The pressure is on. You’re called to provide a speech for an event, and you rarely present in front of others. Your heart begins to beat rapidly as sweat emerges from your pores and slide down your face. You cannot turn down this opportunity, but you also cannot panic in public. What do you do?
I host presentations for students and community members, often at colleges and other venues; even with much practice, we can all get the jitters. You can lessen your public speaking anxiety by following these nine reasonable tips.
- Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. I won’t say practice makes perfect, but it certainly can help in limiting your frustration with the material. The more you rehearse, the more frequently you can identify issues with your speech (volume, etc.)
- Know your script. Similarly, becoming familiar and comfortable with the content can lessen those flustered sensations while speaking. Better yet, aim to memorize the script, but have notes or the entire speech handy while speaking, just in case.
- Attend mixers or socials. Sometimes the easiest way to get more comfortable with public speaking is meeting new individuals. As you focus on making a good first impression when talking with strangers, think of how this skill translates to public speaking.
- Visit the setting ahead of time. Know your environment, if possible. Ask questions, such as “Where will I be speaking?” Consider your distance from the audience. You can improve your entire delivery by growing familiar with the physical context.
- Have a beverage at bay. Sometimes the most challenging part about speaking is a dry mouth. Constant talking can prove harsh on the voice. Bring a bottle of water and take a few-second hydration break.
- Maintain eye contact. Whether you shift your attention between people in different sections of a room, or even occasionally lock eyes with one individual, showing eye contact can indeed reduce anxiety. It adds a human touch. You may be able to feel that individuals want you to succeed by simply looking at them.
- Move around a little. Don’t pace around the room, but don’t stand in one place either. Your ability to move is contingent on the venue design. Feel free to spread out from the podium or main area every now and then. Just don’t stop speaking when you do.
- Remember to breathe. Take a few deep breaths, count each second down and relax. Perhaps it may be useful to practice yoga prior to presentation time.
- Use imaginative techniques. Think of the speech as a dream. You have control of the situation. You possess ultimate say over its direction, just like a fantasy.
What techniques have you implemented in your public speaking practice to reduce anxiety? Share your ideas to help your fellow presenter.
Brett Nachman attends Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Barrett, The Honors College. He serves as president of his PRSSA Chapter, majoring in journalism and minoring in psychology. His passions include writing, reading, traveling, working out, public speaking and Disney. Engage with Brett on Twitter @bnachmanreports.