Updated: Nov 6, 2020
How many times have you had an important message to share where right before you stand up to speak, your palms get sweaty, your stomach starts turning and then that dreaded dry mouth kicks in. It's not ideal but it means you care about your message.
If you do, there will always be an underlying anxiety every time you present.
Public speaking anxiety, also known as glossophobia, is one of the most commonly reported social fears. The number one cause of your speaking anxiety is simple, uncertainty.
Here are some proven techniques that will help you use your fear as fuel and manage your public speaking anxiety:
Become more conscious of your feelings
One of the ways you can overcome your speaking anxiety is by becoming more aware of the warning signs of anxiety so you can intervene early. Think of anxiety as a wave. If you wait too long to react, the wave is going to overtake you.
What feelings and physical reactions do you experience when anxiety hits? Do your hands begin to shake? Do you have a sick feeling in your stomach? Does your chest begin to tighten?
Tune into your body to explore when the feelings begin. The earlier you notice the anxiety, the more time you have to do something about it.
Don’t write out your script
Another strategy for dealing with speaking anxiety is to stop writing out scripts for your presentations. You might think, “But wait! I need my script so that I don’t forget anything!” However, using a script can actually contribute to feelings of anxiety.
Of course, you need to practice what you’re going to say as much as possible. But don’t become too obsessive about remembering everything word for word. If you do, anxiety will set in the second you forget exactly how you phrased something the week or the night before.
If the only way you can present effectively is by memorizing a script, you’re setting yourself up for an avalanche of anxiety if you forget something. The solution is to be prepared with a general structure and key points to your presentation, but give yourself room to speak off the cuff too. When you stop obsessing over scripts, you’ll feel freer and less anxious. And don’t be afraid to use technology as a tool in speech prompting!
Build rhythm into your speaking
I once worked with a student who constantly paced whenever he spoke. When I asked him why he paced so much, he told me that the rhythm of pacing calmed him down. While it was good that he found a solution to deal with his speaking anxiety, he found the wrong solution. Yes, he was calm, but his audiences were irritated! It’s hard to focus on what someone is saying if you’re distracted by their constant movement.
Rhythm can indeed be a great way of dealing with speaking anxiety, but instead of pacing, use rhythm in your speaking by using repetition. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself, especially if you’re repeating key messages critical to your presentation. Repetition in speaking is not only okay, it’s necessary to help your audience retain your message.
By using rhythm, you’ll get into a flow that will help prevent anxiety from setting in.
Control your breathing
One of the best ways you can deal with speaking anxiety is by controlling your breathing. Focus on your exhales. By taking small sips of air on inhales and extending your exhales, you will start to calm down.
This method of breathing will take practice, but trust me, I’ve seen it make an incredible difference for people who struggle with speaking anxiety.
The audience wants you to succeed
If you start to get anxious, reassure yourself that the audience is on your side. The vast majority of people want your presentation to be a success. So if you mess up, don’t panic—just carry on and imagine you can hear the audience’s sigh of relief. They are in your corner.
Whether your speaking anxiety comes in the form of occasional jitters or constant dread, don’t let that stop you from communicating your ideas with power and purpose. By using these strategies, you’ll become less anxious and more focused on being your best in every speaking situation.
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