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Four Part Series on Public Speaking: Speaker Anxiety

In this four part series, we will delve into tips and tricks helping you brush up on your public speaking skills. Topics will include an introduction into public speaking, preparation for your speech, the execution, and overcoming anxiety.

Although most people a get a butterfly or two when preparing to take the stage for a public speaking engagement, some people experience a much stronger effect. If the thought of speaking in front of a group of people has your mind racing, knees shaking, palms sweating, and heart racing then there is a pretty good chance you experience speaker anxiety. If these symptoms sound familiar, you are not alone; it is estimated that about 60% of the U.S. population experiences some form of speaking anxiety according to Psychology Today.

While speaker anxiety can feel debilitating, there are steps you can take to decrease your fear to slowly are surely overcome your anxiety leading you to become a confident public speaker. The tips listed in our previous blog posts are very helpful to someone facing speaker’s anxiety. There are, however, a few additional tools you can use to help yourself work through speaker’s fear:

-First and foremost, remember to be gentle with yourself as your start this process. Overcoming your anxiety will not happen overnight so remember to treat yourself how you would treat your best friend by supporting yourself, using kind words toward yourself, and remembering to look for your small achievements.

Psychology Today recommends taking the time to write down the aspects that specifically scare you about public speaking. This allows you to acknowledge and eventually accept the root of your fear so you can work on improving it. You cannot change something you do not acknowledge.

– Although it is not always possible, especially in a work setting, University of Pittsburg recommends you try to pick a topic you know really well or you are very passionate about. This can help your rhythm when you take the stage and decrease some of your anxiety about audience questions or losing your train of thought. If you are excited, the audience will get excited. A little positive energy can make all the difference in the world when it comes to talking in front of a crowd.

Psychology Today suggests taking control over your nervousness by not letting nervousness about your anxiety make you more nervous for the public speaking event. This is much easier said than done but by working to break the chain of nervousness over time your anxiety should lessen making you feel more confident in a public speaking situation.

Toastmasters recommends thinking of your event as a conversation, not a performance. To do this, you can practice your speech while sitting on a couch with a friend, making a point to refer to your audience as “you” to make the presentation feel more colloquial, and, finally, remember to make eye contact with your audience.

-On the day of the event, Stanford University suggests anxious speakers should eat a healthy breakfast, try to get as much rest as possible, and not drink more caffeine than they are used to. By establishing control of the situation early in the day, you are standing up to your fears which may decrease the amount of anxiety felt prior to giving your speech. Also, a little food and your morning cup of coffee may help take the edge off and causing you to feel more relaxed before your event.

University of Pittsburg recommends trying to fit in a workout the morning before your speech to help lower anxiety causing hormones and decrease stress.

-Most of all, remember to look for improvement, not perfection as you work through your speaking anxiety. Psychology Today encourages anxious speakers to remember gaining confidence and overcoming their anxiety is a long-term goal with occasional setbacks along the way. It is important to celebrate the small victories as they come even if you were not perfect because, honestly, there is no such thing as a perfect speech.

Overcoming public speaking anxiety can feel insurmountable but with practice, a good attitude, and commitment to continually try to do better the next time you can, indeed, rise above your anxiety and become a confident public speaker.

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