6 Techniques to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

By Emma Serlin
August 21, 2015

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Glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, is greater than the fear of death for 75% of us.

It affects everyone from CEO to student, manager to marketer. Too many of us are filled with dread if told we have to give a presentation or speech, and for most people, this is an inevitable event that will occur in ones’ professional or private life. Therefore, it makes sense to have a robust set of go-to tools to pick up when the presentation request comes rolling in.

So, here are some of our favourite tips for presentation mastery:

1. Practice

This may seem obvious but you’d be surprised at how often this first tip is forgotten in the midst of presentation anxiety. And its essential. Once you have the bones or outline of the presentation, start practicing. Get on your feet, and speak it out loud to an empty room. Practice for friends, practice for the wardrobe, the mirror, the bare walls. This creates neural pathways in your brain, so that it is less of an adjustment, and therefore less scary when you do it for real.

2. Know the message you want to share

Go through your presentation or speech and underline the key messages, words or phrases that you really like or particularly want to share with your audience. You can think of it as if you are placing them, fully formed, in your listeners heads. Use your voice, your volume, your gestures and your facial expressions as additional highlighters to get these points across. If your focus is on what you want to convey, its in the right place.

3. Use a visualisation technique

This is a brilliant way of calming the nerves. It can be done days before or just minutes before a presentation. Close your eyes, imagine getting on to the stage or equivalent, connecting with your audience, and delivering a great, confident presentation. As with tip one—this primes your brain to have a sense of what doing it well feels like, it creates neural pathways, which make it easier to return to. You might find that you get nervous when visualising, that’s great because it means you are really in a place to get the most out of the visualisation.  Simply, calm yourself in that moment, breathing and relaxing your body, taking back control, creating the pathways in your brain that work for you. A few go’s at this and your brain will be where you want it to be. Ready to speak!

4. Connect to your audience

Take the first moment on the stage to connect to your audience, just a few seconds here will make all the difference, as you calm yourself and gather your space. You connect through stillness, and taking that moment to look at your audience, take them in, maybe smile. It’s a few seconds, but trust me, it can be a game changer. This moment of connection is brilliant to remind you of why you are speaking, and who you are speaking to. Just other individuals, like you, who are interested in what you have to say, and want you to do well. 

5. Use your body to send ‘I’m confident’ signals to your brain

Now, you’re up there. You’re in your zone. Use gesture to tell your brain and your audience that you are at ease and that you are enjoying yourself. As we know, the body feedbacks directly to the brain and so when your body is acting relaxed, you will begin to feel relaxed too. You can also try adopting a powerful posture (see Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on this) which has been proven to literally change the chemicals in your brain and body, decreasing cortisol (stress hormone) and increasing testosterone for additional confidence. .

6. Start using positive self talk

Don’t criticise yourself mid speech, picking-up on everything you’re doing wrong, instead, tell yourself you are doing brilliantly, and the audience are loving it. Even if it doesn’t seem entirely true, the positive self talk will boost you up, and get you feeling more confident. Many studies have been done on how we talk to ourselves and how this effects our mood, confidence and happiness levels.

So, next time you know you have a presentation or speech around the corner, and the old feeling unease settles in, take a moment to pause, think over these tips and let your nerves make way for a confident and competent communicator.

If you’d like further advice on public speaking anxiety, please get in touch—give us a call on 020 3137 6323.

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