The sweaty palms. The fidgeting. The nervousness. For many people, the idea of speaking in front of a group of people—any group of people—is enough to make them forget how to breathe and speak normally—or at all. If you have this kind of anxiety, don’t let it get you down—millions of people have trouble speaking in public. Public speaking anxiety is especially common among driven overachievers, for the simple reason that they typically want to do a great job, and are worried they’ll mess up their presentation. Of course, that doesn’t help in the moment, when you’re standing in front of a crowd, deciding whether to run or start talking. If this describes you, then your anxiety probably isn’t limited to public speaking—it can bleed into other situations as well, like interviewing for a job.
Even if you don’t have to do a lot of public speaking, do high-pressure situations like taking a test or going into a job interview stress you out? If so, it may be time to think about improving your public speaking skills. The skills you use in public speaking directly carry over to the interviewing process, since your goal in both cases is convincing a group of people to listen to you and trust you. The job interview is the first in-person impression a company will get from you, and it’s much better to go in confident and excited, rather than terrified and fumbling. Don’t run just yet—here are some quick tips for developing public speaking skills to help you nail your next interview.
Get Out There & Improve Your Public Speaking Skills
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone—and succeeding is a great way to get started on your public speaking skills and get you more comfortable with social situations. One of the best ways to ease your way out of your comfort zone is to join a social group, like a casual sports team, networking group, or social meetup. Why? Because you’ll be forced to introduce yourself and talk to a bunch of people you don’t know in a low-stakes environment. Joining a sports league is ideal, because it encourages teamwork and helps you see that most people really are on your side. Plus, there are tons of mental and physical health benefits to joining a sports team!
Study the Masters
You don’t often see videos of job interviews, but you have a lot of examples of great public speakers available to you. Study the speech patterns, body language, and word choice of business leaders and politicians. Practice sample interview questions using strong, confident language, and the scattered, uncertain language many people use when they’re nervous. See what a difference it makes? Also take note of the pauses these speakers use—you don’t have to chatter on when you’re in an interview. Take pauses when you need them—or when your audience does.
This may sound like a strange tip for better public speaking, but think about it—speakers are there to serve the audience. During an interview, you will want to do as much listening as you can. Make the interview about their needs as much as possible—remember, they’re trying to see how you’ll fit into their current culture. Yes, they’re interviewing you, but the process is less about you and more about them.
Realize that you have something to offer your audience, whether you’re speaking in front of an auditorium, or casually chatting with interviewers at a startup. Gently but firmly take control of the situation by realizing what your audience is looking for and understanding your own value. The old “fake it til you make it” advice can be very helpful in these situations. Be in control of your hand and leg movements, and try to cut out filler words as much as possible. This is YOUR interview, and you don’t have to leave the control in the interviewer’s hands.
Go To The Worst Case Scenario
Before you head into any interview or speech, think about the worst possible outcome. Say you said something less than diplomatic about an old boss—who happens to be a friend of the interviewer. So what? This isn’t the only interview you’ll ever have. When you really stop and think about it, the worst case scenario is rarely as bad as it seems. After you do that? Visualize success and stop putting so much pressure on yourself.
Go in With Positive Assumptions
During your next interview, remember that they asked you there for a reason. They’re already expecting to like you. Use that to your advantage, and just let the conversation flow naturally. Every interview situation is going to be slightly different, so don’t try to push it in a certain direction. And next time you have to give a speech? You’ll be ready.