According to several studies, the fear of public speaking is considered among one of the top 5 fears for Americans, among the fear of death and loneliness. This means that many people associate speaking in front of the audience with the same level of fear and uncertainty as fatality and isolation.
For many people who experience speech anxiety, the symptoms of concern and anguish are often accompanied by physiological reactions that are often distracting and uncontrollable. This can often include, trembling, shortness of breath, upset stomach, and a quivering voice. The occurrence of these reactions can ultimately amplify the speaker’s feelings of doubt and angst resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy in which they fail to deliver a solid speech.
While the imagined fear of facing scrutiny and embarrassment from a mass of people is almost and completely and utterly fabricated by one’s exaggerated expectations of failure and inadequacy, for many people this a very real fear that manifests itself both mentally and physically.
Although some level of nervousness or worry will always be associated with the idea of public speaking there are plenty of ways that you can learn to cope with your speech anxiety to ensure that it does not prevent you from delivering a speech to the best of your ability.
Here are some simple exercises to help boost your confidence and reduce your anxiety levels when performing a speech.
1. Light Stretching and Exercise Prior
First and foremost, one of the best ways you can calm your nerves before delivering a speech it to get oxygen flowing to your brain and to get your blood circulating. This could be anything from taking a light jog the morning of your speech as well as doing some light stretching. This can help lower your levels of anxiety by making you feel more relaxed, relieving tension physically and mentally, and reducing stiffness and fatigue.
2. Implement the Superman Pose
A great way to help ease anxiety when public speaking is by adjusting your posture. A few minutes before delivering your speech, mimic the Superman pose by placing your hands on your hips, standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, and placing your shoulders back and your chest high. By taking up space not only will you appear more confident but eventually you will feel more confident. The more you practice taking up space and making yourself appear more open, you will ultimately become comfortable with your presence, thus genuinely becoming more confident in your public speaking abilities.
3. Use Breathing and Mindfulness Exercises
It can also be beneficial to take some time to meditate and regulate your breathing before delivering a speech. Taking deep breaths about 10-15 minutes before delivering your presentation can help lower your heart rate and reduce physical tension and anxiety. Meditating before-hand can help calm your mental state making your impending performance less stressful. When meditating and deep breathing, do so in a relatively quiet space and concentrate on your breathing, blocking out all distractions. This will allow you to focus on the task at hand rather than your nerves.
4. Focus on Friendly Faces in the Audience
Part of the fear associated with public speaking is imagining that your audience is harshly judging you. A great way to elude this fear is to focus on 1 or 2 friendly faces in the audience. Whether you are speaking in a room with fellow peers and classmates or delivering a speech to a crowd of strangers, there are bound to be a least 2 people who are smiling and engaging while you are speaking. By focusing your attention on these individuals, you will be less inclined to imagine that your audience is criticizing you, which will allow you to focus more on your content.
5. If Eye Contact Makes You Nervous Look at Ears
One of the most important elements of public speaking etiquette is maintaining eye contact with your audience. This demonstrates that you are self-assured in your topic and it communicates to your audience that you are credible and trustworthy. Depending on your level of speech anxiety, it can be very difficult to maintain eye contact when speaking. A great tip to fix this issue is by focusing on your audience’s ears instead of their eyes. No one will be able to tell the difference!
By practicing these tips and techniques, over time you will become more comfortable with your public speaking abilities and less immobilized by your doubts and nervousness. Just remember that implementing these strategies consistently can ultimately help you remain confident and composed allowing you to showcase your speaking skills to the best of your ability.