A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak during a team meeting at my new job and I completely fumbled. Usually I’m fairly confident with public speaking, but on this particular day, I was not 🙂 I wish I had read some public speaking tips for anxiety before this day.
As I began to speak, my mind started racing with thoughts of impending doom and before I knew it, I forgot what I was talking about.
I spoke a few sentences of gibberish before I almost stopped breathing entirely, and I spent the rest of the day feeling defeated and embarrassed.
Have you experienced something like this before?
If so, you’re not alone. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that severe presentation anxiety “affects about 73% of the population” and that public speaking is “the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders or heights”. 
That day, instead of deciding that I’m a terrible public speaker and vowing to avoid public speaking for the rest of my life, I looked at this experience as a growth opportunity.
It was clear that I had some room for growth in the public speaking department, and so I started searching for public speaking tips for anxiety.
This blog post goes through the various tools and techniques I discovered that will help you overcome your fear of public speaking.
This post is all about 10 calming public speaking tips for anxiety.
1. Prepare for your presentation
Preparing can look like many different things – writing down what you’d like to say during your presentation on notecards, outlining your talking points in a Microsoft Word document, or creating a PowerPoint to accompany you in your presentation.
Preparing before a presentation in ways like this can help your presentation run more smoothly and lessen the chances that you will need to improvise.
Preparing gives you a plan to follow and having a plan of action can help put your mind at ease.
Additionally, if you can anticipate what someone may ask you, then start thinking about or writing down possible answers to those potential questions.
You can’t always assume what questions your audience will ask, but you can make educated guesses based on what your presentation is about.
Anticipating your audience’s questions and rehearsing the answers beforehand will help you prepare for when those questions (or similar ones) are asked when it finally comes time to present.
2. If you can’t prepare, try these two things
What if you don’t have time to prepare? What if you struggle with speaking in team meetings or when you’re put on the spot in front of a bunch of coworkers or classmates?
In cases like these, I recommend a few things:
Ask clarifying questions
Let’s say someone asks you a question and puts you on the spot in front of a group of people, but you aren’t sure how to reply. Instead of getting all worked up and trying to answer right away, you can ask a clarifying question in response first.
For example, if in a meeting your boss asks you to give an update on a project you’re working on, you can reply by saying “sure thing – is there a particular piece of the project you’d like me to give an update on?”.
The answer to this question will help you narrow the focus of your response, so you don’t have to give a broad project update off the top of your head.
Asking clarifying questions can help make public speaking on-the-fly a little easier.
Buy yourself some time
If you aren’t sure how to answer a question, you can buy yourself some time. For example, let’s say your boss asks you a question about something you’re working on.
If you aren’t prepared to answer their question immediately, you can say something like “sure thing, do you mind if I look in to that real quick and you can circle back to me a bit later in the meeting?”
Asking this question will give you time to do research or whatever it is that you need to do in order to answer the question effectively.
3. Practice your presentation and ask for feedback
For situations where you have ample time to prepare, it helps to then practice. Practice on your own a few times, and when you feel like you’ve got a good thing going, have a friend, family member or coworker listen to your presentation.
Openly ask for their constructive feedback and implement any suggestions that make sense to help make your presentation better. If your practice audience has any questions, be sure to take note – their questions can help you test your own knowledge of the topic at hand and help you prepare for possible questions that your audience might ask in the future.
And if you don’t have any one to practice in front of, practice in front of a mirror! At least then you’ll be able to watch how you deliver your presentation.
4. Use affirmations or dance it out
If you haven’t noticed by now, I am BIG on affirmations. I have been in a lot of uncomfortable situations this past year (see my post on the best job interview preparation tips) and affirmations have helped pull me through these situations when my doubts were high.
Affirmations are statements about yourself, in the present tense, that can serve as little reminders of what you are capable of or what’s possible for you.
Here are a few public speaking affirmations from SpiritualityHealth.com :
- Words and thoughts come effortlessly to me.
- Today, I’m making a difference by being brave.
- I’m sincere with my words and going to have great results.
- I am more and more comfortable speaking in front of others.
Before you present or speak in front of others, try repeating affirmations like this to yourself, and watch yourself become more confident.
If affirmations aren’t really your thing, you can try dancing out your nerves. I literally mean dancing around to your favorite music before you have to present, or even just standing up and shaking your hands, feet, etc. as a way to shake out the nervous energy.
If you’ve never tried either of these tactics, they are worth exploring!
5. Say “thanks, but no thanks” to negative, racing thoughts
Have you ever been in a situation where you’re about to speak, and your mind just starts racing with thoughts of the worst possible outcome? Well, the last time this happened to me, I had enough. Instead of just letting those thoughts have a field day in my brain, I told them to “f” off – and it actually helped.
I was sure to “thank” my thoughts first, though. After all, your brain is just trying to protect you, but if the thoughts aren’t helpful, they’re not worth having around.
6. Have a reminder nearby that you can do hard things
Before I had to speak in front of people a few weeks ago, I happened to look over at a picture of myself in my office from when I paid off my debt.
It’s this picture of me and my mom, and in my hands I’m holding the diploma that I eventually paid for in full. It was a proud moment for me, and looking at that picture reminded me that I can do hard things.
Looking at that picture gave me the boost of confidence that I needed before speaking.
Is there a picture of you that brings you this kind of feeling? Maybe it’s your diploma hanging on a wall nearby. Or maybe it’s a letter written to you from a loved one telling you how proud they are of you.
Whatever it is for you, I encourage you to find something like this and keep it nearby for those moments when you start to doubt yourself.
7. Remember that it’s not all about you – it’s usually about the audience and the value you bring them
One of the best ways to rid yourself of speech anxiety is to remind yourself that your presentation isn’t about you, per se — it’s about the audience members. What are you telling them that adds value to their life?
When you’re in front of a crowd, take some pressure off of yourself by reminding yourself that it’s not about you. A lot of stage fright stems from this idea that we’re in front of an audience and all eyes are on us – as if everyone is going to pick you apart.
But really, they just want to hear what you have to say. How will what you have to say add value to them or change their life?
Remember that your oral presentation, whether big or small, isn’t about you, it’s about the message you are relaying.
8. You’re not nervous, you’re excited!
Well… maybe you can trick yourself into thinking this, any way 🙂 When you start feeling the physical symptoms of public speaking anxiety, you may get sweaty palms, your mind may begin to race, and/or your heart rate quickens.
When you notice these signs of nervousness, it can be even more difficult to calm yourself down. So what if instead of trying to calm yourself down, you just call your nervousness, excitement instead?
Excitement sounds a lot more fun than being nervous, and you might find that this lessens your performance anxiety by adding a bit of positive energy to the mix.
Convincing yourself that you are excited instead of nervous may not always be an effective strategy, but the positive self-talk is certainly worth a shot!
9. If you start to panic, speak up
As someone who has suffered from a few panic attacks in my life, one thing I have noticed is that when they are occurring, I am almost non-functioning and it often really confuses the people around me because they don’t know what’s happening.
I’m hear to tell you that if you can’t calm your level of anxiety with deep breaths or positive thinking that it is OK to ask for a second to regroup. If you’re unable to communicate, walk away if you need to.
Now that mental health is slowly becoming more and more destigmatized, people are much more empathetic when they see others struggling. And if they’re not empathetic, they’re not your kind of people any way.
10. Give yourself a pat on the back after
Speaking in front of people isn’t easy. But when you finally get through it, you’ve gotta congratulate yourself. After all, you just did a really hard thing!
You put yourself out there, were vulnerable, and you got out of your comfort zone – you deserve some praise.
Give yourself credit for pushing through moments when you are uncomfortable. After all, being uncomfortable is how we grow into even stronger individuals.
I hope these tips help you for your next public speaking experience. If they do, let me know! Good luck : )
: Spirituality Health: https://www.spiritualityhealth.com/articles/2016/04/25/20-affirmations-public-speaking-ease
: National Social Anxiety Center: https://nationalsocialanxietycenter.com/social-anxiety/public-speaking-anxiety/
This post was all about 10 calming public speaking tips for anxiety.
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