Below you'll find a list of pointers for overcoming public speaking anxiety. This list is simply a summary, and I recommend that you go further, by leaving no stone unturned and clicking on the links at each of these points to read full articles about each:
- Knowing your material. Along with practice and rehearsal below, knowing your material is the single greatest and most effective way to limit fear of public speaking.
- Practicing and rehearsal. The best public speakers have rehearsed and practiced their speeches in private settings, often dozens of times, before the live delivery. Being well rehearsed makes you less fearful, more spontaneous and more naturally relaxed in front of the audience.
- Arrive early get to know the venue you'll be speaking in. Get your body and brain familiar with the environment you'll be presenting in by walking around the room, sitting in the audience seats and crossing the stage a few times, before anyone else arrives.
- Arrive early and do sound and tech rehearsal. Check you technology and you'll find that there's comfort in knowing your microphone won't squeal and your slides won't freeze. This includes checking your slides, remote, and possibly a timer and confidence monitor (if the venue have these).
- Realizing that small amounts of fear are normal and even necessary to increase your performance. Everybody, from top CEO's to world leaders have tummy butterflies before a big speech.
- Remember that the body's reaction to fear is the same as it is to excitement. So in reality, before you approach the lectern you have to ask yourself whether you're afraid or excited!
- Taking deep breaths and saying the first word. Fear and Anxiety peak right before the thing that you dread is about to take place. You'll find your fear-bubble deflating once you start to look the audience in the eyes and force yourself to start with a strong opening.
- Getting experience. As with anything, the more you do this, the easier it will become. I don't think public speaking anxiety every completely disappears (and I don't know if I want it to), but it certainly becomes more manageable the more gigs you have behind your name.
Is it possible to reduce or minimize public speaking anxiety? How do you keep your palms dry when they insist on remaining sweaty right before you ascend the stage? Which pesticides will banish the butterfly migration that seems to manifest in your gut before you clasp the microphone?
There are ways. I've done them, and so have thousands of other public speakers as well. And they work. And I'm not talking about mind tricks or psychological illusions, but about concrete steps that you implement before and during your speeches.
But first, a caveat: Please remember that small amounts of fear before or during public speaking are normal and even beneficial. Its when these 'nerves' turn into a paralyzing horror that you need to start thinking of finding solutions.
I don't think anyone has actually really suffered something like a 'paralyzing horror' before a speech, but for some people it gets pretty close, since the fear in their heart, which is usually left unchecked and almost always irrational, can make it extremely hard for them to go ahead and actually deliver their presentation. So I'm often left wondering to what great destinys people deny themselvesdue to fear.
There are antidotes, specific, practical and easy-to-perform things that we can take and implement. These things will at least get our feet moving even if our blood-pressure is still screaming.