Fear of public speaking is THE the most common phobia. It makes you overly anxious about your appearance and performance when speaking in front of an audience. You may even avoid these situations altogether. Here are 27 practical tips to handle your nervousness.
This list is not meant to be a step by step routine. That would be VERY unpractical. Instead, read the list and see what ideas that resonate with you. What tips that suit your situation. Try them out for yourself and see what works for you.
1 Identify when you are avoiding
If you are a person that feel nervous about public speaking you probably have very sneaky ways to minimize public speaking. It can be finishing your personal introduction as fast as possible, letting others in the group doing the presentation or sit in the back of the room to avoid questions. The key is to identify when you are making choices out of fear. Then you can start taking alternate actions.
2 Be willing to be the speaker
If you are afraid of public speaking you probably rush thru what you have to say. Trying to minimize the risk of failure. Your mind has to shift to focusing on delivering and winning and away from avoiding pain.
3 Give yourself permission not to be perfect
Your performance doesn’t need to be flawless. A common pitfall when presenting in a business environment is feeling like that the presentation will be the ONE thing that your work performance will be evaluated by. Of course, it is not. It has been shown when evaluating startup pitches that the ones most likely to be invested in is not the flawless presentations. It is the pitches with the most passion.
4 People don’t take notice as much as you think
People tend to dramatically overestimate how much other people actually take notice. Even if you lose your plot completely it will most often be forgotten the moment you leave the room. Paradoxically, the only one that might remember it the next day is you.
5 Don’t be nervous about being nervous
If you feel nervous for a performance, don’t beat yourself down for it. Successful performers retrain their brains to perceive nervousness as excitement. It can be a golden source of focus, energy, and charisma.
6 Focus on the process
As in every patch to mastery, process orientation is paramount. That is to evaluate your success, not based on the imidate results, but on how well you have followed your set-out processes. If your voice failed during your presentation it is NOT important. That you actually did the presentation, that IS important. A key understanding of results is that they cannot be short-term controlled. Therefore they should not affect your daily mood.
When you do something scary over and over again it becomes less frightful. Like jumping from a 10-meter trampoline 100 times. The same principle holds true for public speaking. The more regularly you speak, the less anxiety you will experience. For desensitization to work the exposure must be self-chosen, regular and increased in difficulty level step by step.
Maybee the most important of all. You must believe, without a doubt, that your public speaking will improve every time you do it and that EVERY experience, regardless of the result, will get you better.
9 Pick a subject you feel enthusiastic about
If possible, pick a subject that makes you enthusiastic. That can help you focus less on feelings of nervousness and more on the audience and the presentation.
One of the things that people fear the most is to get a blackout. To lose the plot. Effective rehearsal is the best cure. Write the outline down on paper. Then try to do your speech, looking less and less at the outline, each time until you don’t need the notes at all.
11 Film and watch your speech rehearsal
Record your speech with your phone camera. Watching it makes you become more comfortable with seeing and hearing yourself talking and presenting.
12 Try the speech for a friend
Perform your speech in front of a friend. You will find that it is a VAST difference than doing it in an empty room. That gets you a taste of how the speech will be received. You learn what to expect when it comes to audience reactions. That gives you boosted confidence.
13 Proper sleep and nutrition
The body function at best when well slept and properly fed. This help to reduce your stress and anxiety for public speaking as well. Performing cognitive tasks like presenting when underslept are like trying to set a new sprint record just after you finished a marathon, with no rest.
14 Work out
If possible, go running the same day as your public speaking. It increases testosterone and helps lower stress levels.
15 Social warm up
If you have a very analytical job by a computer, delivering a charismatic presentation can feel far away. To get you in a social state you can do a social warm up. You can, for example, call a friend for 10 minutes and try to get a good vibe going. This shifts your mind into a social state instead of a logical state.
16 Set your mood with music
Make a playlist with music that makes you feel the right way. Light, at ease and confident. Listen to it to boost your state.
17 Warm up physically
To activate your body before doing a presentation reduces stress and anxiety and improves your cognitive functions. This can be taking a 15-min powerwalk or do a set of squats in the restroom.
18 Power posing
Your mood affects your pose. Some people argue that it is also possible to change how you feel by changing your pose. This is called power posing. Try doing power posing in the toilet, or backstage, a few minutes before a presentation. Here are some examples of power poses.
19 Wait and breathe
When you get on stage, stand up and take a deep breath. Inspect the audience in silence while counting to five. This lowers your body’s stress response.
20 Move your body on stage
Use the presenting area to move your body around. Moving makes you more relaxed and helps with nervousness. Many experiences the anxiety go away when they start using their body.
21 Focus on your audience, not yourself
The more you focus on the audience the calmer you will feel. It paradoxically makes you less nervous looking into the eyes of the audience than to avoid it. If you focus on yourself, you risk falling into a loop of negative self-assessments of your own voice and appearance.
22 The audience is on your side
The audience wants you to succeed. They are on your side. View them as your team that is here to support and cheer you.
23 The audience can’t read your mind
The only one who feel your nervousness is you. It almost never translates to the audience even if you might feel like leaving the room in panic.
24 Don’t fight to hide your fear
Although tempting, trying to hide your fear will backfire. It makes you more nervous trying to hide any fluctuations invoice or other nervous behaviors. Accept them and they will paradoxically diminish. You can even play with pretending to lose the plot just to make your fears less serious.
25 Breathe thru your nose
To breath thru your nose instead of your mouth gives you a deeper and more stable voice.
26 Record video
If possible, record your speaking performance and look at it afterward. If you are a person who thinks a lot of negative thoughts about your presentation in hindsight, this can give you a more realistic, and probably more positive picture.
27 Challenge negative thoughts about your performance
If you get lost in negative thoughts about your recent performance, challenge those thoughts using this technique. People that feel very anxious around public speaking tend to do overly negative self-assessment after public speaking. Let’s say you feel anxious about how someone smiled during your presentation. You interpret that as someone thought you looked funny. Ask yourself: What is the evidence for your interpretation? Is there any other possible explanation? Repeat this for all negative thoughts.
Good luck with your public speaking!