Having a fear of public speaking is very common, and it can range from a little nervousness before you begin to complete terror that has you avoiding any situation where you might be asked to speak in front of a crowd. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t get out of public speaking, your stomach might be in knots just thinking about it, but there are ways that you can help calm yourself down and make the whole experience a lot more painless. Here are some tips for ways to ease your anxiety around public speaking.
Get Familiar with Your Material
Being prepared is one of the best things you can do for a fear of public speaking, so as soon as you know you’ll need to make a speech or present a project, start getting familiar with your material. The better you understand your topic, the more confident you’ll be talking about it, especially if you’re going to be expected to answer questions at the end. If you do lose your train of thought, the more you know about your material, the easier it will be for you to pick back up and continue.
Practice More Than You Think You Need To
Nothing will help you relax in front of your audience like knowing that you’ve rehearsed so many times you can do this in your sleep. However much you think you need to practice, add in a few extra rounds just for good measure. If you’re sweating at the thought of just one person hearing you, you could always start rehearsing in the mirror or to your pets, but as you get more comfortable it’s definitely a good idea to run through your speech for a friend or family member and ask for some feedback. They may have some helpful pointers!
Focus on Your Breath
Right before you start, your instinct is probably going to be to frantically run through your notecards over and over, trying to remember everything and prepare as much as you can, but with all the practicing you’ve done, you don’t actually need this last-minute panicked review. All it will do is make you more nervous. Instead, right before you stand up to start speaking, focus on taking some deep, slow breaths, trying to make your exhale longer than your inhale. Clear your mind and remind yourself that you’ve got this. You’ll be starting yourself on a much better foot this way.
Take A Pause
Don’t be scared of silence! Every second feels a lot longer to you than it does to your audience, and while you may feel like you’ve been standing like a deer in the headlights for ages, they probably haven’t even noticed anything unusual about your pause. Talking continuously with no breaks is actually just as difficult for your listeners as it is for you, because it doesn’t give them any time to absorb and process what you’re talking about. Feel free to pause for a few seconds here and there to take a breath and let what you’ve just said sink in. It will help you feel relaxed, and you’ll seem more confident to your audience if you’re not rushing.
Remember You’re Not Alone!
Above all, remember this– a fear of public speaking is incredibly common! Even people who present to large crowds for a living feel nervous and make mistakes, so no one is expecting you to be completely at ease, and if you do make a mistake, they won’t be judging you or thinking badly of you. It’s helpful to remember that there’s probably a large portion of the crowd (maybe even all of them) that are just as scared of public speaking as you are and are wondering how you’re managing to stand up there at all. Public speaking takes guts, and you should be proud of yourself for doing it even though you’re scared.
If you suffer from anxiety around public speaking or just from social anxiety in general, you may be interested in our social anxiety trial. Click the link to learn more about this study and how to enroll in it.