Public speaking anxiety
Not everyone suffers from public speaking anxiety........... but most people do. What differs is the level of anxiety and the tools used to manage it.
Ask people to name some of their biggest fears, and there is a strong chance that speaking in public will feature somewhere near the top. Isn't it funny though, how we tend to imagine we are really the only one who is struggling with nerves, and everyone else is cool calm and collected. If only!
Tips for dealing with public speaking anxiety
Self-talk and self visualisations
The inner conversations you have with yourself have as big
an impact on your public speaking anxiety and confidence as the conversations you have with
others. Maybe bigger.
Notice how you phrase things when you talk to yourself. Are
they positive or negative? Are they replaying past failures or past successes?
Are you looking forward and thinking about the action you will take?
Avoid dwelling on the past, going over old mistakes and failures; it achieves
nothing and can lower your confidence.
Beware of exaggeration. Some people have a tendency to
exaggerate or dramatise what might happen. Don’t. Be realistic. If you talk to a nervous presenter shortly before they are due to speak they are often imagining all sorts of doomsday scenarios. No wonder they are nervous - their brain believes it to be true.
Focus your attention on your audience
You are there to get your message across to the audience. Focus you attention on them and look for signs that you are getting your message across. Paying attention to meeting the needs of your audience is good practice for any presenter, but is also a very good way to help with public speaking anxiety.
The more space you take up, the more you show others you are
significant. Notice how people who are not feeling confident tend to make themselves smaller in an attempt to not be noticed. Taking up a reasonable amount of space will show that you are
confident and help you feel significant.
- Stand or sit tall to use vertical space
- Hold your arms away from your body – swing them
slightly when walking. When sitting, rest arms or elbows on the arms of chairs,
put an arm on tables etc
- Stand with feet slightly apart
Take three deep breaths.
If we are nervous or stressed, we have a tendency to breathe
more shallowly. This increases tension and fuels our nerves.
and deep breathing will:
- help to calm you
- send more oxygen to the
brain and keep you more alert to what is happening – enabling you to stay
- keep the pitch and tone of
your voice at warmer, easier to listen to levels
Confident people don’t need artificial spaces or barriers.
- Face people – don’t stand facing another
- Don’t stand behind barriers – desks, lecterns,
tables etc., if you are able to avoid it.
- Keep your hands away from your face
- Speak smoothly – not too fast or too slowly
- Move in a smooth, purposeful manner
Bite your tongue
Literally: but only if you have to. Public speaking anxiety often causes our mouths to feel really dry. If this happens to you, a really useful tip is to gently bite you tongue, which generates saliva.
Never apologise for being nervous.
Your audience only know you are nervous if you tell or show them. Remember: they probably don't feel comfortable presenting themselves and so will tend to be sympathetic to some nerves.
Need help to conquer public speaking anxiety?
See me on a live Google hangout being interviewed about presentation nerves.