The main fear that people have while public speaking is the "fear of judgement" when they speak, and not the inabilty or incompetence for speaking. We fear being perceived as inferior or foolish. Tackling this fear is our main challenge.
Imagine you've seen a film with your friends & then start discussing it on the way back home. Each person may have a different opinion.Y'all share your feelings & experience. It's just an expression of your thoughts. You don't have to feel bad about it.
Most of public speaking is similar.We are just conveying our thoughts in a friendly & understandable manner. You sre just navigating through your own mind & sharing it with others.They are free to accept or reject it. It doesn't have to feel like a personal insult.
(Sidenote -Of course this isn't about ignoring opinions or criticism while forming your ideologies,beliefs & thoughts. This is pertaining only to basic public speaking & conversations that you have with peers , after you form your informed opinions & thoughts)
Realize that others are not as bothered about you as you think.
This is just a few minutes in the life of the listener..they will go on with other things in their life..even if you embarass yourself. If you keep fearing it, you'll just keep increasing the chances of a mistake.
Being yourself is important.
If you are trying to put on an act, it will get unnecessarily more difficult to focus on your actual task of giving the talk. Whether you are silly,strict,humorous or grumpy... just be you
Knowledge helps to keep things flowing.
You'll naturally be able to talk more confidently about a topic that you know well. Gathering information regularly & understanding your topic can help you steer the conversation back even if you stray away.
This is applicable to both, one-sided talks & general discussions amongst peers. Staying updated on your niche/topic can help you search through info you already know,instead of analysing & figuring out stuff during the conversation
Familiarity instills confidence
If it is a pre-decided talk,then putting effort into practising often is essential. The more you repeat the same sequence of points, the more comfortable you'll get with it. This will translate into appearing confident about your content.
But don't do so in a monotonous & mechanical manner. Talking to yourself, friends you are comfortale with ,recording selfies,etc. can help you reinforce the info & let you evaluate the places that you seem to be struggling with. It can also help you find your own natural style.
Body language matters
Sometimes appearing confident will actually trick you into feeling confident. Things like having proper posture,being well-groomed, having control over your body language, choosing an attire that is comfortable,etc. can portray yourself well
If you feel really tensed about maintaining eye-contact with a crowd, here are 2 things you can try:
glance at the forehead & above of the audience. It can make it seem to them like you are gently maintaining eye-contact,while avoiding the discomfort for you.
have some friends sit at random places amongst the crowd & just look at them instead while you talk. Another option is to even find some objects in the venue that are at the same level as the audience, & look at them at times,in the general direction of the audience.
It's alright to pause.
It is not a sign of ignorance. Pacing yourself aptly & giving small pauses can help you regain composure & also let your audience process the info better. You don't have to pressurize yourself into eliminating all pauses.
Questions & Notes
Asking questions. If you feel you need a break to calm your nerves,then just drop a simple question to the audience. Ask if they have understood things so far. Or if anyone wants you to cover a previous topic again,etc. Anything that puts the focus onto others for a short span.
Try to keep things simple. You can have notes with a short list of points. Then just explain them like a normal conversation, and in your own words. Avoiding unnecessary jargon & narrating things in layman terms,can often be more relatable & make it easier on you.
Simple exercise to improve
A good exercise is to try & turn simple everyday task into your own TED talk. Randomly start talking to yourself in the sower about the day you had, or to your pet while cooking. It can make your speech more fluent,& improve your ability to focus on your train of thought.
I've had my own struggles with public speaking when i was young. The above points helped me overcome them. Just sharing them in the hopes that it can be helpful to others as well.
Pls don't hesitate to send me a DM on Twitter ( @notAnotherVivek ) if you want any help regarding this. We can improve together.