5 Ways to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

How do I get over my fear of public speaking? I asked myself this question countless times. As someone who used to experience intense anxiety at the thought of standing in front of an audience, it hindered me from pursuing opportunities I otherwise would have taken.

I know all too well the physical symptoms that accompany public speaking anxiety – the racing heart, sweaty palms, and dry mouth. The nervousness one feels is way more than necessary for such a simple task. While my mind knew a 5-minute public speaking presentation posed little actual threat, my body’s reaction always told a different story.

For too long I let this fear control me, but I was determined to overcome it.

Here are 5 strategies I found most effective in building confidence and easing public speaking anxiety.

1. Prepare

Thoroughly researching your topic and organizing your presentation will give you confidence in knowing the material backward and forward. What do you want to talk about? What topic are you most conversant with?

Have an outline and note cards if needed. Rehearse out loud, ideally in front of others if possible. The more familiar and comfortable you are with the content, the less mental space there is left to dwell on fears and worries about the delivery.

It also helps anticipate potential questions. Going to speak in public when you are well-rehearsed will help reduce anxiety.

2. Begin with low-stakes Opportunities.

Your public speaking skills grow over time. The best public speakers started somewhere. Start with small audiences as you grow into bigger ones. This serves the purpose of gaining experience while taking the pressure off of high-performance expectations.

Seek out local groups, faith-based organizations, or community college continuing education classes. Places where the art of public speaking is part of the learning process and mistakes won’t have serious consequences.

Accept any invitation that allows you to hone skills in a supportive environment. Each time you speak, whether to 5 people or 50, you’re moving closer to becoming more confident. Experience conquers fear much more effectively than avoidance.

3. Focus on breathing techniques

Whenever I used to stand in front of an audience, panic would set in rendering me unable to speak. However, I found that controlled breathing could help calm racing thoughts and regulate physical responses like heart rate and sweating.

Inhaling and exhaling slowly and purposefully before stepping on stage and any time nervousness strikes during your speech will settle your nerves and increase oxygen flow to the brain. Maintain an attentive listening posture so your breaths come naturally without hyper-focusing on it.

4. Connect with your audience on a human level.

Rather than seeing your audience as an intimidating mass of faces, focus on the individuals you make eye contact with. Smile warmly and speak to people directly to form a rapport.

Relax tension by noticing things audience members have in common with you – they feel nervous too! Remind yourself they want you to succeed. Fostering this connection transforms them from spectators to your allies invested in your message. Interacting with people reduces perception of risk which in turn lowers stress.

5. List and reflect on your strengths and accomplishments.

One notable thing about confidence, it comes from truly believing in your abilities and value, not just faking it. Think about situations where you’ve exhibited courage, passion, patience, or intelligence.

Recall feedback you’ve received about your character. Keeping a perspective on your capabilities and worth beyond public speaking can turn around your presentations. Affirmations promote self-assurance, courage, and resilience necessary to take risks, learn from mistakes, and grow as a speaker.

 

While developing public speaking skills requires regular practice, dedicating yourself to the strategies above will greatly boost your confidence with each presentation. If you desire to become a certified public speaker, sign up for our public speaking training where you can regularly test new techniques, receive guidance from experts, and openly discuss challenges without judgment.

Through continued education and immersing yourself in public speaking opportunities, you have the power to transform anxiety into excitement. With commitment to your growth and belief in your message, you will become an empowered communicator ready to influence any audience.