It’s called glossophobia (from the greek word glossa, meaning tongue, and phobos, meaning fear or dread) and it is the number one fear of most people, ranking above death, spiders, heights, AND the dark! That means that 3 out of every 4 people on the earth would rather die in the dark on a rooftop covered in spiders than give a speech.
Unfortunately, as a UFO there will be plenty of wonderful opportunities (or devastating obligations, depending on how you look at it) to get up in front of people and speak about your business, your products, and even your own experiences. But I’m here to tell you that it’s not that bad (and that’s not just because I was a Jr. National Debate champion in high school). If you can tell a stranger the time, buy a ticket for a movie, order at a restaurant, or tell your spouse about your day at work, you are absolutely capable of speaking in front of people successfully. (And if you can’t, you may have severe social anxiety, in which case you may want to consult with a trained professional.)
PICTURE THE AUDIENCE DOING WHAT??!???
The age-old theory of picturing everyone in the audience in their skivvies is, at face value, very bad advice (unless for some reason you are more comfortable talking to people who aren’t dressed). But if you break it down past its cliché level, the idea is to make the audience (in your mind) as uncomfortable or nervous as you are, putting you all on the same level. In my opinion, both of you being on the same level is great, but instead of everyone feeling awkward or negative, why don’t we all feel positive? Everyone in that audience would probably be quaking in their boots in your position, whether it’s 5 of them or 500 of them. So if you think YOU are as capable as any of them (and perhaps MORE SO) of giving this presentation or speech, you’ll feel a bit more relaxed. Make sure you don’t apologize for being nervous or “messing up”—chances are, nobody has noticed, but calling attention to it breaks their attention to your speech.
KNOW YOUR STUFF
If you know what you’re talking about; if you’re confident in what you have to say, and it’s information that the audience needs or wants, you’ll gain comfort and confidence from that. This also comes from practice: practice in front of your family, your pets, the mirror, a taxidermy squirrel. Keep practicing. The more the material comes naturally, the more your comfort level will too.
DON’T LOSE FOCUS
If you stumble over a few words, so what? If you say something differently than how it’s rehearsed, big deal. If you focus on your presentation, on the things you want to talk about, rather than the exact words, your meaning and your message will come through naturally. Just say what you’ve come to say, as though you were speaking to one or two people that you already know, and forget about trying to be perfect.
AND MOST OF ALL: LEARN!
Just be yourself, be proud to share your message, and most of all, think of it as an opportunity to PRACTICE public speaking. This is not the last time you’ll ever speak in front of people—so make sure you learn from it!