By now, everyone knows that a lot of people fear public speaking more than death. This seems like a ridiculous idea, but anyone who has had to face the knee shaking, teeth chattering moments before a speech will understand. However, public speaking is an important skill in today’s business world. Without it, you won’t be able to share your ideas or encourage others to follow. That’s why your fear of public speaking must be addressed if you want to succeed.

Accept your fear

There seems to be a prevailing idea that you need to deny your fear to beat it. Proponents of this way advocate that you push your fear down, drown it out with affirmations, or argue your way around it. Long term, this doesn’t work.

Sources claim that if you’re constantly fighting your fear, you may actually also increase the symptoms of it. Instead, remind yourself that it’s all right and even natural for you to feel that way. You should also tell yourself that you expected to feel fear, and are ready to handle it. Just knowing that an emotion was expected, and even planned for, can lessen its effect on you.

Accepting your fear doesn’t mean letting it control your behavior of course. It’s simply a shift in your mindset. Before your public speaking engagement, if you’re expecting to be afraid, you can have a plan in place to deal with it. This probably wouldn’t be the case if you were trying to deny your fear. This plan might include breathing exercises and reminding yourself of past events you were afraid of that turned into successes.

Take small steps

If you want to get fit and make a goal to exercise for two hours seven days a week you will probably fail. The change is too great, too big, and your whole body will fight you on it. That’s why you should always make small changes if you don’t want your fear to get in the way. It’s no different with overcoming your fear of public speaking.

Take small steps and gain confidence along the way. This could include looking up classes to help you practice your public speaking, researching venues or events for your talk, or planning what you want to talk about. Whatever small steps you take first, make sure they move you towards your goal slowly and give your brain and body time to adjust to the change.

Over-organize

When you’re just starting with public speaking, let your fear drive this part of your process. If your fear tells you that you’ll run out of things to say, write extra points just in case. And if your fear is worried that you’ll forget something, make sure your notes are extensive. The more organizing you do the safer you’ll feel, especially when you’re new to public speaking. And then, as you get experience, you’ll find that this part of your practice will melt away naturally.

Practice on everyone

If you want to learn to be a great public speaker you need to practice on anyone who will listen to you. Write out your speech early and ask friends and family to watch and listen to you. And ask them for honest feedback. This is the only way you can improve your speech and your demeanor while you’re giving the speech.

It can also be helpful if you video yourself practicing the speech. This can feel awkward and embarrassing at first, but will allow you to look at your speech from every angle and make changes. The confidence you will gain from all this practice will help you give a truly amazing speech when it really counts.

Visualize your speech

Studies suggest that the human brain can’t tell the difference between a visualized event and a real one. This means that if you visualize a successful speech, your brain will think that it was real. That’s why this practice can be so valuable before you give a speech.

If you have a fear of public speaking, you might envision yourself tripping over or forgetting your points. Then, by the time you get up on stage, that litany of terrible outcomes is parading through your head. Instead, you need to deliberately create positive memories and associations with public speaking. If you do this often enough, by the time you get up for your first speech, your brain will remember only that you’ve done the same thing multiple times, and that everything went well. This sense of calm and competence is perfect for a public speaking event.

Work on your breathing

This can be a major problem for new and anxious public speakers. The fear can make them gasp for breath, run out of breath, or force their whole speech to come out in a terrified rush. This will not only interrupt your speech, it will also make your audience unsettled and uncomfortable.

If you have this problem, you need to work on it before you give your first speech. Breathing or mindfulness exercises can help you to get control of your breathing and train you to breathe properly and consciously. This practice will also make you feel more relaxed and lower your stress responses.

Organize visual aids

When giving a speech people often worry that they’ll forget what they want to say. Having visual aids, a physical reminder of your points, can help with this. Just don’t allow your visual aids to become a substitute for honestly working on and practicing your public speaking skills.

Make sure your visual aids don’t have too much information on them as well. Otherwise they’ll confuse and frustrate your audience, and they could end up being a crutch for you. Use the 1-6-6 rule if you’re unsure of how much information to put on each slide. But mostly, only use them on the rare occasions when you honestly can’t remember what you’re supposed to say.

Get professional help

There are many places where you can practice your public speaking skills. Take advantage of every chance you get. If you attend a birthday party, try and make a short speech. If there’s a presentation at work, volunteer to give it. Every time you speak in public you will be pushing back against the fear and diminishing it.

You can also try programs that will work with you to improve your public speaking abilities. These types of programs can take you from a good public speaker to a great one, and can make all the difference in your abilities and in your professional life.

The number one thing you can take from this

Being afraid of public speaking is natural, but it doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it. By working through these steps and practicing, you will be able to overcome your fears. This is essential if you want to succeed in business and in life. You’ll never be able to get anything done if you let every irrational fear you have stand in your way.

How to Beat your Fear of Public Speaking

Accept your fear

Pushing your fear down will only make it worse. Accept it, and do it anyway.

Take small steps

If you try to do everything at once, even overcoming fear, you’ll probably fail. Instead, take small steps towards your goal if you want to succeed.

Over-organize

If you’re paralyzed by the fear that something will go wrong, then prepare for it. You’ll feel better than if you just try to ignore the feeling.

Practice

Practice your speech on everyone, with every chance you get. The old adage about practice making perfect is almost right. Nothing is really perfect, but practice helps it move closer to that ideal.

Visualize

Visualization will allow you to practice your speech and plan for problems. And if you picture it going right, your brain will think it actually happened and let you feel good about the win.

Your breathing

Keep breathing calmly and evenly before and throughout your speech. It will make your voice clearer and easier to understand and will help you feel calmer as well.

Set up visual aids

Your visual aids can help to ground you, remind you what you want to say, and keep the audience’s attention where it should be.

Get professional help

If you’re really struggling, don’t be afraid to get professional help. Everyone needs help sometimes.