“There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” ~ Mark Twain
I can’t remember a single moment in time during which I wasn’t nervous before approaching the stage and addressing an audience… and I’ve lost count how many speaking-related events I’ve participated in. The truth is, it’s totally normal to feel some butterflies.
In fact, scientists tell us that this feeling of fear is even built within our genetic code to respond with heightened levels of alertness and nervousness when we’re facing a large crowd of people, and we’re the only ones on the opposing side. In his book, Confessions of a Public Speaker (get the FlashNotes book summary here), Scott Berkun tells us the following:
Our brains, for all their wonders, identify the following four things as being very bad for survival:
- Standing alone
- In open territory with no place to hide
- Without a weapon
- In front of a large crowd of creatures staring at you
In the long history of all living things, any situation where all the above were true was very bad for you. It meant the odds were high that you would soon be attacked and eaten alive. Many predators hunt in packs, and their easiest prey are those who stand alone, without a weapon, on a flat area of land where there is little cover (e.g., a stage). Our ancestors… developed a fear response to these situations. So, despite my 15 years of teaching classes, running workshops, and giving lectures, no matter how comfortable I appear to the audience when at the front of the room, it’s a scientific fact that my brain and body will experience some kind of fear before and often while I’m speaking.
The scary sensations aren’t going anywhere. So rather than run away, let’s embrace it and learn to utilize it to our advantage. And at worst – let’s at least learn how to overcome the fear eventually by putting some effective anxiety management practices to work.
Wanna learn what they are? Continue reading below for your 15 tips to overcome public speaking anxiety. The first 8 tips are about the process of overcoming the anxiety of speaking in public… Tips 9-15 are tactics to help you manage the anxiety and keep it to a minimum.
Public speaking anxiety : 15 tips to overcome it
#1. Turn anxiety into energy.
When it comes to public speaking — one of the best ways to overcome anxiety and nervousness is to USE the energy that your body generates as a result of you being so nervous.
One of the coolest things about being afraid/anxious/fearful is that our bodies produce various chemicals (like cortisol) when we anticipate something we’re afraid of… and this actually results in an increased amount of adrenaline and energy.
Most people are too busy being afraid to actually think about channeling their anxiety into energy and enthusiasm. But now that you know about it — you won’t be one of those people, right? What you’ll do instead, is USE this energy when it arises to connect with your audience and deliver your message with power and purpose.
If you’d like a deeper explanation about the neuroscience behind how fear works, checkout the video below, where Abigail Marsh, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Georgetown University, breaks down how fear arises in our bodies.
2. Have a deep desire to talk about something.
When it comes to public speaking — and life in general — your desire must be equal to the effort that success demands.
Have a white hot burning desire. Have enthusiasm and tell everyone about it.
If you can’t cultivate a deep desire to deliver a message — then why the heck are you up there in the first place?
Set aside time to practice. Make it easy to move forward and hard to set it aside. Write it down. Schedule it. Time block it like it’s a job.
If you don’t practice, your anxiety will be at least 10X worse than it would be if you had.
4. Know your message.
Do you know what you’re going to talk about? What’s the point of the whole talk? Figure that out. Know what you’re going to talk about. Know it well.
Have a message and think of yourself as the messenger — and remember that people care more about the message than the messenger. Master your message.
And for goodness sake, don’t speak until you are sure you have something to say, then say it, and sit down.
5. Use props.
Consider finding a prop to use, or write on a black board, or something of the sort.
Having something to do or show can help you supress that “all eyes on me” feeling.
Regulate your bodily actions:
– breath in deep through your nose (inhale),
– and then release slowly through the mouth (exhale)
– focus on your breath while you do this. It helps. Big time.
7. Talk like they owe you money!
In his book, Public Speaking for Success (get the book notes here), Dale Carnegie advises us to speak with confidence and congruence, as if you were addressing someone that owes you money!
8. Just do it.
You know the saying — just do it.
The never failing way to develop self confidence is to just get up there and speak.
With practice, you can begin to tame the fear. Even experienced public speakers get anxiety.
Managing Your Anxiety When It’s Time To Speak
Okay, now let’s pause for a second before jumping into the final quarter… you should know that the first 8 tips were focused specifically on OVERCOMING the anxiety of speaking in public. So, in other words, preparing yourself to the best of your ability to actually get up there and do the speaking (and not allowing your fear to control you or prevent you from speaking.) But we can’t stop there… in tips 9-15, we’re going to transition from OVERCOMING to MANAGING the anxiety of public speaking when it’s finally time for you to stand & deliver. To be clear: tips 1-10 are about doing everything in your power to prepare yourself to do your best. Tips 9-15 are about managing the nerves and not peeing your pants in front of everyone… because that really wouldn’t be good. So, keep the following basics in mind so you don’t have any major “accidents” while you’re doing your thing…
Always maintain your focus on the audience, and serving them to the best of your ability.
#10. Remind yourself how awesome you are.
Remind yourself that you’ve prepared to the best of your ability.
#11. Go on auto-pilot.
Go on automatic pilot, know that you’ve prepared to the best of your ability (hopefully!)
#12. Don’t judge yourself.
Make yourself a promise to relinquish self-judgement.
#13. Don’t think about “what they’ll think.”
Remind yourself to not let any reactions that you see or hear to affect your speech.
Imagining what people in the audience think is useless. Be in the giving mode, not the receiving one. You can’t be the speaker and the listener at the same time.
#14. One thing.
Think about the most important point you need to concentrate on making in your speech before hand — and make sure it’s only one main point.
#15. Shine baby, shine.
Let your passion as a speaker shine through, enjoy it!
Being able to express yourself in public will make you a more effective leader faster than any other way possible. I hope these tips to overcoming public speaking anxiety help you on that path.
Now go crush it!