Picture yourself standing on a stage in front of a large crowd of strangers. You’re trying to recall details on the topic you’re speaking about, but you suddenly lose your train of thought. You tell yourself to picture everyone in their underwear, but it doesn’t work. Why do people say that works?! Sweat drips down your forehead, your palms get all clammy and you suddenly forget every thought you’d practiced.

How much anxiety does this give you?

“Glossophobia” is the technical term given to a severe fear of public speaking. According to Statistic Brain, 73 percent of people suffer from speech anxiety. That statistic is overwhelming! The good news is there are ways to work on this skill and become a great public speaker. Here are a couple of tips to improve your communication:

Tip 1: Face Your Fear

The fact of the matter is that public speaking is intimidating. Not too many people jump for joy at the thought of talking to a group of peers, but most of us will have to do it at some point. The first step in conquering a fear is to face it head on. Yes, that’s right, you need to stare public speaking right in the face and embrace it! And remember, you are not alone in this battle. Many people are also uncomfortable with the idea of speaking in front of crowds. With the right mindset, you can overcome this! Think positively, take a deep breath and deliver your speech with confidence.

Tip 2: Know the Material

If you aren’t a complete subject matter expert on the topic you’re speaking about, it’s not the end of the world. However, the second tip to conquering public speaking is to know the material back and forth. The more you know about the topic, the easier it will be to recover from a flub or make up talking points on the spot. One time, I gave a speech about killer whales. I wouldn’t call myself a subject matter expert on whales, but I watched a few documentaries and felt really passionate about the subject. Needless to say, I killed the speech because I knew my stuff and I was excited to share this new information I’d learned with my peers. You don’t need to memorize the material, you just need to know it! This will exude confidence and increase audience engagement.

Tip 3: Practice, Practice, Practice

If you don’t prepare to public speak, you will not have much success. Just like in sports, learning a new instrument or even starting a new job, things take time to perfect. You may stutter, fidget with your hands and rattle off a million filler-words at first, but with time those mistakes will subside. You will learn to engage better with your audience and be more comfortable in your own skin. Preparation and practice are key! Instead of writing out a whole draft and trying to memorize it, there are other ways to prepare. Try recording yourself giving the speech, listening back and improving the small things for next time. Whether it’s cutting down on the “umm’s,” or staring down at your shoes less, it will help! The next step would be speaking in front of a friend who will provide constructive feedback. In order to prepare to the best of your ability, you need feedback!

Tip 4: Let Your Style Shine

Conquering the jitters, studying the material and preparation are all key ingredients for a successful speech. However, what really makes public speaking relatable and impactful is adding a twist of your very own personality to it. Crack a subtle joke or use your own stories. When the audience feels like they can relate to you or laugh with you, they’ll be more attentive throughout your speech.

Tip 5: Be Open to Opportunity

Public speaking is terrifying for a lot of people. Even Warren Buffet, investment guru and famous businessman, got cold feet before he had to public speak! The best piece of advice I’ve received is to embrace the opportunity to speak to any audience. You don’t need to start by signing up to talk in front of a lecture hall of people, you can start small. My next speaking gig is in front of my very own team of 7 other people at work. That’s scary for me, but I know that the practice and feedback will help my communication skills in the long run. Seek opportunities that will allow you to stand in front of any audience, large or small, to help improve your public speaking.

If you’re not the best public speaker in the world, do not fear! Not only are you not alone in the battle, but there are a ton of ways to develop your communication skills. With patience and practice, you can become a great public speaker! If you have any tips you’d like to share, please share below: