As a professional public speaker and communication trainer, I have had to learn how to manage my public speaking anxiety, an anxiety that used to be severe . Here's some strategies that work.
For many people the thought of speaking in front of a crowd causes worry, panic, and anxiety. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as stage fright. As a professional public speaker and communication trainer, I have had to learn how to manage my public speaking anxiety, an anxiety that used to be severe. Yet with adequate preparation, you can overcome the severe symptoms of stage fright and become a better presenter. In this post, I share five helpful tips for managing your speech anxiety.
Reframe Your Nervousness
The thought of public speaking sends many people into a nervous frenzy. But as Mindvalley argues, nerves are may be a good thing. In fact, Mindvalley references studies that show that speaking performance often improves when people are under moderate amounts of stress. So think of nervousness as a secret weapon providing you with extra adrenaline, energy, and motivation to nail your presentation.
Practice with an Audience
Citing a study by psychologist Robert Zajonc, Adam Grant argues that you should practice your presentation in front of other people. The study found that the mere presence of other people raises our stress levels. Practicing in front of others will allow you to gradually become more comfortable delivering your presentation. Obviously, you can gather feedback that will help you iron out any kinks.
Use Relaxation Tactics
Joseph Guarino suggests several tactics to decrease feelings of stress and anxiety before a presentation. One is visualization, an exercise that allows you to form a mental image of a calming situation to redirect your energy away from your anxiety. For example, when you are feeling stressed, try imagining a peaceful island. This can help you clear your mind from anxiety leading up to your presentation.
Think of Public Speaking as a Skill
Mindvalley says it is useful to think of public speaking as a skill and not as a talent. Talents may be innate but are particularly honed with practice. This mindset encourages you to work on improving your public speaking rather than simply accepting it as something you’re simply not good at.
Seek Out Feedback
Adam Grant talks about being fairly satisfied with his first speech before he read the feedback from his audience, which consisted of comments such as “Try not to be so nervous. You looked like a Muppet and it seemed like you memorized every single sentence for the presentation.” His story serves as an example of how nerves can damage a presentation, but also how feedback can help you identify areas of improvement. To the same point, Guarino adds that while criticism is important, speakers should “avoid the ‘beating yourself up’ approach and instead opt for constructive, positive feedback on how you can improve.” Gather as much feedback as possible as it can be essential to improving your skills.
Public speaking anxiety won’t go away overnight, but it can go away by practicing these tips. You can manage symptoms of public speaking anxiety and actually look at nerves as a motive to make a presentation great.
Dr. Craig Engstrom is certified Associate Professional Talent Development and career expert. He is the founder of Communication@Work LLC, which provides a variety of professional development services to students, professionals, and executives.