Defeating Public Speaking Anxiety

public-speakingUh oh! All eyes are on you and it’s time to address the audience….Will I forget what I have to say? Will I stumble over my words? Is there something stuck between my teeth? Yes, it’s true that all of these questions and more may have popped in your head right before speaking in public. You might wonder if you are the only one who has felt anxious about public speaking, but the truth is you’re not alone. Whether it is delivering that graduation speech, giving a presentation for your fellow students or simply raising your hand in class, public speaking is anxiety provoking. Sure, politicians may make it look easy, but don’t let them fool you! They were once in your shoes and even the most experienced public speakers still get nervous. So how do you shake the nerves and deliver your message clearly? Well, here are some easy tips to help you:

  • Practice: It sounds cliché, but practice makes perfect. The more you are comfortable with what you are going to say, the more natural you will sound in public. Visualize yourself speaking with confidence. If it is a speech or a presentation, make sure you time yourself…more than once. There is nothing more anxiety provoking than having too much time left over or not enough time to get through all your points.
  • Know your audience: It’s important to know your audience so you can engage them most effectively. Are you speaking to people knowledgeable on the subject? Will they be interested in what you’re saying? Is it a small group or a large crowd? Knowing the answers to these questions will inform you of how to best connect with your audience.
  • Get comfortable with your environment: Knowing the surroundings of where you are speaking is crucial to being an effective public speaker. Giving a PowerPoint presentation? Make sure the projection screen works. Passing out handouts? Make sure you have enough for everyone. These are easy steps you can take to make your talk go smoothly and anxiety-free.
  • Breathe: It seems simple, but by remembering to speak slowly and take deep breathes while talking you will lower your heart rate and therefore lower your stress. Practicing relaxation breathing techniques or a moment of meditation before you start speaking will go a long way in cooling your nerves.
  • Good luck! Most of all it is important to just be yourself and enjoy the moment. Sure, having all eyes on you is scary, but if you did all the above steps you are more prepared than you think! Remember that every audience member was in your position at one point and just as nervous. More than likely you are going to do great and if not, hey people will forget about it by tomorrow anyways right?

Remember, following these steps won’t completely take away all of your anxiety. However, the hope is you will be prepared enough to deliver your message effectively and without being a nervous-wreck. Good luck and go get em!

– Wil