Speaker anxiety or any fear of public speaking can take hold at any time. It’s not always when you’re up in front of a crowd of people, either. If you’re at a networking group, and you find yourself speaking with a few people, that in itself can bring on a sense of dread. Your throat dries up and your start to stutter your words. So how can you combat it?
There are many techniques available and some work better than others. Also, not all will work for you. But, go through this list of five and try them next time you find yourself in a situation where anxiety creeps up on you.
This is a battle tested technique, and it’s used by almost all the speakers I encounter. It’s incredibly effective, and the simple act of steady breathing has a calming effect on the heart and mind.
Take a deep breath in through your nose for the count of three and then breathe out through your mouth slowly for the count of six. Why does this work? Well, your anxiety is in response to danger, and so your body goes for a “flight or fight” response. It gets tense; it’s ready to either begin a battle or run like the wind. When danger passes, you tend to breath slower. However, if you breath slower first, your body will respond by relaxing. That’s why the six second out breath is so important.
You can use this at any time because it’s invisible to those around you. If you’re about to get involved in a discussion, and you can sense the stress building, simply try this breathing technique.
Water is the ideal neutral solution to for dry mouth and general dehydration. Obviously avoid drinking lots of it, you don’t want to be rushing off to the toilet every five minutes, but take a sip from a bottle at regular intervals.
It will help avoid the dry mouth and throat problems many people suffer from and if you’re hungry and can’t eat through nerves, it will also keep away the hunger pangs.
Develop a routine of positive thinking
Very often we can find negative thoughts will dominate our mind. We won’t be able to sleep the night before a big presentation because we’ll be worried about it failing, about us messing up, about it not being well received. The thing is, this negativity could, in fact, become a self-fulfilling prophecy and you’ll end up messing up in exactly the way you expect. Stop. Breathe.
It’s far better to think positively about your presentation and give yourself some positive affirmations long before you get to speech day. If you have access to a meditation application (there are many available for smartphones), use it regularly and get into a routine. This will help you cope with the negativity and give you some exercises to help push it out of your mind.
However, sometimes we can feel negative because we’ve not planned well enough, so…
Plan it all out
If you’re going to be in front of an audience, no matter what size, it’s important you plan everything out beforehand. Don’t leave anything to chance. Make sure you know what you’re going to say and when, and also, why.
But, don’t simply write it out verbatim. There’s nothing worse than being in a presentation where the presenter is simply reading out pages of text, or every single word on a presentation.
Make notes, bullet points or even a mind map, but make sure you know what each point is about. Know your subject well and talking about it will be much easier.
But what about when meeting at a networking group? Well, this is where you have to prepare your elevator speech. You need to know what you do, and how to explain it in a few words. When you can quickly explain to yourself what you do, you’ll find it easier to impart this knowledge to others.
Practice, practice, practice
As well as planning your presentation, it’s important to practice it. Find a quiet place and practice what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Practice as much as you can and then see if you can get a spouse or friend to listen in.
This can help to iron out any bits that need work, and getting feedback at this point can make it much easier to face an audience.
But, having said all of this, it’s important that you have fun. Presenting can be extremely rewarding and profitable, so it’s important that you enjoy it and if you can enjoy it, you’ll find you get a much better response from the audience.