Many college students fear public speaking more than falling into a pit of snakes, being attacked by an alligator or swimming with sharks. I had a frustrated student stop by my office one morning. He was majoring in engineering and had been pursuing his degree for over 6 years. He shared a story of attempting to take the public speaking course several times and becoming overwhelmed with the fear of giving a speech in front of a student audience. He decided that the course I was teaching was his last chance. After experiencing several failures, he made the decision to give up his engineering career if he did not pass my speech class. I told him that success in my course was possible. I also informed him that you can’t eliminate some anxiety that goes with giving a speech. I further explained that there are several ways to manage public speaking anxiety.
There are many ways to manage the fear of presenting a speech. Here’s my Top 10 list of suggestions:
1. Try power posing. Prior to your presentation, find a private location and stand with a powerful posture. For example, think of the pose used by Wonder Woman or Superman. The power posing researchers indicate that standing for a few minutes with a powerful posture will leave you more confident when it comes time to speak.
2. Take a few minutes to locate the room where you are speaking, check out the lighting and the technology. Fear of the unknown increases anxiety. I remember attending a convention in a large Detroit hotel. In the evening I visited the room where I was presenting the next day. I also saw other presenters checking out their presentation rooms. I was more comfortable the next day because I was familiar with the room environment and technology.
3. Get some exercise. Medical research demonstrates the value of daily exercise in reducing anxiety. On the day of your presentation, take a brisk walk or do some exercises to help you relax. But don’t overdo it. You don’t want to appear to your audience like you just finished a marathon.
4. Avoid caffeine. Energy drinks, coffee and too much dark chocolate for some speakers will increase their anxiety. Nervous gestures, voice and problems with your outline can be the result of too much caffeine in you diet.
5. Take a few deep breaths. Taking deep breaths will lower your pulse rate. Taking a few deep breaks before presenting will help you to relax.
6. Keep breathing. Emergency specialist say that many victims of a trauma stop their regular breathing habits. They often instruct the victim to focus on their breathing and move back to a regular breathing pattern. If your speech is a traumatic experience for you, then its important to think about your breathing patterns.
7. Pause for a minute. Professional speakers use this technique. It’s okay to pause for a minute or two before beginning your speech. It’s a great way to get your mind focused on the speech outline and away from your anxious feelings.
8. Use positive affirmations. Our minds work like a stage. You can’t hold positive and negative thoughts on the stage of your mind at the same time. The negative thoughts will push the positive ones off the stage. Think positive thoughts. Imagine your audience giving you a standing ovation at the end of your presentation.
9. View nurturing pictures. Recent research indicates that viewing nurturing, caring, positive pictures will increase your confidence and reduce anxiety. Locate a picture of a family member or friend, or your pet dog or cat. Focus a couple of minutes on the pictures and watch your speech anxiety melt away.
10. Practice, Practice, Practice and then practice some more. Practicing is the best way to manage your anxiety. Professional speakers rehearse their speeches 10-12 times.
Public speaking anxiety is a way of life for many presenters. Learn to channel the anxiety into energy in your presentation. The next time you are feeling speech anxiety, think about the many ways that you can use to manage that anxiety and present a great speech.