How to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety
Anxiety is deeply unpleasant at the best of times, but it can be even harder to deal with when it’s related to public speaking. When your anxiety kicks in at home, you can turn to your go-to coping mechanisms or even just curl up in bed and try to sleep it off. When it kicks in ahead of a speaking engagement, you don’t have much choice but to power through.
A certain amount of anxiety is only natural, because it’s your body’s way of reacting to a stressful situation. The problems start to occur when you experience an unreasonable amount of anxiety and it stops you from performing at your best.
So what steps can you take to overcome public speaking anxiety? Come with us as we share a few of our top tips.
1. Drink water
Most of us don’t drink enough water. That makes this tip one of those where even if it doesn’t help with your anxiety, it’s still a good idea. With that said, anxiety can often lead to you having a dry throat or finding it difficult to breathe, and drinking plenty of water can help to offset that.
Uncertainty is the enemy of anxiety sufferers, because uncertainty weighs on the mind and makes anxiety worse. For public speakers, we can take away at least some of the uncertainty by practicing our presentations in advance and checking out the venue and event organization before our engagement is due to begin. It’s all about providing ourselves with the confidence that comes from reassurance that everything is under control.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of deliberately focusing on the moment that you’re in without trying to think too much about the details and your thoughts and concerns. For example, instead of allowing your mind to race with thoughts about what might go wrong in your presentation, you can take five minutes to think about the sensations arising from your surroundings, such as what you hear and what you smell.
There’s a reason why so many influential business people and celebrities swear by meditation: it works. The great thing about meditation is that you can carry it out in any quiet space and there are many different variants to choose from. For example, you might find that you get on better with guided meditation, or that you prefer to follow a meditation activity that you found online. Even meditating on the morning of your public speaking gig can give you the fortitude you need to get through it.
5. Find something to do with your hands
Finding something to do with your hands can help to keep anxiety at bay, even when you’re just backstage and waiting for your presentation to begin. As silly as it sounds, a fidget spinner or a stress ball can help, and in fact that’s essentially what they’re designed for. When you’re actually on stage, you’ll want to leave the gadgets behind, but you can still keep your hands busy and put them to good use by gesturing with them or pointing at elements of your presentation.
6. Embrace the fear
As counterintuitive as it sounds, embracing fear can help you deal with it. You’ve probably heard of nervous energy, and anxiety sufferers can make use of that energy rather than allowing it to manifest in unpleasant physical symptoms. For example, anxiety tends to lead to a shot of adrenaline, which you can then burn off in your presentation by moving around a lot on the stage and being a more dynamic speaker.
7. Challenge your worries
Our brains lie to us, especially when we’re suffering from anxiety. One of the common approaches to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is to encourage people to outline their worries and to challenge them to see how realistic they are. For example, if you’re worried that your audience will laugh at you, ask yourself how likely that actually is. And even if they do, would it be the end of the world? Sure, it might suck at the time, but would it still matter in a year?
8. Visualize your success
This is a bit like the opposite of challenging your worries, because instead of examining the negative what-ifs, you take a look at the positive ones. If you take the time to visualize your success and to think about what a successful speaking engagement might look like, you can boost the chances of it happening – like a golfer visualizing their perfect drive. You also give yourself something to aim for by visualizing your success.
9. Accept imperfection
Nothing is perfect. In fact, aiming for perfection is a fool’s game because you’re setting yourself up for failure from the outset. Instead, don’t worry about being perfect and just concentrate on doing the best job that you possibly can. Nobody can ask for more than that, and it will take a lot of pressure off you and do a great job of diffusing your anxiety because you’ll no longer be holding yourself to an impossible standard.
10. Stick at it
Ultimately, the best way to overcome public speaking anxiety is to stick at it and to get more and more speaking engagements under your belt. This is basically how professional musicians get used to being on stage and stop suffering from stage fright. After you reach and cross a certain threshold, it becomes just another speaking gig. If it didn’t kill you the last fifty times, the chances are that it won’t kill you this time, either.
Now that you know a few of our top tips for overcoming public speaking anxiety, it’s over to you so that you can start to put a few of these techniques into practice. Feel free to experiment with multiple different techniques and combinations to find what works for you.
In the meantime, be sure to let us know in the comments how you cope with public speaking anxiety so that we can keep the discussion going. You can also follow us on your social networking sites of choice for further updates. We’ll see you soon for another article!