Speaking Publicly: How to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

By Mia Casey

I can’t say I really know anyone who actively enjoys public speaking. I sure know I don’t! But sometimes, the discomfort many of us feel can lead to symptoms of anxiety and negatively impact how we’re actually communicating our presentation. Fear not! I’ve put together a quick list of techniques you can try out to overcome your public speaking aversion.

Prepare

To become a good public speaker, you need to put effort into what you’re going to say. You can be as charismatic as humanly possible, but if you’re not saying anything of worth then you’re not going to get far. Whether you’re studying, or moving into the workplace, you need to make sure that your presentations are effective.

Think about the main topic you want to discuss, how you want to introduce it and what you want your audience to take away from your presentation. If you’re struggling, have a chat to someone about what you want to convey, and see what questions they ask you. Those questions will help you figure out what you need to say and how you need to say it.

Practice

Going into a presentation with only a vague idea of what you want to say, is enough to panic anyone. Even if you only finish writing up your presentation the morning it’s due, take time to practice it! Read through it on the bus, on the train, while you’re waiting for your coffee, while you go to the bathroom – if you’ve got any time, utilise it! If you don’t have the chance to go through everything, focus on the key points you want to make.

It’s also a good idea to practice your presentation in front of a group of family or friends. Trying to simulate talking to a large group of people can help you visualise how you’ll perform on the day, in a safe environment.

Even if you aren’t surrounded by large groups of people, practice your speech to your partner, flatmate or whoever’s around. Just running through everything in front of another person can help you highlight areas you need to improve on before you actually present.

Think of the last bad public speaker you heard

Seriously, have a long think about the last time you heard someone who was absolutely terrible at public speaking. How often have you come across someone who wasn’t any good? Did their failure affect your life in any way?

I’m willing to bet that you’re struggling to think of anyone. Sure, we might come across a few mediocre presentations every now and then, but how many people actually fail completely? Remember this as you’re preparing for your speech. The chance of you failing so spectacularly that people actively remember it, is pretty slim. So, if your chance of failure is so small then your chance at success must be huge, right?

Many of us focus on great public speakers we’ve seen, and compare ourselves to them. Instead of focusing on how you won’t measure up, think about how hard it’ll be to fail!

Ignore any mistakes

If you’re talking to a large group of people then you’re going to be hyperaware of any mistakes, stumbles or stutters you make. But chances are, your listeners aren’t really going to notice unless you panic and impound the problem. Focusing on little stuff-ups is going to leave you jittery and deflated. It can also lead to further mishaps later in the presentation because you start overthinking things.

If you find you stumble over a word, take a breath, repeat the word, then continue with the speech. I can pretty much guarantee that no one will remember your mistake by the end of your presentation, and you’ll likely be in a much more positive headspace.

Don’t hide

If you’re presenting to a class, or a large group of people at work, don’t hide behind your notes. Holding a stack of papers near your face is a much more noticeable way to draw attention to your nervousness than holding them more casually and glancing at them when you need to. It also indicates a lack of preparedness, as it makes it look like you have to read your notes word-for-word to remember what to say.

If there’s a table or desk near where you’ll be standing, put your notes down. This gives you the option of talking with your hands without accidentally dropping everything in your enthusiasm. Also try to work on maintaining a pretty high level of eye-contact with the audience, as this can help you come across as more confident and in control.

Basically you want to try to act as confident as possible, which will actually help you gain more confidence. Crazy, but true.

Here’s a pretty interesting TED Talk about effective public speaking, if you’re interested:

Or check out this TED Talk playlist for more tips on how to tackle public speaking jitters, and prepare for your next presentation.

Pretty much everyone gets nervous before public speaking. It’s a fact. So take a few deep breaths and remember: you’re awesome, you’re speech is great, and you’re going to nail this!

 Featured image courtesy of Stocksnap.io.

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Author: Mia Casey

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