for many people, is like taking a shot in the dark. There’s no telling how it will go or what will happen. But, as you practice, you’ll start to feel more comfortable and develop a sense of what works and what doesn’t work for you when it comes to presenting your ideas or information to others.
The first step to learning how to speak in public is understanding the difference between public speaking and simply talking to people. People share information with each other all the time, in various settings, with different intentions, and for a wide range of reasons. So, why is public speaking so difficult? For most people, it’s because they confuse social interactions with formal presentations or speeches.
As you develop your public speaking skills, you’ll want to learn how to communicate in a number of ways. That does not mean you must be a great conversationalist, but interacting verbally in natural ways with others is important. Because as you learn how to communicate effectively one-on-one, you will find that your skills easily transfer over into more formal settings.
Prepare Yourself Properly For the Event
The more prepared you are for a public speaking event, the easier it will be to communicate your ideas to the audience. You’ll need to identify what you want to say, why it’s important, and how you’ll convey the information.
There are many things you can do to prepare for a public speaking event. You can start by creating an outline of the information you want to convey. Why is this important? Because it helps you determine what is most important about the topic you are discussing and keeps your presentation organized.
You also want to consider what visuals, if any, will help convey your message. It’s common for presentations or speeches to feature a number of visual aids such as whiteboards, slideshows, printed materials, charts, and diagrams. You should research the most effective ways to incorporate these visuals if you choose to do so.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do before a public-speaking event is thorough research. Depending on how much time you have and your comfort level, researching the subject of your speech is essential for success. It will be harder to make adjustments if you wait until the day of the event to practice for the first time.
Practice Your Speech Out Loud Beforehand
One of the most helpful ways to practice speaking in public is by practicing your speech out loud. Doing this allows you to work through the material while also monitoring your pace, volume, and other important speaking skills. This is particularly important if you are nervous about public speaking because it allows you to get comfortable with the words or ideas before presenting them to others.
Practicing your speech out loud can help you identify any gaps or weaknesses in your content that you may not have noticed before. If you find a mistake, it’s important to correct it as soon as possible, so you don’t mispronounce a word or stumble over a sentence. Doing this will help ensure that your message is received clearly.
Practicing your presentation out loud can also help you determine where to add more information if needed or decide what parts should be emphasized the most. You may want to practice speaking in public without any visual aids at first, then add them later once you feel more comfortable with the material. Seeing the words on a page is very different from speaking them, so if you jump too quickly into adding visuals, it may make the presentation appear sloppy.
It’s essential to keep in mind that your public speaking skills can continue to improve even after the event has concluded. You should always review your performance afterward and note what worked well, what could be improved upon, and what you could do differently next time.
Embrace the Silence When You’re Onstage
If you’re not familiar with public speaking, it can feel awkward and uncomfortable when done in front of a lot of people. So, naturally, one of the most difficult things for many people to do when in front of a large audience is embrace the silence.
If you find yourself waiting or anticipating something to happen, such as applause or laughter from your audience, you may feel like you’ve lost your place or forgotten what to say next. It’s important to remember that there is no need to rush simply because the silence is uncomfortable. If a few seconds pass and it feels awkward, wait a few more seconds before continuing.
The best way to deal with the awkward pause is to embrace it by maintaining confidence and composure. If you look confident, it may seem as though there was no gap in your speech, which could even add to the illusion that you are a more capable speaker.
Another reason why embracing the silence is so important is because it makes the audience pay attention and concentrate on what you have to say next. This often leads to the audience hanging on your every word because they want to hear what you will say next.
It can be difficult to embrace silence when in front of a large audience, so it’s important to practice beforehand. If you don’t usually present in front of others and aren’t accustomed to embracing the uncomfortable silence, start by practicing in front of one or two people, then gradually increase the number of people in your practice group.
By practicing in front of a smaller group of people first, it will be easier to face the awkward silence during a big presentation because you won’t feel like you’re on stage alone.
Public Speaking Mistakes You Should Avoid at All Costs
It may seem daunting to have to speak in front of a large audience, but it can be done if you are prepared and well-spoken. There are so many public speaking mistakes people make when they are under stress, which is why it’s important to avoid them at all costs.
One of the most common mistakes speakers make is rushing through the presentation. There’s nothing worse than when someone speaks in public too quickly. It makes it difficult for the audience to understand what is being said, and the speaker can come off as anxious or frightened.
Rushing through your material or not pausing for emphasis can often lead to confusing the audience and weakening the overall message. If you take longer pauses where needed, it can make you seem calm and professional, which will make it a lot easier for your audience to take in the information you are presenting.
It’s also essential to avoid filler words such as “um” or “ah.” These words can become very distracting when spoken repeatedly throughout a presentation.
Similarly, being monotone is one of the most common public speaking mistakes, as it can make the presentation seem dry and dull. You should always attempt to vary your tone, speed, and pitch so that you can keep the audience engaged.
Other Worthy Mentions:
- Treat the Audience Like Friends – As a speaker, it’s your job to engage with them like they’re your friends.
- Offer a Better Understanding of the Topic – End your presentation by offering a better understanding of the topic, not just listing off a few bullet points.
- Know When to Talk and When to Shut Up – Always know when to talk and when to shut up, but don’t be afraid of silence!
- Speak with Passion – If you don’t speak with passion or present your information with certainty, it won’t be memorable.
The more often an individual speaks publicly, the more confident he or she becomes. However, not everyone can jump right in and start doing it for the first time with no experience. Public speaking seems hard because we compare ourselves to other, more experienced people, and we think that we’re not as good as them.
As a matter of fact, we can become better than them if we practice and embrace the silence! This is why it’s important to remember these things when speaking publicly: One, don’t rush. Two, vary your tone, speed, and pitch. Three, be passionate about what you’re talking about. Four, treat the audience like friends.
Once you have overpowered your fear of public speaking, you will find that it is one of the most powerful skills in your possession. It’s an ability that allows you to help others in many ways. Suppose you want to be successful in business or enjoy a career that is not directly related to public speaking. In that case, you will find that your communication skills are a vital resource as you negotiate contracts, solve problems and make decisions.