Managing Speech Anxiety
You are far from alone if getting up in front of a group of people makes you feel anything between nervous and anxious. It is 100%, totally natural to experience some stress in any performance situation. Kept at a moderate level, stress can increase energy levels, concentration, and memory. However, if this stress increases to anxiety, making presentations, participating in group discussions, and/or speaking in class an obstacle, please take a look at the below strategies for navigating this anxiety.
At the end of the day, the best cure for a fear of public speaking is to get used to it by doing it over, and over, and over again.
Focus on Relaxation
- Before you are about to speak, focus on relaxation techniques
- Deep breathing, being aware of the tension in your body and releasing it, mental imagery, etc.
- Look at “Managing Anxiety” in the Test Taking Strategies section for a more thorough explanation
No Caffeine or Energy Drinks
- These substances naturally increase your physical energy, which can then increase your mental energy. If you are already struggling with high stress levels, caffeine can make it worse
- Positive thoughts activate positive emotions
- Tell yourself you will give a good speech. There might be a few stumbles, a memory lapse. Whatever.
- By not aiming for perfection, this removes some pressure which could be causing stress
- You can still get a good mark even having made a few mistakes
- You will do just fine. Tell yourself that!
Shift Those Thoughts
- Try telling yourself that you’re having an informal conversation with a few friends… instead of talking before a bunch of strangers
- Talking with friends isn’t scary
- As you are speaking, make eye contact with a few members of the audience. This makes the audience feel smaller, which helps you to relax
- When you move onto a different topic, shift your eye contact to another section of the audience
- Your audience is unlikely to consist of professional speakers
- They are your peers and likely feel as uneasy about speaking in public as you do
- They are hoping you will be as accepting of any mistake they might make, just as you are hoping they will be accepting of any mistake you might make
Notice How You Feel
- Often when we allow ourselves to fully feel and recognize what’s happening to our bodies, those feelings become less troubling and
- Okay. Your tummy is filled with butterflies. Your hands are sweaty. Your heart is beating quickly. Feel. Acknowledge. Move on.
Cuseo, Joseph B, Aaron Thompson, Michele Campagna, Viki Sox Fecas. Thriving in College and Beyond: Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success and Personal Development. Dubuque: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, 2016.
Ellis, Dave. Becoming a Master Student. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006.