How to Overcome a Fear of Public Speaking

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A year ago - or even just a few months ago - simply jotting down this blog title would have made me instantly nauseated. As a marketer, pitching and presenting is a part of the job, I knew this, but couldn’t shake the crazy anxiety I’d experience before standing up in front of a group - or even sometimes just contributing in larger meetings. Working in an office full of confident, young people seemed to make it worse. I constantly wondered how they could all get up to speak in front of 60 people and be so calm, cool and collected. On the flip side, I wondered how I could be so not calm, cool and collected.

Understanding what causes anxiety, learning how to deal with it and ultimately putting those tools to use has drastically changed my outlook on public speaking and quite honestly improved my overall job satisfaction.

Though I’m pretty certain I will never enjoy standing up in front of an audience, I’ve come to realize that’s okay. However, I do believe that becoming comfortable and confident speaking in front of peers (and complete strangers for that matter) is so important, not only the professional world, but just in life too - I mean, no one wants to have the painfully uncomfortable Maid of Honor speech at their best friend’s wedding, right?

Scroll for tips and tricks on how to deal with pre-speech nerves.

Understanding Why:

  • Your Mind Has a Mind of it's Own: Though anxiety is slightly different for everyone, I totally believe it is dominated and controlled by the mind. Often times what starts out as a small worry can completely spiral out of control if you let your mind go there. Learning that I have control of my mind (to some extent) has helped me rationalize during bouts of anxiety.

  • Personality Type: As a very driven, motivated person, I can be very hard on myself - much like many other Type A-ers. People with a Type A personality like to be in control, and when we feel that something is out of our control we can kind of lose it.

  • Being an Extrovert: I always thought that as an extrovert, speaking to large audiences should be a breeze - not the case. Oddly enough, introverts can actually have an easier time presenting in front of large groups because there isn’t the pressure to connect with someone one-one-one. Because extroverts often thrive talking and connecting in smaller groups, a larger group can feel disconnected and impersonal.

 

Learning How to Deal:

  • Positive Visualization: As a former athlete, I bought into this one right away. Picture yourself giving your prezzy, and giving it well. Over and over and over.

  • Deep Breathing: It seems simple, but it works. I find even just a few long slow deep breaths helps. 

  • Distract Yourself: You can try this one a couple of different ways. 1. Before getting up to speak and you feel yourself becoming anxious, try distracting the mind with something as simple as going through the alphabet and coming up with a different name for each letter. It gives your mind something else to focus on rather than how nervous you are. 2. Have something in your hands during the presentation - note cards, business cards, a paper clip.... Whatever works.

  • Know You Have Options: Remember that you’re an adult and have options - if you need to leave for a couple minutes to collect yourself before your speech, then do what ya gotta do.

  • Distract the Audience: Handing out a tangible item or starting the presentation with a question distracts the audience and takes their eyes and minds off of you a bit.

  • Familiarize Yourself with the Room: If you’re able to access to room before your presentation, try popping in for a few minutes at a time to create a positive association with the space in your mind.

I’m by no means an expert, but hope you find the bits and pieces above as helpful as I have!