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How To Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

Physical Things You Can Do

How to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

Exercise

Many successful public speakers strongly endorse the power of exercise. Tony Robbins particularly encourages the healthy state of mind and endorphins triggered by psychical activity. Although you shouldnt exhaust yourself before a presentation, light exercise can help relieve muscle tension and boost confidence. Muscle relaxation techniques and yoga are great exercises to practice before a speech. Its also a great way to spend your time in the build-up to a presentation, rather than counting down the minutes.

Breathe

Correct breathing isnt only important for singers, its a vital consideration for anyone using their voice. Breathlessness is a common sign of anxiety. And in the high tension situation of public speaking, our breath is the first thing to falter. Learn in advance how to control your breathing by practising techniques and knowing how to utilise your diaphragm. First, calm your breath and a calm mind will soon follow.

Meditate

Even short regular meditations can have a huge effect on the brain. It is a popular modern-day lifestyle choice endorsed by numerous public speakers, like news presenter Dan Harris. His use of a five-minute meditation technique lessened his anxiety on camera and reduced panic attacks. The act of sitting still and emptying your mind is very simple. Its a great rest for your brain before it faces the stress of public speaking.

Pause And Take Deep Breaths

This simple advice cannot be emphasized enough. When you’re nervous, you breathe rapidly and shallowly. This is telling the audience that you’re not confident. Slow and measured breathing is a sign that you’re in control.

Before you go to the front of the room, concentrate on taking a few slow breaths. Repeat this several times. When you start to speak, remember to pause and breathe after you make a point.

Itâs important to remember that there is nothing wrong with a bit of silence during a speech. It can actually be a good thing and bring emphasis to what youâve just said. Be aware that on stage, pausing for just a few seconds can seem like a very long time â resist the urge to break the silence for at least 3 seconds.

New Therapies To Consider

Research studies indicate that most people who have social anxiety disorders also experience public speaking anxiety.16 Depending on the extent of your problem, there are yet other options you can explore to overcome your anxiety:

  • Sign up for a public speaking course such as the ones offered by Toastmasters International and get professional guidance.17
  • An emerging mode of psychotherapeutic treatment is Virtual Reality Therapy , where volunteers affected by public speaking anxiety undergo treatment and evaluation in a virtual environment.18

From simple, self-help procedures to professional therapy, there are a host of options you can consider to get over public speaking anxiety. Even as you explore these to determine whats best for you, look out for opportunities to speak in public, as this will help you get desensitized. As you practice, each experience will push those anxiety bogeys further away.19 Good luck with that speech!

References

Harris, Sandra R., Robert L. Kemmerling, and Max M. North. Brief virtual reality therapy for public speaking anxiety. Cyberpsychology & behavior 5, no. 6 : 543-550.
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How I Overcame The Fear Of Public Speaking

By Adam Grant

Several years ago, I was invited to give my first public speech, and I made the mistake of saying yes. I was terrified: as a student, my heart used to race at the mere thought of raising my hand in class. For weeks beforehand, I had nightmares about forgetting my lines, waking up in a cold sweat. No matter how much I practiced, for the three days leading up to the speech, I could hardly breathe.

During the speech, nothing went terribly wrong. I was relieved until I read the feedback from the audience. Here were some highlights:

  • Try not to be so nervous. You looked like a Muppet and it seemed like you memorized every single sentence for the presentation.
  • It seems like youre reading off a teleprompter. Breathe! Too mechanical.
  • You were so tense that you were causing me to physically shake in my seat.

In the past year and a half, Ive given over 100 keynote speeches and hundreds of presentations, and things have changed dramatically. I still get nervous occasionally, but public speaking is now one of my favorite activities. Here are the five steps that have been most helpful in reducing my anxiety:

Instead of saying I am calm, people gave more compelling speeches when they said I am excited. The same was true when people were anxious before singing Journeys Dont Stop Believin, saying Im excited led to more accurate karaoke performance on than saying Im calm.

My next step is to work on improving my breathing with my uncle, Darth Vader.

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How to overcome fear of public speaking

The bottom line is that if something scares you, you will avoid it, and if you avoid it, you will not get enough practice, and when you dont get enough practice, you will not get better at it, and if you are not getting better at it, you will continue to be afraid of it. This cycle of fear can go on and on. But it doesnt have to. With the number of options available, it is up to you to decide when and how to break this cycle of fear of public speaking.

LinkedIn Image Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock

References

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Nine Ways To Help Reduce Presentation Anxiety

Some people rank the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of death! It is very real and can be debilitating. Even billionaire Warren Buffett admits that he was “terrified” of public speaking early in his career. He decided that to reach his full potential, he had to overcome his fear of it. If you are faced with a similar challenge, there are several techniques to help you overcome your fears.

David Greenberg, president and CEO of Simply Speaking and author of the bestseller Simply Speaking! The No-Sweat Way to Prepare and Deliver Presentations, is a foremost expert on this topic. He has been coaching and training leaders from top companies to transform their presentations since 1988.

Greenberg offers nine helpful strategies to eliminate presentation or “speech” anxiety.

Behaviours You Can Practice

Rehearse

This seems like obvious advice, but the importance of practice should not be underestimated. Repeat your speech until its not just memorised but internalised. Start by simply watching yourself in the mirror as you speak. How are your facial expressions? Do you use hand gestures? Is your body language calm and welcoming?

Then record your voice. Notice its patterns and flow, whether you speak too fast or too slow, and if your voice is loud or quiet, and at which parts of the speech. Become aware of your body and its behaviour, and you will naturally adapt and relax it.

Finally, practice to your friends, family, colleague, even your pets. Then take all their honest criticism, questions and feedback. Engage your speech in a social environment and see how it thrives or dives.

Speaking exercises

Check out these 60 speech therapy sentences. Most of them are extremely simple. But by repeating a single sentence, you can learn to influence your voice. Say the same words with different emotion happy, sad, angry and see how the meaning alters with varying tones.

Practice difficult sentences and struggle not to stumble over the words. Repeat red lorry, yellow lorry and try to speed up over time. Or refine your articulation of this tongue twister:

You know New York,

You need New York,

You know you need unique New York.

Manipulation of your voice is a fantastic skill to learn before speaking publically.

Rejection Therapy

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Ways To Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

Wobbly knees. A thudding heart. And a blank mind. Oh, the horror of stage fright! Public speaking anxiety aka glossophobia is more widespread than you would think.1 Whether youre a student or an older adult working your way up the career ladder, public speaking anxiety can negatively impact your life by disabling your capacity to communicate effectively.

But then, worry not. There are ways and ways to get over the fear of making what is, after all, just a speech!

Help For Public Speaking Anxiety

How to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

We want our brains to be alert to danger. The worry of having a brain freeze increases our anxiety. Ironically, it increases the likelihood of our minds going blank as Dr. DeGeorgia described. We need to recognize that the fear of brain freezing isnt a life-or-death threat like a car barreling towards us while in a crosswalk.

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Do A Bit Of Soul Searching

Sometimes, we get stuck on an idea we have of ourselves that is left over from when we were younger or less experienced, and this idea inhibits us from realizing how awesome weve become. In other words, when you start to tell yourself that you cant do something, or that you are bad at X or Y , check whether youre basing this on who you actually are nowor who you were five years ago.

Ramit Sethi, founder of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, talks a lot about how invisible scriptsdeeply-held notions that affect the way we make decisions on a daily basisshape our lives. Problem is, these scripts are often outdated and misguided.

One of the scripts that was running through my mind each time I got up to speak in front of an audience was that I didnt know enough to be interesting. And, sure, that was probably true when I was 20but now that Ive worked in several countries, built a marketing department from the ground up, founded a successful community of professional women, and written for several publications? Not so much. I had a hugely outdated idea of myself in my head, and it was preventing me from moving forward.

So, consider whether you might be doing the same thing to yourself with public speaking .

Try Some Calming Techniques

People suffer from varying levels of nerves, but if youve been tasked with a work presentation, a couple of handy techniques can help to calm you on the day.

Remind yourself that the people in the room want to listen to you and what you have to say, says Paul Russell, a Doctor of Psychology and managing director of soft skills training firm, Luxury Academy .

You could try putting a picture of a person that helps you to feel calm on the podium in front of you, and any time you feel nervous, pretend you are talking to them.

Alternatively, he says you could pick two people in the audience, on opposite sides of a row, towards the middle of the room, and speak directly to them. This, he says, makes it looks like youre speaking to the entire room.

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Turn Anxiety Into Energy

When it comes to public speaking one of the best ways to overcome anxiety and nervousness is to USE the energy that your body generates as a result of you being so nervous.

One of the coolest things about being anxious is that our bodies produce various chemicals when we anticipate something were afraid of.

And this actually results in an increased amount of adrenaline and energy. But most people are too busy being afraid to actually think about channeling their anxiety into energy and enthusiasm.

The key is to use this energy when it arises to connect with your audience and deliver your message with power and purpose.

Why Do We Have This Fear

Learn how to overcome your fear of Public Speaking with ...

Let’s discuss how this fear comes about and why so many of us fear speaking in public. Understanding the root cause will hopefully help you deal with it better.

In the book, “Confessions of a Public Speaker” by Scott Berkun, he suggests that our brains identify the following four conditions as extremely bad for survival:

  • Standing alone
  • In an open territory with no place to hide
  • Being without a weapon
  • In front of a large crowd who are staring at you

These conditions made sense during the early years of humans. Being alone, or without a weapon for example, could have been very dangerous with wild animals and other fierce tribes nearby.

There conditions happen to all be experienced during public speaking. Youâre often alone on a stage, open to the audience who are looking at you, without a weapon and with nowhere to hide .

So what exactly can you do to gradually overcome the fear of public speaking? Here are key tips that you can apply before, during and after the speech.

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Why Do I Get Anxiety When Public Speaking

Heres the bad news: Our brains have transferred that ancient fear of being watched onto public speaking. In other words, public-speaking anxiety is in our DNA. We experience public speaking as an attack. We physiologically register an audience as a threatening predator and mount a comparable response.

Train With A Professional

Nothing beats personal, one-on-one training, so you may want to work with a presentation coach or mentor. He or she will provide hands-on training and will be able to review your presentation to help you:

  • Develop a rich vocal tone, and a clear speech pattern.
  • Craft your unique presentation into a compelling story.
  • Create engaging, effective slides to enhance your presentation.
  • Prepare for tough questions and confrontations during interviews or Q& A sessions.
  • Practice your presentation in front of a helpful audience.

You will benefit from the confidence and assurance of knowing that you didnt just read the right book, but that youve actually improved as a public speaker. The right coach or mentor will be someone:

  • Whose character and career you admire.
  • Who respects you and believes in your potential.
  • Who is trustworthy and understands the benefit of investing in you.

There are a lot of books, blogs, articles, and classes on the market that will attempt to help you overcome a fear of public speakingand some of them are very helpful. But the truth is, every speaker, every audience, and every presentation are different. Private, personal training with a presentation coach is the only guaranteed way to get you where you need to be.

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Why Are People Scared Of Public Speaking

There are a few factors that play into why everyone experiences some degree of fear regarding speaking in public and why some experience it more than others. Among these are:

  • Your natural composition: Some people are simply more cautious or developed this characteristic early in life. If you are a naturally anxious person around others, you may experience a rapid heartbeat or sweaty palms in front of a group, but that doesn’t mean you cant overcome your fears.
  • Preconceived notions: Sometimes when you worry over what you consider to be a weakness, you can actually convince yourself that its true. If a memory or story you heard makes you anxious, you could be working against yourself unnecessarily. If you had one bad experience speaking in front of a group, you may fear repeating that same experience in a future speaking engagement.
  • Lack of experience: As with anything else, improvement comes with practice. The more you speak in public, the more easily it will come to you.

Read more: 10 Tips for Giving a Great Presentation

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