Some people make it look so easy; speaking up in groups, giving talks, sharing their opinions, presenting in meetings to the higher ups. However the fear of public speaking is so widespread I think it is fair to say that it is neither relegated to introverts or extroverts, but to people in general. So I guess these tips are good for everyone. I know they’ve truly helped me.
- Don’t try to calm down. Counterintuitive right? Harvard professor Alison Wood Brooks found that transitioning and reframing nervousness as excitement was easier than transitioning those same nerves to calm. So when those butterflies start fluttering around in your belly and you feel your heart racing, label that as excitement versus nerves. Dr. Brook’s research also found that by reframing public speaking nervousness as excitement also led to better public speaking performances. Not bad!
- Practice in front of others. Speaker Adam Grant offers this tip based on studies by the late Stanford psychologist Robert Zajonc who demonstrated that the mere presence of other people raises our arousal. If you practice alone, you won’t have a chance to adjust to that arousal. The key is to practice under conditions that are similar to the situation where you’ll be speaking. This doesn’t mean you have to assemble a whole theater full of people to practice, but depending on the importance of your presentation, know the more people you can get in front of the better.
- Master your mindset. This comes in before you take the stage. Actually, mastering your mindset can start right now, even if you don’t even have a public speech coming up. You see, your mindset consists of the things you tell yourself, the fears you reinforce, the predictions you make, the doubts you double down on, and beliefs you hold. And those things can be changed at any time with a little work. To change your mindset around public speaking in particular, start telling yourself things like,”It’s not my favorite activity, but public speaking is a way to
- Lower your voice. No, not quieter, actually lower and deeper. Why is this? Well, when we get nervous we tend to speak in a higher register of our voice, breathe faster, and breathe from high in our chest. So by focusing on making your voice lower and deeper (which will end up being your normal voice by the way) you will feel more in control of your experience. One exercise that might help you get there is to place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly and take a few deep belly breaths. Then recite a poem you know by heart, focusing on it coming from your belly.
- It’s not about you. No offense. But once you really wrap your mind around this it is truly liberating, or at the very least, will give you a huge sigh of relief. It is way too easy to let one’s nerves cement the spotlight onto oneself. And when that happens it isn’t a big leap to the freak-out thoughts of, “What are they thinking of me?”, “Who do I think I am up here? What do I have to say?”, “I’m going to mess up and everyone’s going to think I’m an idiot”, “They’re totally bored.” Thoughts along those lines serve to undermine your confidence and are most likely old habits you’ve reinforced over the years. Switch that and turn your attention outward and onto the audience. Think of the value they will receive from what you’ll be sharing, saying, asking or doing.
What do you think of these? Got any tips you would add to the list?
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