Seven Tips to Help You Master Your Public Speaking Anxiety!

It is completely natural to feel anxious before you speak.  Why would you feel relaxed!? It can be nerve-racking to speak in front of people.  We get in trouble when we fight our anxiety rather than accept it.  Here are a few tips to help you control your public speaking tension:

  1. Develop a routine of doing some progressive relaxation each day.  Take a few moments each day to close your eyes, and scan through your body noticing physical tension.  Just notice.  Start at your scalp and move to your toes.  You may find simply bringing attention in a non-judgemental way to your physical tension helps relieve it.
  2. Try to reframe your anxiety rather than eliminate it.  Anxiety cannot be forced away, but if we accept it is happening, we can redirect it.  As anxious feelings arise, try telling yourself “I feel scared, but also excited.  This is an opportunity to work on presenting.”  The more you can label your fear as excitement, the better off you will be.
  3. If you are speaking to a large audience, see the trees for the forest!  By this, I mean learn to speak to one person in the crowd at a time.  This may help you to see the audience as individuals, rather than a large group, and lessen your stress.
  4. Consider using an icebreaker.  A good icebreaker could be an interesting question, an informal poll, a well-timed joke, or a short story.  
  5. Make small talk with your audience before you speak – idle chit-chat is a wonderful speaking tool.  If your audience is small, shake hands with some folks, and ask some meaningful questions before you present.  Getting to know the audience personally will turn your SPEECH into a DISCUSSION.  A  discussion is infinitely more relaxing than a speech.
  6. Slow your rate of speech down, especially at the top of the speech.  Take plenty of time to breathe, and clarify your thoughts.
  7. Prepare thoroughly! If you know your audience and your subject inside and out, you will feel much more relaxed about presenting! Bear in mind, it’s ok to have notes in front of you as you speak.

Power Posing and Presenting

As a public speaking coach I talk a lot about how non-verbal communication impacts a speaker’s audience.  But can powerful non-verbal communication make you feel more confident while speaking?  The short answer is yes.

Amy Cuddy’s TED talk above demonstrates how certain poses influence the way we feel.  Wide or open gestures tend to boost our testosterone and our endorphins, while closed gestures tend to increase cortisol levels (stress hormones) in our body.  This is good news for those of you that feel uncomfortable presenting.  By taking a “fake it until you make it” approach, you can learn to develop more confidence.  Check out the video above, and try some of the 2 minute “posing” exercises before you speak.  Research suggests that over a period of time you will gain more confidence, and lower your public speaking anxiety.