We all know how daunting it can be to stand up and speak in front of our peers, colleagues and friends alike. The first step to conquering this fear is to look into the actual definition of public speaking anxiety. Next, it's time to learn some tips and tricks to bring out the orator you are inside.
Like many things in life, public speaking can be a necessary evil. Many of us can recall vivid memories of getting up in front of a full classroom, opening our mouths to speak, and having no words come out.
This begs the question, why do humans get so nervous about speaking in front of other humans?
Public Speaking Anxiety
We’re all too familiar with the feeling of sweat beading at the nape of the neck, and the rapid increase in heart rate just before giving a presentation. What is it about presenting something in front of a group of people that makes us feel this way?
Simply put, this sense of uncontrollable nervousness is understood to be public speaking anxiety. According to The National Social Anxiety Center, public speaking anxiety stems from the “underlying fear [of] judgment or negative evaluation by others.” Hence why many of us who struggle with public speaking often experience uncomfortable symptoms like dry mouth, tightening of the upper back muscles, and nausea.
If any of this resonates with you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. A recent study by ScienceDirect revealed that 63.9% of undergraduate students are afraid of public speaking. This continues later into life unless we are proactive about addressing it.
Tips to Be On Your Way to Talking Loud and Proud
There are several ways you can prepare yourself to speak in public, anxiety-free! Finding out which solutions work best for you is a much better alternative than stress eating fifteen minutes before your presentation and showing up with clammy hands and tensed shoulders. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
Practice Makes Perfect
As cliché as it may sound, practice indeed does make perfect. The first time you present, you might fumble your words, go off on a tangent, or completely freeze. To avoid this, going over your presentation a few times in a comfortable setting will set you up for success!
Begin to relax your mind and body by practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques. Then, when you feel calm and collected, recite your speech. If you make a mistake, it’s okay! Keep on practicing and building up your self-confidence.
Speaking as a Work of Heart
In the words of legendary sports coach Wes Fesler, “If you want your voice to be heard, speak from the heart.” Instead of bogging yourself down with rigorous memorization and talking points, try instead to speak with passion!
Business mogul and philanthropist Richard Branson suggests that “speak[ing] from the heart” is one of the key takeaways from his top tips for public speaking. In allowing yourself to speak freely and passionately about the subject matter, you’ll be able to establish a stronger connection with your audience in a much more meaningful way.
Breathe In, Anxiety Out
Who knew that a deep breath is all you need to give a winning speech? According to The American Institute of Stress, “abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes each day will reduce anxiety and stress.” Don’t have time for that? Healthline suggests eight different breathing techniques that you can do anytime, anywhere.
Not buying it? Former opera singer turned Harvard educator Allison Shapira insists that breathing techniques are the building blocks that make a regular presentation into a compelling one.
Whether you’re meditating, belly breathing, practicing alone or with a group of strangers, figuring out what exercises works best to combat your public speaking anxiety is but an inhale (and exhale) away!