You’re on stage giving a talk but all you can notice is your shaky knees and sweaty palms. You weren’t all that nervous before you got on stage, but suddenly, you can’t control your body. This in turn, distracts you and affects your performance on stage. You’re suffering from public speaking anxiety.
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This is far more common than you may think. Even the most seasoned public speakers will have their bouts of anxiety on stage when they least expect it. Maybe a weird thought surfaces. Maybe someone in the crowd makes a noise. Maybe you trip over a few words. Whatever it is that triggers your anxiety, there’s ways to manage and deal with it.
Know the signs of public speaking anxiety
These are some of the visible symptoms of public speaking anxiety, before or while giving a talk:
- Quivering voice
- Pounding heart
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling warm
- Upset stomach
These are actually signs that prepare you for danger. They are your fight or flight response. They prepare you for signs of trouble. In this case, an audience you prematurely and unrealistically expect will disapprove of anything you have to convey.
There is no real threat of physical violence, but you feel a rush of adrenalin, which builds a wall between you and your audience. You will also feel a loss of control over your body functions.
Know that we understand public speaking anxiety, what can we do about it? Here’s some actionable tips to bring you stability and calm while you speak.
How to manage public speaking anxiety
Know your topic well
The key is you should be knowledgeable about the issues you are going to discuss. Be prepared for FAQs or frequently asked questions you expect to be queried about. This preparation comes in handy if there is an open forum after your speech.
Know how to react to hecklers and critics
You freeze. You suddenly sweat too much. You might even pee in your pants. In public, you can’t respond angrily to their antics. Instead, you should react calmly and still be professional and circumspect in your answers. Don’t give them the privilege of seeing you break down. Give statements like “Thank you for that question” or “I appreciate your interest.” Requesting for a pitcher of drinking water near you will also do wonders to regain your composure.
Practice makes perfect
Hone your public speaking abilities by practicing in front of a video camera. Review the video so you can analyze your pacing, your tone, volume, and your mannerisms. You will get to know what you need to avoid and the good qualities you need to retain to make your public speaking engagement click with your audience.
Talk about topics you are comfortable with
There’s knowing your topics well, but there’s also topics you’re comfortable with. There might be something that when you talk about it, it makes you uncomfortable. This discomfort can come out as public speaking anxiety.
Join a Toastmasters club
This organization alternately gives all the members opportunities to speak publicly. It gives you a platform to improve your public speaking skills and to hone your internal mental and psychological conditioning before you are about to give a speech. In due time, you will be able to develop your own public speaking style, which effectively conveys lasting messages you want to imprint on your audience.
But in a Toastmasters club, other members listening to your speech are there to support and assist you. The difference in public engagement is that your audience could have different views on the topics you will discuss. They could be adversarial, supportive, or neutral about your beliefs. Be prepared for anything, and remain confident.
Find angles in the topic that interests you
What better way to prepare for your talk than find relevant scenarios or sub-topics that you see an interest in or have an emerging passion for. It would be easier for you to talk about it, and the audience will feel your passion, and they can easily go along with the flow. Enthusiasm is infectious, and people will be interested in what you’re saying. There is even a big chance that you will forget about your phobia because your ideas will just keep on egging you to talk more.
Don’t you just hate it when the person talking in front of you gets all that he has to say from a prepared script? It’s as if he has no mind of his own.
Instead, what you do is you prepare an outline of all your key points, then you take it from there one by one. As you speak, as long as you are calm, composed, and well-paced, ideas will just pop into your head, and you can add them to enhance your key points. Just be cautious not to veer away from the main topic too much.
Warm-up yourself to the venue before the talk
If possible, visit the venue or even go up to the stage where you will deliver your speech. Just like in a basketball game, homecourt gives you undue advantages. In this case, warming up to the venue as if you belong there and adjusting to its atmosphere, ventilation, and size gives you the same feeling as homecourt. Also, get to know the expected number of listeners you will have. You will imagine a pretty good mathematical picture of what the atmosphere will be like. A visit to the venue will answer all these questions and make you more prepared and at ease.
Remember to breathe whenever you can
Regaining the oxygen you breathe out is essential when you are talking in public. The suitable time to breathe completely (inhaling and exhaling) is when other speakers are talking or when a member of the audience is voicing questions. You will be amazed at how relaxed you become if you are conscious of your breathing. If you need to, write little reminders, if you’re reading a speech, or wear something (like a wristband) that will help you remember to slow down and breathe.
Ask for special facilities that will make you feel comfortable
You might want to request from the event organizers some minor changes in the way you want to convey your talk in a way that is distinctively you.
You might need assistants to dramatize what you are going to say. Or you might need to play some music accompaniment to add to the luster of your topics. Or you might also request audiovisual equipment to let the audience view some relevant materials linked to your presentation.
You might also prefer to sit down while you talk with drinking water or a cup of coffee by your side. All the little quirks that you need to be effective for your talk and for your anxiety not to bother you.
Expect some anxiety
Performers on stage admit that they need a bit of nervousness or anxiety to keep their performance going. Being too relaxed is sometimes not good again before you make your talk. A little anxiety warms you up and keeps your blood well circulated before starting your speech. A common public speaking tip is to learn to become comfortable and even confident with the anxiety.
Believe in yourself that you will definitely succeed
Not all public speakers are created equal. The audience will welcome anyone with a different perspective and with a sense of humor. When you are already used to speaking publicly and repeatedly, you will have developed your own style that is charming and interesting to specific audiences.
Never underestimate your potential. There is a hidden charismatic public speaker inside that shy façade waiting to be unearthed through the right strategies.
Why public speaking anxiety is a problem
Public speaking anxiety can interfere with the way you conduct your life productively. Here are some instances wherein this incapacity can alter your life course:
- You turn down promotions wherein you expect to be doing a lot of speaking engagements.
- You shift from one career or job to another.
- You abandon your doctorate aspirations at the point when you are going to give your dissertation.
- You change your college course when you realize you have to do a lot of talking in front of your class.
- You decline giving a toast or an inspirational message on occasions when you are expected to do so.
How to professionally treat public speaking anxiety
Suppose your public speaking anxiety issues are too much to bear, and it interferes with a usual way of life. In that case, it might be time to seek a professional opinion. You might already be suffering from SAD. Your options for seeking treatment are:
This therapy has the objective of removing the fear reaction to the public speaking phobia. Instead, a healthier relaxation response is substituted using counter conditioning.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
It is a short term psychotherapy treatment that aims to remove patterns of malicious behavior or thinking behind Public Speaking Anxiety so that the patient’s feeling towards speaking in public will change to a positive note.
Online Therapy Programs
In this time and age, you might not want to go out to seek treatment and be exposed to crowds of people. But you could still have helped through online therapy programs done in the comfort of your home. Some better known online treatments are Regain, Betterhelp, and Talkspace.
Seek prescribed medication
There are short term medications called beta-blockers, which are taken before you deliver your speech or presentation. They help inhibit the symptoms of anxiety and fear temporarily. When they are brought together with therapy sessions, they might reduce or totally eliminate your phobia in due time.
Now is the best time to condition yourself for a lifetime of public speaking. Good communicators are always needed so that everybody can understand the objectives and goals of your organization. You might be the next great one.