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How to Beat Public Speaking Anxiety Getting over Nerves - Personal Speech Preparation

Essential Leadership and Management for Engineers

How to Beat Public Speaking Anxiety: Personal Speech Preparation

Glossophobia - strange word - ‘the fear of public speaking’. It’s a feeling many, if not most people are familiar with. Symptoms can range from mild anxiety to distress, nausea and even full blown panic. So how can you conquer your nerves and deliver that knockout speech?

First things first, it’s OK to feel anxious or nervous before a speech. It’s only naturally. The key is controlling these feelings and importantly appearing confident to your audience. Start with consciously controlling your breathing. Take deep, slower than normal breaths. Proactively think about being calm and relaxed whilst deep breathing. You should start to feel yourself starting to calm down and feel more in control.

Deep breathing will steady your voice and so give you more confidence. It’s worth practicing this simple technique which also gives you the advantage of delivering a string of words without sounding out of breath towards the end. Consciously breathing deeply is the opposite of the method you need to avoid, but naturally occurs when you are nervous – short, shallow breathing.

Another effective suggestion is self-reassurance. Tell yourself you are going to be OK. What’s the worst that can happen? Nothing really – you’ll finish soon and carry on with your day. You’re presenting in front of friends and colleagues, not the U.N Security Council! It’s not life or death. Others have coped, so can you. Draw comfort from the fact the audience are on your side. They want you to deliver a good presentation that leaves them informed and communicates information they need to know. They respect you for standing up in the first place.


How to Beat Public Speaking Anxiety: Focus on Post-Speech Satisfaction...

There is a real buzz after delivering a good presentation; a genuine sense of satisfaction. Focus on looking forward to that buzz. As you practice and get more speeches under your belt you’ll recognise this and look forward to the feeling you know exists after you’ve spoken.

Your presentation voice also requires practice. The thought of speaking out loud to yourself may seem a bit awkward, but it’s a lot less awkward than trying to get it right on the day in front of your audience without any preparation. Try finding a quiet room and reading out a paragraph or reciting something you know by heart. Even better, get someone to listen to you and provide you with feedback.


How to Beat Public Speaking Anxiety: Awareness and Control of the Mechanics of Speech Delivery...

Practice the correct volume. For this, you need to be aware of the location and size of the room you will be talking in. If the speech is in an engineering environment, consider things like background and equipment noise. How big is your audience? How close are they? If you can change anything in your environment to assist you, do so. Failing this, you will be relying on your use of appropriate volume. Therefore, awareness and considerations in advance make sense.

Speed and clarity are also important. Speeches are typically delivered slightly slower than the pace you normally speak at. Remember the purpose is to communicate information to others. So slightly slower, clear speech delivered at an appropriate volume, is key.

Have you considered the appropriate level of formality? Find out what you should be wearing? The clothes you choose should be comfortable, as this is related to your confidence.


How to Beat Public Speaking Anxiety: Getting Your Body Language Right...

Your body language should also be an appropriate mix of formality and comfort, according to the situation and nature of the speech. A relaxed stance with appropriate use of hand gestures to emphasis points in the speech will help build your confidence. It also shows you as someone the audience can relate to and this helps build rapport. Speaking of hands, some people find themselves unsure what to do with them during a speech. Try the following:

  • Emphasising parts of the speech with one hand whilst holding your notes or cards with the other.
  • Resting them lightly on the lectern or stand.
  • Loosely clasping your hands in front of you.
  • Holding your hands behind your back.
  • Holding a pen or pointer, but remember not to fiddle.
  • Hands naturally by your sides, but not stiff.


How to Beat Public Speaking Anxiety: Concluding Thoughts...

Public Speaking Summary

Putting the ideas above into practice is the best way of improving your public speaking. Force yourself to volunteer to speak more publicly. At work this may start with more verbal contributions to meetings. Consider moving on to addressing small groups of colleagues in an informal setting. To further practice, volunteer to speak about projects, technical tasks or similar pieces of work at team meetings. Following this, you may wish to aspire to more formal speeches and presentations. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel and better you will get.

Delivering a presentation and getting a good reception from the audience is hugely rewarding. When speaking in public you’ll soon look and feel like a natural! Overcoming your fears through preparation and practice will help you enjoy it and eventually thrive.

How to Beat Public Speaking Anxiety

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