Staring down your fears: Using eye contact to conquer public speaking

DENVER, Colo. - Public speaking is one of the biggest fears. About 7 percent people in the U.S. have the fear, that's about 27 million Americans. But there are some steps you can take in your everyday life to beat the fear for good.

This is the moment Anyeik Artis and all her classmates will see if she's overcome her fear of public speaking.

"My name is Anyeik and my speech is about what we think we are," Artis says. "It's all about the mindset you choose to be in that will determine your outcomes in life."

She stuck to her notes and gave personal examples.

"My goal in life was to go to college when I was in high school," Artis explains.

Eventually the notes were gone and the speech ended much differently than it began.

"Not everybody is going to be the same because our thoughts are so different," Artis says in closing. "So thank you."

She made it back to her seat relieved.

"I kept shaking but I got through it.," Artis says.

Then, she waited for feedback.

"There was way less fidgeting," said Oldile Fazioni, Artis' teacher at Community College of Denver. "You were more present, you were really looking at us strong with the strong eye contact."

Fazioni helps her students overcome their fears. The first step is a starting exercise, where students make eye contact with their audience one person at a time.

"Try to change the speech from a speech to the audience to a conversation with that person," Fazioni says.

Next, she teaches students to be in touch with their bodies. It works by consciously feeling your hands and feet to take attention away from the fears in your mind and become more present. But the biggest key she says is concentrating on content.

"The moment that the student is able to move away from the mind and into the verbal message and making sure that it is clear I see a huge shift in the confidence of the students," Fazoni says.

And lastly, celebrate! Recognize how far you've come, even if you're not perfect.

"Let's value the mistakes just as much as we value the success because through the mistake or through their fault we really learned to become better speakers," Fazioni says.

Fazioni says you don't have to be in a class to try these things out. You can practice in small group conversations. So when that big speech does come, you'll be ready.     

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