Dealing With the Fear of Public Speaking

Kirsten Schuder
Woman afraid of public speaking

No doubt, speaking in public can be a stressful situation. However, some people have an intense fear of standing up in front of a crowd of people to give a speech or presentation. There are ways people can overcome and manage the stress associated with the fear of public speaking.

Preparation

There are a lot of ways you can prepare before your big presentation day. Preparation helps ease anxiety. Every step you take to manage your stress before the big day will help you quell your fears and tackle your challenge.

Acknowledge the Stress

Public speaking is stressful. The best thing to do is realize that you might always feel at least a little stress when it comes to public speaking.

Stress can create physiological responses. Acknowledging that you might have some physical signs of stress, such as sweating or butterflies in the stomach, will help you be prepared for when they occur.

Realizing that the people in your audience are sympathetic and are on your side will help you feel more comfortable and connect with your audience. Also, remember that you often look a lot calmer than you feel.

Use Your Stress

Stress itself is not bad. Stress is good because our bodies are physiologically responding so we can be ready to rise to meet a challenge. Using your stress to fuel your speech can help you be excited and impassioned. You can channel your racing heart into enthusiasm for your speech, instead of letting your stress overcome you.

Confront Unproductive Thought Patterns

Unproductive thought patterns are often a source of stress and fear. Some unproductive thought patterns that will add to your stress and make you feel overwhelmed are perfectionism, or thinking that you will not do well despite the fact that you are well-prepared.

Once you identify thoughts that are creating more stress for you than helping it, you can work on replacing those thoughts with positive ones.

Prepare for Your Presentation

There are lots of things you can do to prepare for your presentation. Preparation will help you feel more comfortable with your audience and the materials you are presenting.

  • Be thorough in preparing the information for your presentation. Learn about your audience and what they are seeking to learn from your presentation. Gather all the materials you can and create cards for the topics you are going to cover.
  • Practice, and then practice some more. So you don't sound robotic, try to keep your tone conversational and practice in front of anyone who will listen and give you honest feedback. You want to try and speak authoritatively rather than memorize a speech.
  • Visualize. A big part of being successful is visualizing success rather than disaster. Visualize handling mistakes successfully if they were to occur, such as not getting upset, minimizing it, or even making a joke out of it.
  • Prepare for your big day. Going to sleep early, laying out your clothing before you go to sleep and visiting the site where you will give the speech are all great examples of things you can do before your big day to help you feel comfortable as you give your speech.

Manage Your Stress on Speech Day

You've prepared for the big day. It's important to stay in the right frame of mind so you feel as comfortable as possible right before your speech.

Be Your Own Cheerleader

Fill your mind with positive thoughts, such as:

  • I am well prepared for this speech.
  • I feel comfortable with the subject.
  • I have researched this subject and my audience and their expectations well.
  • I have practiced my speech and did it comfortably in front of people.

Exercising the day of your speech will also help dispel nervous energy and help you feel stronger.

Gauge Audience Energy

Another way for you to focus your energy is to observe the audience. Are they excited and animated? Are they laid back? Try and match their facial expression and delivery so you can connect with them. This will also help your comfort level as you deliver your speech.

If you find this difficult to do, when you begin your speech, try and connect with one or two friendly faces in the audience around the room. Relax, smile at them, and make intermittent eye contact. This will help you feel like you are speaking to a few people rather than a lot of people.

Employ Relaxation Techniques

Try to use techniques to relax, such as deep breathing. Meditation is also helpful in managing stress. Using these techniques will help your body counteract the physiological effects of stress.

The Key to Overcoming Fear

Most people are nervous when speaking in front of large groups. Don't beat yourself up if you feel awkward or apprehensive, especially if you don't have much experience in public speaking.

Preparation for your speech can help qualm tattered nerves. Also, remember to be kind to yourself inside your head. Kind thoughts toward yourself and self-acceptance will help you put those anxiety-ridden, negative thoughts out of your head.

If you have trouble doing this, a clinical psychologist or a mental health counselor would be very helpful in this arena. These mental health professionals help people address their negative thought patterns and help people replace them with healthier, positive self-talk.

Dealing With the Fear of Public Speaking