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16 steps to overcoming fears

16 steps to overcome your fear of public speaking

The stats

Most if not all trainee teachers have a fear of public speaking and according to the National Social Anxiety Centre, it’s the most common fear out there including a fear of heights, death and even spiders. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 73% of individuals have a fear of public speaking and I do too but you learn to get on with it.

What our Level 3 Award in Education and Training learners say

Speaking to our thousands of trainee teachers on our Level 3 Award in Education and Training, the contributing factor of this fear is being judged by others. What happens and me included will freeze or forget what they are talking about in a group of people and this happens normally. This increases stress levels which shuts down the frontal lobe of the brain which is partially responsible for memory retrieving.

On our courses including the Level 3 Award in Education and Training, we set ground rules to ensure a safe environment free from being judged by others in a supportive environment. Learners that fail to adhere to these ground rules will get removed from the course but the purpose is to get you as a trainee teacher comfortable with presenting to a group in your Microteach.

Our 16 tips to overcome your fear

While giving a lesson or making a speech at work may feel challenging, there are several things you can do to calm your nerves and set yourself up for success. Here are 16 ways to reduce nerves and ensure you remain calm throughout your lesson.

1. De-catastrophise brain freezes

While it may feel catastrophic in the moment, your learners often don't even notice, and if they do, they quickly forget it. Understanding that this minor blip in your presentation is just that and not a reflection on your session.

2. Set reasonable expectations

Everyone makes mistakes and that no one will think differently of you if you don't deliver a perfect speech. In fact, no one delivers perfect speeches.

3. Practice

Practicing your lesson is essential to increasing your confidence and ensuring you're prepared. Ensure that you go through everything and know what each point means.

4. Use lesson plans

Unless someone has specifically told you not to, use your session plan to guide your presentation to stay on track. Use your notes as a visual cue so you can recover easily if you get stuck. During the Level 3 Award in Education and Training, we advise learners to use their session plans and embed notes into their PowerPoints.

5. Breathe

Practicing deep breathing is a great way to reduce stress and anxietyTaking deep breaths also helps to circulate oxygen through the brain and will enable you to think more clearly.

6. Speak slowly

I’m again guilty of speaking too quickly. Speaking slowly will help to calm your nerves and will also ensure your learners are able to hear you.

7. Know your class

Knowing who you'll be teaching gives you a chance to become more familiar with what to expect in terms of your class. The more familiar you feel with your class, the more confident you'll feel during your presentation. Remember, they are more interested in their own session than yours.

8. Create a structure for your lesson

Creating a structure for your lesson offers a guide you can follow even when you're feeling very nervous. Create an outline of your lesson plan in the order in which you want to present each topic. If you lose your place in your speech and feel anxious, simply glance at your outline and continue where you left off.

9. Drink water

Anxiety often causes dry mouth, which is especially distracting when speaking in public. Stay hydrated before your presentation and keep a bottle of water near you when you're presenting to prevent dry mouth. There is a reason comedians have drinks with them.

10. Smile

Smiling is a great tool to use when you're feeling nervous or anxious. This face gesture releases endorphins and will help you feel more confident and portrays confidence and excitement to others.

11. Make eye contact

Reading from your PowerPoint while giving a presentation is often an unconscious reaction to feeling nervous and unsure of yourself. Instead of staring off into space when speaking, choose a few friendly faces to make eye contact with.

12. Avoid stimulants before the presentation

Drinking coffee will increase your heart rate and sweating and can even make your hands shake. This often gives the audience the idea that you're nervous, even if you're not. Avoid caffeine before your presentation to ensure you feel as calm and relaxed as possible. When I was at University and had to give a presentation, I would have a shot of whiskey to calm my nerves. It calmed my nerves but it affected performance. Learn from my mistake.

13. Arrive early

Arriving at the place where you'll teach early gives you the opportunity to get a feel for the environment in which you'll give your lesson. Get there 30 minutes early and stand where you'll be standing when you teach. Visualise people in the chairs and how you'll handle speaking to a full room and get your equipment setup.

14. Talk with learners before the presentation

Doing a meet-and-greet with your learners before the lesson begins gives you the opportunity to make connections with your class so you don't feel as if you're presenting to a group of strangers. This will also allow your learners to get to know you a little bit and encourage more support from them during your lesson.

15. Practice confident body language

Body language is something we teach beyond the Level 3 Award in Education and Training however you should practice standing up straight with your shoulders back. Relax your facial muscles and smile as much as possible. The more confident you appear, the more confident you're likely to feel.

16. Accept your fear

Rather than trying to fight any fear you have around teaching your class, instead, try accepting that fear as a normal part of life. An experienced performer like Bruce Springsteen gets nervous before every concert and I get nervous before every lesson. Bruce puts these nerves as his body preparing him to put on a good show and it should be the same for you. Denying the fear will often make it worse, accepting it and choosing to act despite the fear helps to build confidence.

Next steps

If you are ready to overcome your fear, come and join us on the Level 3 Award in Education and Training.

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matthew reynolds
Mathew Reynolds | Managing Director and Teacher
Welcome to the ETA. It is my goal to help you get your qualifications in the easiest and quickest way. Unlike other training providers, I am putting my name and reputation on the line, I am not hiding behind logos, this is me, this is my company and I am accountable for you to reach your goals.
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