By: Brooke Stafford, Strategic Planning Committee Member
Do you become short of breath when speaking to a room full of people? Do you stutter, shake, or shut down when giving a presentation? Do you forget everything you wanted to say as soon as all eyes are on you? Then you, my friend, have speech anxiety.
Speech anxiety is nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, most people experience some level of speech anxiety when speaking to a group of people, and rightfully so. Speaking in front of others is intimidating and overwhelming, especially when you know you are being graded, judged or evaluated. Luckily for you, speech anxiety is easy to overcome. Follow these steps to overcome your fear of public speaking.
Practice, practice, practice!
The single most essential way to overcome speech anxiety is to practice. To practice means to read and re-read your outline or speaking notes. And then, read them again! Don’t just read your notes to yourself either. Read them out loud, in front of a mirror or a friend. Practice making eye contact with your audience and practice pausing and using hand gestures. The more you practice your entire presentation, the easier it will be to give your speech.
Be sure to eat and drink.
It’s hard to be energetic when you’re lacking energy. Eat a healthy breakfast or lunch before you’re scheduled to speak. At the very least, sneak a granola bar in your pocket and eat it before your presentation. Even more importantly, drink water! Not only does sipping on something have a calming effect before your speech, but taking a sip of water during your speech can be a good way to slow yourself down and recollect your thoughts.
Take deep breaths.
It’s one of the easiest, most natural things to do, yet people forget to breathe when standing in front of group of people. Without remembering to catch your breath, you may stutter, speak softly, or speak at a million miles per hour. Just remember, pausing isn’t a bad thing and breathing deeply could make the difference between a good and bad presentation.
Make eye-contact with people who are giving you positive feedback.
Don’t look at the guy sleeping in his chair, or the girl texting and whispering to her neighbor. Instead, try to find a few people in the audience who are smiling at you or nodding their heads in agreement. The positive feedback from these people will boost your attitude and make you feel more confident when you begin to feel nervous. Usually, the people who are paying attention and giving you positive feedback are the people your speech was intended for to begin with.
Remember that people want you to succeed.
Nobody, unless he or she is your known enemy, wants you to fail. Nobody is sitting in his or her chair thinking, “I hope this speaker stutters,” or “I hope this speaker begins to shake uncontrollably.” In fact, most people want to see you do great things and if you do accomplish great things, most people will want to celebrate your successes with you.
Public speaking can be intimidating, frightening, and nerve-racking, but if you can follow these simple steps to overcome your fear, your speech anxiety will fade in time.