Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety

The following are a number of useful and effective techniques that will allow for articulate and effective public speaking.

The list is divided into two parts: The Obvious and The Not-So-Obvious. These tactics, in conjunction with our advice on public speaking and an appropriate herbal supplement application, along with adequate preparation, will enable you to construct and execute an articulate public speech.

The Obvious:

Know your material.

It is extremely important to have a thorough understanding of your topic. Knowing a great deal about the topic will enable you to overcome public speaking anxiety (stage fright) and will convey to the audience your interest and passion for the material. Also, by immersing yourself in the topic, you actually shift the focus off of yourself and onto the message, moderating much of the self-consciousness that is associated with public speaking anxiety.

Practice

A substantial part of overcoming public speaking anxiety is preparation. This means rehearsing your speech out loud repeatedly until you feel that you know it virtually by heart, and can recite it with ease. Practicing in front of family and/or friends can also help tremendously, as can rehearsing your speech in front of a mirror. Practice is the best time to make revisions, smooth out segues and create pauses if necessary. The fine line here, however, is not to memorize it to the point that it comes across as rehearsed; remember to speak in conversational tones, as though you are talking with a friend. Reading your speech verbatim will only highlight your nervousness of speech to your audience.

Breathe.

While this may sound like a no-brainer, it is a key element for overcoming public speaking anxiety. Taking long, deep breaths and holding them in for five seconds or more prior to delivering a speech, wedding toast, retirement speech or any other presentation will greatly assist relaxation. It controls accelerated heart rhythms, loosens tight neck and shoulder muscles and delivers beneficial oxygen to the brain, increasing focus and ultimately reducing public speaking anxiety (stage fright). Take a walk, if necessary, before your speech to burn off some of the anxious energy you experience. Remember to breathe during your speech. This will allow you to speak more slowly and concentrate on your material.

Focus on your objective.

This seems obvious, but why are you giving this presentation? Are you trying to sell something to your audience? Are you trying to teach or inform your audience? If you get back to focusing on why you are in this position, you will find yourself focusing less on your public speaking anxiety ( stage fright) that may be taking over what you are trying to accomplish.

Address each physical symptom of public speaking anxiety specifically.

First and foremost: do not lock your knees. If you feel your knees shaking or knocking, there is no reason you need to stand in one place; move around. If available, you can use the podium as your base, but there is no reason you need to stay immediately behind it for your entire speech. Staying loose is crucial for overcoming public speaking anxiety.

Dry mouth is another common symptom of public speaking anxiety sufferers. Make sure you avoid specific foods prior to your presentation (see below). Always make sure your have access to water during your speech. Taking a quick sip of water will not only alleviate your dry mouth, but it also gives you a break to breathe.

Trembling and/ or clammy hands are also a common reaction to public speaking anxiety. Many speakers will hold something in their hands to distract their attention from this symptom and use the object as a crutch. In professional presentations, speakers can hold a pen, pointer or power-point remote control in their hands. If you are giving a less formal speech, it is acceptable to hold a bottle of water or your notes in your hands. Most importantly, whatever object you place in your hands should take your focus off of your trembling or clammy hands. But keep in mind that this is also a distraction for your audience.

Many public speaking anxiety ( stage fright) sufferers state a quivering or weak voice as a symptom. As a result, most speakers will speed up their presentations when they feel their voices start to falter. But this is exactly the opposite reaction you should take; instead, pause for a couple seconds, take a sip of water and smile. Smiling has proven and profound impacts on your physiology. In addition, smiling also has an equally impactful influence on your audience.

Public speaking anxiety can result in undue perspiration for the speaker. Avoid colors and materials that will easily show perspiration such as gray, light blue, etc. Simple black and white will be least likely to show signs of perspiration. In addition, take a sip of water. It will have a more physiological impact on your perspiration level, but this small step should at least alleviate your focus on this symptom.

Most importantly, for all public speaking anxiety symptoms: The number one observer and possibly only witness of your public speaking anxiety is you. You may feel that your hands are shaking like a leaf, and they may be, but how often do you look at someone's hands when they speak? You may feel that your voice is weaker than usual, but people don't hear you every day will not notice this slight change in inflection.

Avoid Specific Substances

This is obvious, but often a common mistake for public speaking anxiety (stage fright) sufferers: Do not ingest even moderate amount of caffeine prior to presenting. If you feel like you're off your game prior to your speech and you usually drink a quick cup of Joe to get your mo-jo back, don't do it. Your adrenaline level will increase prior to your presentation in response to your public speaking anxiety ("stage fright"); you don't need anything else. In addition, dairy products should be avoided immediately prior to presenting to prevent dry mouth. Also, a glass of red wine doesn't help.

Don't apologize for being nervous.

While many professionals are divided on this as a tool for overcoming public speaking anxiety, this will ultimately be your call as the speaker. Admitting you are a little nervous may lighten up some of the tension you are experiencing, and some feel that it breaks the ice with the audience. However, this admission could bring unnecessary attention to your public speaking anxiety ("stage fright") that the audience probably would not have noticed anyway. There is a term referred to as 'the illusion of transparency' that suggests that those suffering from public speaking anxiety perceive themselves to be transparent; hence, they believe that their audience is able to detect all their fear of public speaking anxiety ("stage fright") that they may be experiencing. However, it is important to remember that this is rarely the case. Remember that your audience wants you to succeed, and they are not there to scrutinize or criticize.

Visualize.

While this may seem like new-age mumble-jumble, this advice actually works to overcome public speaking anxiety (stage fright). Prior to giving your speech, imagine the execution of your speech in its entirety: Envision yourself exuding complete confidence as you walk to the podium and initiate your delivery. See yourself speaking slowly and concisely, making eye contact with individual audience members as you move from one audience member to another. Picture your audience to be warm and receptive. Anticipate problem areas and/or mistakes (it's okay, they are inevitable) and imagine yourself moving through them gracefully and without incident. This simple exercise will trick your mind (and your public speaking anxiety) into believing that you have no fear of public speaking.

Utilize notes/outlines,

Well designed outlines and/or notes are acceptable and expected. However, notes should not be read verbatim, and should only be used as reference. Many people suffering from public speaking anxiety (stage fright) will use notes as a distraction from making eye contact with their audience. This makes them seem unprepared draws attention to their public speaking anxiety. Rather, design your outline/notes as such: Write out your introduction in full, because this is when your public speaking anxiety will be at its peak. Use symbols for key points. Write out transitional/segue sentences in full, to avoid abrupt transitions and/or uncomfortable pauses (this will also avoid the "ummms" and "ahhhs" you might feel compelled to use while you are gathering your wits). Write your conclusion in full as well, as this will be the summary of your message, and should be communicated clearly. This does not mean reading directly from your notes, but rather, acts as insurance against forgetting valuable information. Preparation and utilization of good notes will dramatically help you overcome public speaking anxiety.

The Not-So-Obvious:

Get in Front of a Warm Audience First.

Present as many times as possible to anyone available in the weeks prior to your big presentation. You will considerably reduce public speaking anxiety (fear of public speaking, stage fright) if you get out and practice in front of smaller audiences prior to giving your speech. Start with warm and small groups with which you're most comfortable. For example, offer to present to a small number of your co-workers or friends and family. In addition, you can find a ToastMasters group in almost every city in North America. These groups specialize in providing a safe and warm environment for practicing speeches and overcoming public speaking anxiety.

Focus on individual audience members, not the audience.

Try to select warm faces prior to giving your presentation. When you present, focus on these select faces in the audience. Imagine you are having a one-on-one conversation with each one of them throughout your presentation. Remain with each audience member for three to five seconds on each visit. Not only will this help you overcome public speaking anxiety (fear of public speaking, stage fright), but will also make your audience feel more connected with you.

Utilize an herbal supplement application.

Various herbal supplements are widely utilized to promote relaxation and facilitate concentration. An appropriate mix of herbal supplements may provide you with the control and cognition you need to execute an articulate and effective public speech.

Focus on how your public speaking anxiety is your body's natural response to help you execute.

Is it possible for your public speaking anxiety to actually help you? By all means! The anxiety one feels before an event such as a musical solo or a speech provides one with the energy and the incentive to prepare that leads to success, but only if you allow it. Indeed, with patience and the proper attitude, these feelings may prove to be a catalyst to success.

Act or play a role.

This approach for diminishing public speaking anxiety (stage fright) involves focusing on what you're doing, and then act how you perceive this role would be played on film. If you're giving a wedding toast, how would you play the role of a best man or maid of honor if you were in a film? If you're selling an idea or product to a group, how would Gordon Gecko from the classic 1980's movie Wall Street make the presentation? Ultimately, this technique helps you focus on what you should- your content and mannerisms- and not focus on what you should not - your public speaking anxiety.

Create a distraction.

This technique is a double-edged sword: you will divert attention away from your speech, but may help overcome public speaking anxiety (fear of public speaking, stage fright) during those initial tense, silent moments of your presentation. Several tricks can be utilized to get the initial stark stares away from you, and eliminate the silence of just taking the stage.

Handouts

If you are presenting in a business or educational setting, you can hand out materials at the beginning of your presentation. Your audience's attention will be split between your opening remarks and the handouts. Again, this activity takes the focus off of you, but that will ultimately help you overcome your public speaking anxiety (stage fright).

Ask a question

This technique for overcoming public speaking anxiety (fear of public speaking, stage fright) only works if you know that someone in your audience is willing to answer. For example, asking the audience at large how they're doing may help engage them and curb some public speaking anxiety. You may also ask to see a show of raised hands on a relevant topic. Again, the audience's attention is diverted from you to the outcome of your survey. In addition, asking a specific question for an individual audience member takes the entire group's focus off of you and allows you to take a deep breath before beginning your presentation. However, keep in mind that this technique only works if your audience or an audience member responds. If nobody responds, you may find yourself experiencing more public speaking anxiety (stage fright) than you were prior to your presentation. Therefore, make sure you have a fairly warm audience. In addition, if you ask a specific question to a specific audience member, you may want to plant a respondent to ensure that your question gets answered.

Get acquainted with the location and audio/ visual equipment before your audience arrives

Get to your presentation location before anyone else. Stand at the podium or the spot you where you'll deliver your speech. You may want to utilize your positive visualization techniques again from this spot. Test all audio equipment. Nothing can create more public speaking anxiety (fear of public speaking, stage fright) than failed equipment. If possible, speak into the microphone prior to anyone arriving so you know the appropriate volume level. In addition, test all visual equipment. Make sure that your public speech runs seamlessly in coordination with the equipment provided.

Give a warm-up talk immediately before your presentation:

This technique involves giving a short and easy speech to your audience that is followed by a break or another presenter prior to giving your extended presentation. For example, a great technique for wedding party members to use prior to giving a wedding toast is to introduce the new bride and groom at the reception. You're not expected to give a moving, funny dialogue (unlike your wedding toast); just introduce the new bride and groom. This warm-up will help you get acquainted with the audio system and your audience. In addition, you'll probably find that your public speaking anxiety (stage fright) has subsided considerably relative to your first presentation; as a result, you'll be able to execute your wedding toast with much less public speaking anxiety (stage fright). Remember too, that in terms of wedding toasts; wedding audiences in particular, are very forgiving.

This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration

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