Speech anxiety is more common than you may think. For most of us it represents a fear of public speaking in all kinds of public situations, which also includes when you’re out with your friends. We all know that people that get nervous while speaking, has a tendency to cause significant negative self -talk, which increases the likelihood that you see negative reactions in other people ( being laughed at, or even teased). This is the direct result of living with anxiety and it is something that you can improve if the right interventions are applied. As we all can relate to at some stage in ours life, what did you do to reduce your speech anxiety?
Speech Anxiety – we all have it
I’ll put it to you this way, a lot of people regardless of all ages have some level of speech anxiety when they have to speak in front of an audience. In case you didn’t know that public speaking is one of the greatest fears that people have. Speech anxiety can range from a slight feeling of nerves to incapacitating fears. Now I already know that we all can related to the symptoms of speech anxiety at some level, listed below:
- butterflies in the stomach
- dry mouths
- rapid heartbeat
Just to let everyone know that it’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate speech anxiety, however there are a variety of ways to cope with it and make it work to your advantage.
Don’t try to Memorize All the Words
Now unless you are trying to recite the national anthem, the happy birthday song or the cub scout promise, there’s no need to memorize every word of any speech. When people make that strong effort to do that, all that does is increase the stress level that already exist.
Avoid Reading Word for Word
We all can relate to this at some point in our lives where we had to prepare for a speech or presentation, for school, work, or some other social group. In so many words if one was already familiar with the layout to the flow of the content there preparing for, than they wouldn’t have to read directly from the slide or that 3×5 card. When mentally unprepared, one is totally relying on their visual aid to walk them through the entire presentation.
From experience when a person does this, it sets off a negative tone to the audience. Meaning that there is nothing engaging about the reading from a screen to a group that can already be seen by the slides themselves. And of course the lack of surprise will more than likely put that audience to sleep, wasting a great opportunity for them to actively listen. So my question is, are you or do you know someone that is guilty of the crime of reading directly from the slides?
Prepare to Start-off Strong
Well, to get things starter, regardless of who your audience is going to be or where it’s taking place at, it’s always best that you prepare yourself to start off strong. It is highly recommended that you prepare your speech early and thoroughly. Now preparing that speech at the last minute will only make your anxiety worst. Once you have prepared your speech than set time aside to practice at least 7 -10 times before the event. When you practice it always good to watch yourself in the mirror while your delivering your speech, this will allow you to see your gestures and body language. As a suggestion you can audio or videotape your speech as other ways to evaluate and improve your delivery. Most speeches have time limits, so be sure to use a timer and make changes where necessary.
Now we can’t avoid surprises but we can do our best to minimize them. I say this to say, make sure you are aware of all aspects of you speech situation ahead of time:
- know your time limit,
- the size of your audience
- the make-up of your audience
- what equipment you will be using ( computer, overhead, podium…)
- and any other detail that will affect your presentation
Finally, be sure to set realistic expectations, we all know that public speaking is difficult to master. So in instead of reminding yourself that you have to delivery a flawless speech, think realistically like “ If I lose my place, I will calmly scan my notes and than continue my speech or Small mistakes are not going to ruin my speech.
Practice – start off with small groups
When trying increase your level of confidence especially when first starting out it’s always best to consider smaller speaking engagements and than gradually work your way up to larger groups of people to speak in front off. Now speaking in front of 4 people is way different than speaking in front of 200 people. As you go through this kind of experience you will find your anxiety levels increase. As you practice to that point of larger numbers, it’s strongly recommended that you work your way up to that number people you are speaking in font of until you no longer find it quite as uncomfortable.
Finding your Speaking Anxiety Comfort level is the 1st Step
As we all know speaking anxiety can be a bit of a challenge to overcome. When it comes to public speaking a lot of people avoid it where it is necessary. However when one continues to work towards treating it, you will surprise yourself and realize that speaking in public to others becomes much easier. Don’t forget, it is important that you don not think of speaking anxiety as something you need to overcome for just one event. In this kind of situation, it’s best that you treat it like an illness, that you are looking cure. With that being said, this mean that once this event is over, that you must keep at it until it goes away (no more Speech Anxiety).