Public speaking is one fear that gets the best of many college students. Students cringe at the thought of having to give a presentation alone in front of their peers or at the thought of having to take a speech-centric course, despite the fact that some universities require such classes for graduation. A fear of public speaking can put a damper on a college experience – students may shy away from classes they really want to take because they are too afraid to speak in front of the class – and while not everyone will become the world’s greatest public speaker, there are ways to ease your mind and become better at speaking in front of a crowd.
Shift your focus. If making eye contact with people is your problem, find an inanimate object to focus on. I’ve found looking at the wall or space in between two people helps a lot because it makes it seem like you are making eye contact when you really are not. The crowd will be none the wiser and you will be far less flustered.
Practice makes perfect. Rehearse your speech or presentation in front of a mirror before it is time to speak in front of your classmates. Practicing will make you more confident in what you have to say and instead of fumbling with your note cards, the words will just flow right out of your mouth.
Perform for friends and family. Once you’re comfortable delivering your speech or presentation to your reflection, try it out on family, friends or roommates. This will ease you into presenting in front of a live audience like the one you’ll speak to in class.
Some people never get rid of their public speaking phobia no matter how often they have to perform in front of a crowd. Once you realize that you are not the only one afraid to speak in public and the most effective ways to practice, your nerves will calm and you’ll ace that presentation.
Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. At the University of Memphis, she is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. She also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.