Join Tatiana Kolovou for an in-depth discussion in this video Reducing your anxiety about public speaking, part of Communication Tips.
- Regardless of their language and country of origin, people rank the fear of public speaking as second only to the fear of dying. Wow. But, consider that this terrible fear shared by all humanity, can be managed with simple strategies borrowed from the world of sport performance. See, performance anxiety is a real emotion that can negatively affect results. So here are some strategies from the trenches of sport competition to use before your speaking event.
Before the speech, train. Practice makes perfect, we've all heard that before, but, with public speaking your practice has to be progressive. See, you may start practicing with notes or even a written speech, but the goal is to get comfortable with speaking unplugged, a term we use in presentations for not having any paper to rely on. Your visuals, such as Power Points, if you're using them, can guide both the content and flow of your presentation.
The more you practice the material, the less guidance you will need. Vary your training. Be sure to practice in a conversational tone. Talk to a friend about your topic. Go through it in your mind when you drive to work, or even leave parts of it on a voicemail that you can review later. Not every rehearsal of your message should be identical, and when you make a mistake, keep going. Some speakers give excellent introductions, which they have practiced to perfection, but then fizzle out in the closing section.
Again, just like some athletes do in races and some teams do as well, because they didn't practice as much. Work through your mistakes and you will be better prepared for your final performance. Visualize. Athletes mentally prepare before competition so that they can work through the actual event without flaws. Like professional athletes, envision yourself in front of a group looking, sounding, and feeling confident. Imagine the affirmation and nods your audience is giving you, see yourself confidently working through interruptions, technical errors, with poise, while maintaining everyone's attention, hear the acclaim and applause at the end of your presentation.
Simulate. Football players recreate the sounds and lights of a loud competitive field so that they're not shaken up on game day. You can do the same by walking in your presentation room, practicing in it, wearing the clothes you plan to wear on your speaking day, and getting as familiar with technology as you can. Now, if your heart rate tends to jump when you get nervous, simulate that by running up a flight of stairs and then standing in your speaking space.
Take two deep, full breaths and start your speech. On your big day, your heart rate might spike but you'll be familiar with managing your breathing because of this preparation tip. Minutes before you speak. Athlete's associate during competition. This is a sport psychology term that means that they are laser focused on their body, their performance and their surroundings. Do the same in your speaking context.
Focus Inward. Right before you're speaking, find a private space, and strike what social psychologist, Amy cuddy, calls a power pose, occupy lots of space, stretch out big, take a deep breath. This will raise your confidence hormones and prepare you to take the stage. When you start to speak, take it slow, pause, take a breath between sentences, allowing you to be poised and centered.
Focus Outward. If distraction helps you, try listening to a little music, move your body by walking, stretching, or engaging in small talk with people in the room. The worst thing you can do is dwell on how nervous you are. Do something else with that energy instead. Treating your speaking anxiety with tried and true strategies that athletes all over the world use, is a powerful strategy. Plan for your next speech and get started.
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