Imagine just as you’re about to begin your daily tasks, you hear the footsteps of your supervisor approaching you. They ask you to give an engaging presentation about a project you’ve been working on. Your face flushes and your heart begins to race as you picture yourself on a massive stage looking out into a sea of blank faces. But, what if you didn’t have to feel like this? What if you could meet the challenge of public speaking with excitement and confidence? Here are eight tips for understanding and overcoming your fear of public speaking.
1. It’s all normal
The fear of public speaking affects nearly 75% of the world’s population, so it’s important to remember that this anxiety is completely normal (PSYCOM). It can be difficult to picture yourself in the same position as Barack Obama, Simon Sinek, or colleagues who seem like naturally gifted speakers; however, nearly everyone gets the jitters before delivering an important address. The first step to overcome this fear is acknowledging that our feelings are completely normal. After that, we can begin to overcome our anxieties with courageous action! In this case, practice is the key. Practice, practice, practice! Feel the fear and speak anyway.
2. Prepare a question
If I feel particularly anxious about a presentation, I have learned to ask the audience an open-ended question at the beginning of my talk. This first step allows the audience to connect with me and activate their brains for my upcoming talking points. As they answer my question, I can take a moment to catch my breath before starting my talk. Through this method, we can overcome that initial surge of stage fright and begin to form an engaging interaction with our audience.
3. Focus on the value
My first speaking coach shared a powerful statement with me: Your talk is not about you; it’s about the value you have to offer to your audience. This message is a constant reminder that that the purpose of a talk is the value we share with our audience. Reframing the presentation in terms of the audience’s benefit emphasizes that the presentation is not about our fears and the audience judging us. Instead, we remember that our mission is to use our voices to share impactful information and educate, inspire, or incite change in our audience.
4. Create your own ritual
Having a routine does wonders for managing anxiety before a presentation. This may be going to bed early the night before, avoiding salty foods, or doing yoga the morning of your talk! Our ritual could be anything that makes us feel calm and confident. By focusing on these activities, we can trick our brains into thinking we are in control of the day! Implementing and following through with an uplifting ritual helps our bodies feel at ease and gives our minds the space to prosper.
5. Arrive early
The smallest changes can truly increase our comfort level at stressful events. One of my biggest tips is to arrive even earlier than you usually would! This allows ample time to explore the space, test out equipment, and begin to feel at ease. Showing up early illustrates our preparedness and also provides us with time to evaluate our space and even relax.
6. Visualize yourself
Throughout the hours, days, or weeks before my events, I like to actively visualize myself giving my talk. To do this, I close my eyes, relax my body, and imagine the sound of my name being introduced. In the mental image, I see myself walking confidently on stage, sharing my knowledge with the audience, engaging with viewers, ending my talk, and walking back to my seat. Through this process, we ease the anxiety of the unknown! By the time we actually give the talk, it will feel like we’ve had ample preparation, calming our nerves. Each time we visualize our speech, we grow more and more comfortable with this scary process and eventually overcome our fears!
7. Do a POWER pose
It may seem silly, but I personally have found doing POWER poses being very helpful. Standing straight and tall with arms akimbo, similar to Wonder Woman, may actually increase our levels of success! The TED talk by Amy Cuddy shares the power of body positioning and how being in an open body position can boost self-confidence. Instead of closing in, we need to expand outwards! By taking up more space we can subconsciously change our inner emotions for the better! Before giving a talk, trying out some POWER poses my give us that extra edge to overcome our fears.
8. Square Breathing
Simple breathing techniques can help decrease anxiety and depression and even boost our immune system (Harvard). My favorite exercise is square breathing. This technique encourages level and controlled breathing sure decrease your stress levels. To start, breath in deeply for four seconds. Hold your breath for four seconds, and then breath out slowly for another four seconds. Hold your breath for another four seconds, and then repeat the process. By engaging in deep breathing, we take control of the anxiety levels in our body and almost force ourselves to calm down! This tip is the best way to calm the butterflies in your stomach before going on stage.
With these eight tips, we can begin to gain control of our fear of public speaking. Sharing our ideas doesn’t have do be nerve-wracking, and I hope these techniques help increase your comfort levels and self-confidence.
Dima Ghawi is the founder of a global talent development company. Her mission is providing guidance to business executives to develop diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies and to implement a multi-year plan for advancing quality leaders from within their organization.