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Managing Our Anxiety

Managing speech anxiety can feel daunting — or plain impossible. Instead of focusing on the whole process, try these tips a few at a time for before, during, and after a presentation.

Student at computer smiling

Before the Presentation

Intellectually – be prepared

  • Know your audience
  • Select a topic you like/are interested in and one of value to your audience
  • Organize your outline/notecards
  • Practice your speech multiple times – share it with others as a conversation
  • Do NOT practice in front of a mirror or videotape your speech. Practicing while standing in front of a mirror or videotaping a practice speech are not recommended as these tend to exacerbate our anxiety. As our own worst critics we may focus on small areas of improvement and miss the strengths of the “big picture.” If you are interested in recording practice presentations, external feedback is recommended.

Mentally / emotionally – envision success

  • Employ positive thinking/self-help talk/visualize success
  • Write down 3 things you know you can and will do well

Physically – maintain

  • Get a good night sleep – at least 8 hours
  • Reduce stress
    • Exercise – run, swim, take a fitness class
    • Chill – meditate, yoga, take a bath, listen to music
    • Express – write in a journal, speak with someone, paint, compose music
  • Eat  – have something basic in your stomach: toast, fruit, crackers, yogurt, pb&j

During the Presentation

Intellectually – be ready

  • Have your materials ready – have a good outline/notecards
  • Know that speech anxiety is normal and natural and you can manage it

Mentally / emotionally – maximize the opportunity / energy

  • DO
    • Maximize your nervous energy and utilize it as enthusiasm
    • Have a conversation with your audience
    • Embrace the opportunity for successful connection
    • Know that the audience wants you to succeed
    • If you are going to “what if . . . ,” then consider “what if I am . . . brilliant”
  • DO NOT
    • Memorize your presentation
    • Read your speech verbatim
    • Let your nervousness win
    • Visualize failure

Physically – manage the nervousness

  • Be ready to manage the nervousness – rested, fed, and with low stress level
  • Allow nervous energy a harmless way to escape – tap foot, use natural gestures, move
  • Breathe during speech and practice deep breathing/meditation right before – visualize success

Two female students relaxing in hammocks

After the Presentation

Intellectually – assess the accomplishment

  • Be proud of yourself – the fear did not win
  • Take stock of what went well – identify at least 2 specific accomplishments
  • Acknowledge areas for improvement and focus on 2 for next speech
  • Understand it is normal if you forgot some or all of what you said
  • Consider: what will you do differently when preparing for the next speech?

Mentally / emotionally – be happy / relieved

  • Listen to and Accept compliments
  • Be proud of yourself – delivering a presentation is quite an accomplishment
  • Do not highlight “mistakes” and focus on weaknesses
  • Consider: what are you most proud of? What do you want to improve for next time?

Physically – relax / unwind

  • Breathe and allow your heart rate to slow down
  • Know that some nervous energy is still present and you may have trembling hands and feel hot
  • Maintain – make sure to eat, de-stress, and sleep
  • Treat yourself – watch a movie, go to dinner, hit the gym – you delivered a speech and that is a pretty big deal, well done!

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