Received via email:
“I am facing an extremely fearful situation. I need to stand in front a huge group of people at my daughters school. To tell you how scary this is for me, I have worried about it since October!
How do you jump in with both feet to something that terrifies you & then try not to panic?
I get the “Do it Afraid”, & I can for smaller things, but this is the “main event” so to speak. I would love your insight.”
I wrote this post about public speaking and panic attacks and it’s worth a re-read if you need a refresher.
Since public speaking anxiety is often listed as the number one fear- even over death (!!)- it will be good to dig down deeper into what we can do to help ourselves.
According to Wikipedia, it is estimated that 75% of all speakers experience some degree of anxiety/nervousness when public speaking.
Like my friend above, I occasionally have to stand up in front of an audience or group and talk or present something. What’s hard for most people is even that much harder for anxious people. But with some planning and implementation of basic anxiety self help strategies, it can be done.
(Fear of public speaking is a symptom of social anxiety. See here for a list of social anxiety symptoms.)
Today we’ll talk about some basics to help with public speaking anxiety.
When I’ve had to do public speaking on the fly without preparing beforehand, it has been pretty horrendous- like this time when I had to give an impromptu speech at my Al-Anon meeting. I was so anxious I thought I was going to die at the time.
But when I’ve had adequate time to prepare myself beforehand, I have been able to quell the public speaking anxiety enough to be able to say what I had to say- and to my surprise and delight- even do well and feel proud of myself afterwards.
I have given eulogies at both of my late beloved Grandfather’s funerals, I have given multiple presentations to professional peers when I was earning my Master’s Degree, and I even gave a talk to parents at one of my daughter’s Girl Scouts meetings- where all the troop gathered once a week- LOTS of parents, LOTS of pressure (in my own mind at least)…
I did all of the above and more with panic disorder and all of my other anxiety issues. So believe me when I say if I can do it, ANYONE can do it.
Since our friend above has been dreading her public speaking event since October, that means she is suffering more than she has to. Let’s see if we can take some of the fear out of her situation. Here are some tips for public speaking anxiety…
Preparing yourself beforehand
If you know you have to engage in public speaking in any capacity that give you angst, you have to take the bull by the horns and prepare yourself the best you possibly can.
We anxious people get all freaked out in our heads about all the what if’s. What if this, what if that….This is something you have to try really, really hard NOT to do. The more time you spend in negative thought, the more convinced you will be that you can’t do it. And that is a load of crap. Because you can.
Get your negatives out.
I highly suggest you write in your journal for coping with anxiety. Write a letter to God, like I did in this example. Get every negative emotion and fear out on paper- writing with your non-dominant hand if you can. And then answer your letter in your dominant hand. You will be surprised at how comforting this exercise is.
You also have to prepare the actual speech, presentation or talk.
Know what you’re going to say.
Whether you use index cards for the main parts or need ot memorize the whole talk or speech, don’t try to just wing it. If you suffer from anxiety, it will likely try to mess with your head. And you just can’t think straight when you’re panicking.
So to the best of your ability, know exactly what you plan to say. Take the time to plan it out and rehearse it. Then all you have to do is go up there and recite.
Knowing exactly what I plan to say beforehand is so helpful. Then I can stand there like a trained monkey and just say it.
Focus on a point just above your audience’s head. That way it will give the appearance that you’re making good eye contact. You have to look up every once in awhile so people won’t think you’re nervous.
The cool thing I’ve noticed is once I actually start doing the speech or talk, it really isn’t all that hard. No one is tuning in that keenly. No one really cares that much. It’s not like I’m giving the Gettysburg Address or anything.
Be kind to yourself in thought beforehand
Do positive affirmations for anxiety beforehand. Really do them. You may not believe them at first, but the more you do them, the more believable they become. And what you declare you make real…
Visualize and affirm your way to success. See yourself giving the speech and succeeding beyond your wildest dreams. Really try to see it in all the glorious detail- How happy and confident you appear, how relaxed and calm you feel. How good it feels to succeed! Play this scene of triumph over and over in your head, at least twice a day every day leading up to the event.
Your mind really does respond to what you feed it, so make it as positive as possible.
The day of your public speech
Obviously try to get a good nights’ sleep. That may or may not be possible, depending on now nervous you are. But know this- you can still give a nice speech or presentation even if you’re tired. So don’t sweat it too much. Believe me, you’ll sleep like a baby the night after you’re done.
Wear comfortable clothes. It’s better to be cool than overheated, so dress in layers if you can.
Don’t eat anything heavy or greasy before your speech. The last thing you need is to feel queasy.
While you give the speech or talk
I recall going up to give my talk or speech and feeling complete depersonalizaiton. It was freaky as hell, but I know my anxiety. I know the tricks it plays and this is one of them.
I learned that I can still talk even if my tongue is frozen and I’m floating somewhere above my body. All I have to do is stand there for the first few seconds doing it afraid, and then, the fear and anxiety does begin to subside.
It always does.
To study more in depth, click on any of the links in this post and do some further reading to help you prepare.
In closing, public speaking anxiety can definitely be overcome, even if you suffer from anxiety to begin with (like me). Use these tips to make your speech a success.
Good luck Terra!
I wish you peace,
Recommended: Banish Public Speaking Anxiety- Give presentations with Confidence, Energy and Enthusiasm instead of Anxiety and Nerves. CLICK HERE to learn more.