Public Speaking anxiety can be handled with proper preparation
Whether you are a seasoned speaker or a beginner, public speaking anxiety can strike at any time. Expert speakers still get butterflies before speaking- it is part of the adrenaline spike that happens when we put ourselves in front of a lot of people! It is the body’s way of preparing us, but too much can lead to dry mouth and even loss of voice. It is a very specific form of nerves linked to worries about making a fool of ourselves! Preparation is the key to minimising public speaking anxiety.
Sensible planning can reduce public speaking anxiety
There are practical things you can do to ensure that your public speaking anxiety is not triggered by organisational failures.
- Know exactly where you are speaking, how long it will take to get there and how early before the speech you can arrive
- If possible, practise your opening before delegates and audience arrives to make sure the microphones are working properly
- Before the speech do your research on the audience- familiarising yourself with them, will make them feel less intimidating.
Rehearse your speech- if you are comfortable with it then you are less likely to have an attack of public speaking anxiety. Be careful not to over rehearse- these are not lines in a play and you want to leave opportunities to sound spontaneous. You must be absolutely clear about your opening as losing the flow here will definitely sabotage your speech. Remember the structure of your speech. If you have the opening and closing memorised and clear you will massively reduce your public speaking anxiety.
Practical tips to reduce public speaking anxiety
The night before the speech is often the first hint of a public speaking anxiety attack. You may have been fine writing your speech and then suddenly the night before you cannot sleep. You do need to try and relax the evening before your speech, so follow these tips to keep your public speaking anxiety under control.
- Have your clothes ready- on hangers, every item several hours before going to bed (if you want some tips on what to wear, read my post on dressing for success
- Have a relaxing bath- even if you want to shower the next morning to refresh, a bath with salts or oils to relax will do you good.
- NO caffeine for at least 4 hours before you go to bed! No alcohol either- it will make you feel lousy the next morning and dry your mouth.
- Program your sat nav; phone; your maps for the journey
- Give yourself plenty of time to fall asleep
On the day tips to reduce public speaking anxiety
If you can, about three hours before the talk go for a walk, get away to clear your head. Your public speaking anxiety can often be triggered by others; the organiser, other speakers etc. so being alone can help calm the butterflies.
- Drink water around an hour and a half before the speech. Then top up again half an hour before the presentation. Dehydration brings on headaches and is a trigger for public speaking anxiety.
- Go to the toilet before the presentation- check your hair, face, make-up. Run cold water on your wrists it will reduce any hot flush feelings of anxiety
- Check your clothes- for loose threads, hems etc. (You should probably bring a change of clothes if you want to feel really secure- then you can swap out a shirt or blouse if you need to).
- Practise your deep breathing techniques- Go here to see some examples http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html
- 5. Adopt the Amazon/Wonderwoman pose 10 minutes before going on (well OK you don’t have to wear the outfit!) – this is a scientifically proven technique to raise your testosterone levels and boost your confidence. It also reduces the stress hormone cortisol which is a key trigger for public speaking anxiety. Literally, stand with your feet apart, hands on waist, like Wonder Woman, for 10 minutes.
(Watch this great Ted talk by Amy Cuddy to learn more about power poses http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are)
Walk out onto the platform with your head held high. With careful preparation and planning you can reduce your public speaking anxiety and deliver a great speech. By the way, all anxiety evaporates when you hear the applause at the end!