Four Tips for Overcoming Public Speaking Anxiety
If your throat goes dry at the thought of having to deliver a presentation or your voice starts to tremble during the very first sentence of a speech, then it might be comforting to know you're not alone. In 2015, Chapman University published its Survey of American Fears, which revealed that 28.4 percent of adults were either afraid or very afraid of public speaking.
No matter how much you try to avoid public speaking, if you're an aspirational professional, being able to speak clearly and confidently in front of others is critical to your career. Whether it's giving a presentation to your department, pitching a proposal to a big client, or participating in a panel at a seminar, you need to be able to rise to the occasion— without being crippled by anxiety.
The following tips can help you overcome your fear of public speaking:
Be knowledgeable. If you don't have a full understanding of your subject matter, then it's easy to make a mistake or stray off topic, which will do nothing to ease your anxiety. That's why you need to know your topic inside and out. This will help you stay on track and allow you to anticipate any questions with confidence.
Be passionate. An engaging speaker draws people in by sharing his or her passion for a topic. Understand what motivates you to speak about this topic, and find ways to communicate your passion to your audience—even if that means using personal stories.
Learn how to breathe. In the MayoClinic article "Fear of public speaking: How can I overcome it?" Craig N. Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P. advises that deep breathing can help calm anxiety. Take several deep, slow breaths before your speech, and do so at regular intervals while you're speaking.
Practice. The better prepared you are, the easier public speaking becomes, so start practicing well ahead of time. If you're going to be using any props, practice with them, too. After several sessions, ask a friend or colleague to observe and provide feedback on your performance. This will help you recognize your strengths and identify any areas that may require more work.
Keep in mind that it's normal to feel a certain amount of anxiety when you're in a professional situation where your performance will be judged. If you keep these tips in mind, you can become a confident speaker who knows how to deliver a message in an impactful, engaging manner. And that's a powerful asset that can help you get a crucial point across to an audience, as well as advance your career.