I’m going to take a slightly contrarian approach in answering this question from what others have provided.
My short answer is “possibly… possibly not!
It is a common fallacy that practice makes perfect. It simply isn’t true.
If one practices over and over again without constructive feedback as to how to improve their public speaking skills, they are likely to repeat the same mistakes.
A fear of public speaking is reduced when one becomes more comfortable. One becomes more comfortable by increasing their public speaking skills. At first glance, that may sound like a circuitous argument.
If you speak frequently and challenge yourself to improve with every speaking opportunity, your likelihood of reducing your fear of public speaking will increase incrementally.
This is where the constructive feedback comes in. An experienced speech evaluator can provide you with feedback to help improve your presentation. Your task is to incorporate those suggestions into your next and future presentations.
FEAR as an acronym is often defined as false expectations appearing real.
While we may be fearful when public speaking, it may not actually be the act of speaking publicly that causes us to be fearful. Often, when we speak in public, our previous experiences rapidly come to mind. Perhaps at some time in our life when public speaking somebody ridiculed us, diminished us or disrespected us. If we haven’t dealt with our feelings over these negative experiences they are bound to come to our consciousness when we are in similar situations.
So, does a fear of public speaking diminish the practice? Yes, most definitely, if you work at it.
Working at it means speaking frequently, having something worthwhile speaking about, receiving constructive feedback about your presentation, incorporating the suggestions for improvement into your presentation and then reflecting on what worked and what didn’t work. Then adjusting for your next presentation.
Each time you speak publicly try setting a personal challenge for yourself to accomplish during your presentation. I liken it to a high jumper. A high jumper sets the bar at a level they know they can jump over. Each time they jump successfully, they raise the bar a notch. Over a period of time they incrementally reach higher levels they are able to jump over.
As a public speaker with the goal of becoming less fearful when public speaking, the same principle applies. Examples of raising the bar while public speaking may include the following:
· projecting your voice a little louder and further than you usually do
· expanding your eye contact with your audience and maintaining eye contact with individual audience members for a few seconds before moving on to another audience member
· expanding upon your vocal variety when delivering your presentation
· taking advantage of speaking opportunities you might find intimidating
As others have mentioned, there is value in joining a local Toastmasters club. There you will receive ample opportunity to stretch your public speaking muscles as well as receiving constructive feedback.
I’ve been a member for 26 years+. I’ve gone from being terrified of public speaking to speaking publicly on a regular basis and usually enjoy the process.
I did so by continually raising the bar, challenging myself taking on speaking opportunities that at one time I would’ve avoided, and actually seeking out speaking opportunities.
While I am comfortable in speaking to groups of up to several hundred, larger groups would likely cause some anxiety for me however, I’m confident that my skills in public speaking would help me in delivering my presentation and overcoming any fear or anxiety I would be experiencing at the time.
If it works for me, it can work for you.
For further discussion on public speaking, speech development, communication skills and Toastmasters, visit the Live For Excellence Book Store for the following publications:
Blow Your Own Horn!: Personal Branding for Business Professionals
Power Networking For Shy People: How to Network Like a Pro
The Power of Persuasion: Mastering the Art of Influence
The Power of Promotion: Online Marketing For Toastmasters Club Growth
The Savvy Emcee: How to be a Dynamic Master of Ceremonies
Working With Words: Adding Life to Your Oral Presentations
Rae A. Stonehouse is an author, speaker, and self-publishing consultant dedicated to helping others embrace constant improvement and overcome challenges. With over 40 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in psychiatry and mental health, Rae brings a wealth of knowledge and passion for self-development to his writing and presentations.
As a 25+ year member of Toastmasters International, Rae has systematically built his communication abilities and self-confidence to share his insights as an author and speaker. His self-help books and personal development presentations aim to have conversational one-on-one connections with readers and audiences.
Rae is known for his wry sense of humor and sage advice delivered in a relatable coaching style. After four decades as a nurse, Rae has rewired rather than retired, actively writing and pursuing public speaking. He strives to share lessons learned to help others achieve personal and professional growth.