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How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

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Old 06-01-2019, 08:29 AM
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Default How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

If youíre afraid of public speaking, youíre not alone. Itís totally normal to have performance anxiety when giving a speech. Fortunately, itís possible to overcome your fear so you can give effective public speeches. First, build your confidence by knowing your topic well and preparing for your speech. Then, try relaxation techniques to help you deal with your performance anxiety. Additionally, confront your worries so you can let them go. If you continue to struggle with public speaking, take a class or reach out to someone who can help.


EditSpeaking Help

Sample Speaking Exercises
Sample Orators
Sample High School Treasurer Speech

EditBuilding Your Confidence
  1. Know your topic really well. Itís normal to be afraid that youíll forget something or say something wrong. Being prepared is the best way to handle this fear. Read about your topic so that you understand it well. If you have time, look for documentaries or online videos to help you deepen your understanding.[1]
    • When you choose a speech topic, try to pick a subject that you already know about.
    • If youíre short on time, do an Internet search and read the first few sources that come up. However, make sure these sources are reliable.
  2. Write your speech so you have a plan for what you want to say. While you donít need to recite your speech word-for-word, itís helpful to write out what you want to say. Include a brief introduction of yourself and your topic. Then, write out paragraphs explaining your main points and support for them. End with a conclusion that tells audience members what to take from your speech.[2]
    • Your speech doesnít have to be perfect. You can make revisions while you practice it.
  3. Prepare an outline or note card to guide you through your speech. Itís helpful to have notes when youíre giving your speech to help jog your memory when you forget what to say. However, you donít want your notes to be too long because that makes it easy to get tripped up. Instead, include the basic elements of your speech on an outline or note card. This way, you can quickly look down and see a key term to remind you what to say. An outline for a speech about recycling might look like this:[3]
    • I. Keeps trash out of landfills
      • A. Less trash
      • B. Landfills last longer
    • II. Saves resources
      • A. Used for new products
      • B. Cuts use of raw materials
    • III. Gives consumers a voice
      • A. Can choose recycled
      • B. Brands meet consumer wants
  4. Practice your speech before you give it. Youíve likely heard the saying, ďPractice makes perfect,Ē and itís true. While you might not give a perfect speech, practicing will help you feel confident when you step in front of the audience. Start by reading your speech aloud to yourself. When you feel ready, perform your speech in front of a mirror.[4]
    • If you have a time limit for your speech, time yourself when you're practicing. Then, make adjustments if you need to increase the length or cut it down.
    • Just listen to your voice at first. Get a feel for the sound of your speech and make adjustments as necessary.
    • When youíre in front of the mirror, practice making gestures or facial expressions. See what feels right to you.
  5. Film yourself to help you improve your performance. Use a video camera or your phone to film yourself doing your speech. Act like your phone is the audience, so use gestures and facial expressions. Then, watch the speech and look for areas you can improve. Do this several times to build your confidence.[5]
    • Donít worry about the quality of the video or about anyone else seeing it. This video is just for you.
  6. Give your speech to family and friends before doing it in public. Pick people who will be honest about things that need improvement but are still really supportive of you. Then, perform your speech like you would for an audience. Ask them what they liked about the speech, as well as if you could improve on anything.[6]
    • If youíre really nervous, start with just 1 person. Then, gradually increase the number of people in your audience.
EditDealing with Performance Anxiety
  1. Smile to quickly release feel-good endorphins. The easiest way to calm down is to smile, even if itís fake. When you smile, your body naturally releases endorphins, which makes you feel better. Fake a smile or think of something funny to help you feel better fast.[7]
    • Try thinking of a scene from your favorite comedy. As another option, recite a joke you enjoy.
    • If you can, look at your favorite memes on your phone to help you smile naturally.
  2. Breathe deeply to help your body relax. Slowly inhale through your nose as you count to 5. Then, hold your breath for a 5 count. Finally, exhale slowly as you count to 5. Do a set of 5 slow breaths to help yourself calm down.[8]
    • If youíre about to go on stage, simply breathe deeply, drawing the air down into your stomach. Then, release out of your mouth.
    • Breathing deeply can release the tension in your body and help you calm down quickly.
  3. Place your hand on your forehead to relax your fight-or-flight response. Performance anxiety can trigger your fight-or-flight response, which naturally sends your blood to your arms and legs. However, you can bring the blood back to your head by placing your hand on your forehead. Your hand will signal to your body to send your blood upward. This will help you center your thoughts for your speech.[9]
    • Your blood goes to your limbs during a fight or flight response because your body is anticipating needing to get physical.
    • You should start to feel calmer after a few minutes.
  4. Visualize yourself giving a great speech. Visualization can make you feel like you actually experienced the thing youíre imagining. Close your eyes, then picture yourself giving your speech. Imagine that youíre doing an excellent job and everyone is excited to hear you. Then, picture yourself concluding your speech and walking away to applause.[10]
    • This can help you relax because it makes you feel like you can be successful.
  5. Use positive self-talk to replace negative thoughts. Itís normal to have negative thoughts about yourself before a speech, but they likely arenít true. When you notice a negative thought, stop and acknowledge it. Then, challenge its credibility. Finally, replace it with a positive thought.[11]
    • For instance, letís say you catch yourself thinking, ďIím going to look stupid up there.Ē Challenge this by asking yourself, ďWhy do I think this?Ē and ďWhat could go right?Ē Then, tell yourself, ďIím well-prepared for this speech, so I know Iíll look knowledgeable.Ē
  6. Look for opportunities to practice public speaking in low-stress situations. The best way to relieve your anxiety is to get more practice, but thatís hard to do when youíre afraid. Start small by speaking in front of your friends, volunteering to speak to local clubs, or speaking to small groups in class or at work.[12]
    • For instance, you might look for public speaking groups on Meetup.com to find opportunities.
    • Offer to give a short presentation to a local Boy Scout, Girl Scout, or Cub Scout troop.
EditConfronting Your Worries
  1. List off the specific worries that are causing your fear. Write it down or speak it aloud to help you process your worries. For instance, you might be afraid of saying the wrong thing or looking silly. Be as specific as possible about whatís making you nervous.[13]
    • Common worries include being judged, making a mistake, not measuring up, or making a bad impression.
  2. Challenge your worries by listing the probable outcomes. Ask yourself how likely your fear is to come true. Then, imagine how your speech is likely to go. Think of the positive things that could happen. This should help you realize that your worries are unlikely to come true.[14]
    • For example, let's say you're worried that you will forget what you have to say. You could remind yourself that you know your topic well and will have your note card with you to refresh your memory, if you need it. Then, picture yourself using the note card during your speech.
    • If the thing you're afraid of has actually happened to you, ease your fear by thinking about what you've done to prevent it from happening again. For instance, remind yourself that you've been thoroughly preparing for the speech and that you've practiced.
  3. Remind yourself that the audience wants you to succeed. It may feel like the audience is there to judge you, but this isnít true. Your audience is there to hear what you have to say and learn something they can use. They want you to do a good job, so theyíre on your side. Think of them as supporters.[15]
    • Think about how you feel when you go to see someone speak. Are you hoping theyíll do a bad job? Do you look for mistakes or judge how nervous they look? Probably not.
  4. Mingle with your audience before your speech to reduce your fear. Walk through the room and introduce yourself to people. Try to meet as many people as you can. This will help you feel like one of the group, which will make you feel less worried.[16]
    • You might stand by the door as people come in to greet them.
    • Donít worry if you donít meet everyone.
    • You may feel more confident during your speech if you make eye contact with the people you met beforehand. However, this isn't necessary.
EditGetting Additional Help
  1. Take a public speaking class to learn how to give a good speech. Public speaking is a s**** that most people have to learn. Look for a class online or at your local library, community center, or community college. Youíll learn how to prepare for a speech, how to give a good delivery, and tips for engaging your audience.[17]
    • If youíre trying to improve your s****s for work, look for a class thatís designed for business or professional public speaking. You might even be able to get your employer to send you to a professional workshop.
  2. Work with a therapist to overcome extreme public speaking anxiety. Itís okay to need additional help, and performance anxiety can be treated. Your therapist can teach you cognitive-behavioral strategies for confronting your anxiety and working through it. This will help you learn to identify thought and behavior patterns that are causing your performance anxiety. Then, you'll learn what to do differently to help you overcome your fear. Additionally, theyíll help you learn new ways to relax before a speech.[18]
    • Look for a therapist online or ask for a referral from your doctor.
    • Check with your insurance company to find out if they will pay for your treatment.
  3. Ask your doctor about a calming medication if nothing else helps you. Although you likely donít need medication, sometimes itís useful for helping you cope with performance anxiety. Talk to your doctor to find out if medication is a good choice for you. Then, take it before you give a speech to help you stay relaxed.[19]
    • The first time you take the medication should be when youíre at home and donít have any plans. This will help you see how it affects you.
    • You might decide to use calming medication if you need to do public speaking for your job but are struggling to do it.
  4. Attend Toastmasters to practice public speaking in a supportive setting. Toastmasters is a nonprofit organization that has branches in many communities. Theyíll help you build your public speaking s****s and give you a safe place to practice. Look for a chapter in your area and attend their meetings.[20]
    • You may have to join your local Toastmasters chapter to take advantage of their services.[21]

  • Remember, you don't look as nervous as you feel.
  • Only you know what you are supposed to say, so it's okay to change things during the presentation. Donít worry if you skip something because no one else knows.
  • Don't take anything personally. People who look like they aren't paying attention may be thinking about what youíre saying.
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