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Even as a designer, there are times when you have to speak before a group. This is especially true if you’re an individual freelancer.

Sometimes you need to pitch ideas for a project. You may be showing a design to a client for approval. Maybe you’re giving a speech to a group at a conference or other event.

What do you find to be the most difficult part of public speaking? [Take our poll]

I’ll Take Death, Please

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

—Jerry Seinfeld

Most people are not born with the ability to comfortably speak in a public setting.

Even those who are good at communicating with others in casual social settings are not necessarily at ease speaking to a group in a formal setting.

So what can help you overcome stress when speaking in public?

How To Overcome Stress

The source of most of the anxiety that comes with public speaking comes from the fact that we sometimes focus too much on ourselves.

Here are 3 tips that can help you be more at ease speaking in front of a group.

1. Know Where You’re Headed

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You already know a lot about the subject you’re going to be talking about—otherwise, why would you be speaking to the group in the first place.

Yet a brief outline is a good idea when speaking in front of a group, just as a map is a good idea when taking a trip. An outline will keep you headed in the right direction.

Write down ahead of time your main points and a few supporting thoughts. Don’t write things word-for-word—just a few brief words to remind you.

When you know what you’re going to say, you’ll focus more on your audience and less on what you’ll say next. This will help you relax.

2. Help Your Listeners

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To conquer your stage fright, you need to focus on those to whom you’re talking—your audience.

If you’re speaking at a conference, for example, you’re wanting to be informative or motivate those in attendance to take some sort of action.

Instead of being overly concerned about what you’ll say, try to focus your mind on your objective—helping others.

Really, the majority of the time, at least one of your objectives is to help those listening in some way.

Even if you’re pitching an idea to a potential client that would result in income for you, you’re really offering to provide a service or product that will benefit them, their business, or their clients.

Instead of merely focusing on the financial benefits to you, concentrate on how what you’re saying will help them.

Stop selling to them—talk to them.

Showing concern for your listeners and having their interests in mind will help you to focus on them more, and on you less. You won’t be as self-conscious and your interest in them will show in your face and tone of voice.

3. Your Audience Is Nicer Than You Think

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Your audience is probably not plotting your demise as you stand up to talk to them.

Most of them have had to speak in front of a group in the past, so they no doubt remember how stressful it is. They want you to succeed.

Also, remember that the reason you’re speaking to them in the first place is likely because you have something useful to convey; something valuable to share. Again, focus on that fact.

Keep these things in mind and you’ll be less self-conscious and more relaxed.

Just the Tip of the Iceburg

While overcoming stress and your nerves is an important part of being a good public speaker, it’s really just one aspect.

I’d like your feedback. What is the most difficult part of public speaking for you?

Take our poll

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