Speech anxiety and the fear of public speaking do not define us and, instead, offer an opportunity to boldly address these concerns head on. We invite you to explore Additional Resources regarding the Why? What? And How? of speech anxiety.
Why deliver presentations? Why do we need skills in Public Speaking?
Those of us with speech anxiety tend to be high achievers, intelligent and capable. On an intellectual level we understand the value of effective communication skills, yet let the fear of public speaking limit the development of our necessary skillset.
According to many public speaking textbooks, public speaking:
- inspires creativity
- is necessary in many careers and professional positions
- teaches critical thinking skills
- is an integral component in effective leadership
- fosters self confidence
Managing our speech anxiety, making the energy work for us rather than against us, and feeling comfortable sharing our story with others is going to prove advantageous in every facet of life – professional, personal, and social.
What is the power of positive versus negative thinking?
What we think can really affect what we do. Often the biggest hurdle to delivering a great speech is our negative thoughts before the speech. How can we replace negative expectations with positive ones? One suggestion is to brainstorm our thoughts as we prepare for a speech. As we design, practice and refine our presentation, take a minute to brainstorm concerns and fears. List those negative thoughts, such as fear of failure, fear of making mistake, not making sense, etc. and then respond with what has or can be done to address that concern. The formidable list of worries should lessen and/or disappear as plans are made to address each one. That should help to increase confidence and reduce stress. We must empower ourselves to face this challenge head-on and share our stories.
Based upon the results of your SAAT and your Individual Speech Anxiety Report, you may also want to create a journal in which you address each concern and what you are doing about it. This would be more detailed than the list activity described above and more of an ongoing dialogue with yourself. This can be insightful as it can help you pinpoint triggers and ways to manage them better. Within this diary you may want to include sections like: preparation, content, delivery, audience reaction and grade/evaluation. Within each you can record what your concerns are, what you have done to address them, and how you feel you did with each after your presentation. This can prove an invaluable learning tool if used consistently, with honesty and details.
How can we effectively manage the physical symptoms of speech anxiety?
Relaxation, Nutrition and Sleep
In order to effectively manage stress, we must be relaxed, fueled and well-rested. Think of high-performance athletes and their regime of practice, rest and nutrition. We need to physically position ourselves to handle the oncoming stress as effectively as possible so this means listening to our bodies and taking good care of ourselves.
Our relaxation can be physical, emotional or mental. Physical relaxation can include a long walk, yoga or meditation, deep breathing, a long bath, nap or massage. It may also include a good workout – a run, swim, aerobics class. This boost endorphins and helps us sleep better. Emotional relaxation can include writing in a journal, painting or other artistic expression, listening, playing or composing music, and talking to others. These activities are meant to make you happy and to boost your self-confidence. Mental relaxation is intended to clear your mind of negative and stressful thoughts. In this case, you need to quit worrying about your speech. Read a good book, watch a favorite movie, talk to a friend, do anything that is enjoyable and distracting. This does not include procrastination but it does involve distraction.
Stress is often exacerbated by not eating or drinking well. It is particularly important before a presentation or public speaking event that we eat and hydrate. Think basic foods such as a bagel, apple or banana, protein or granola bar, or the great standby of peanut butter and jelly. We want something that will stay with us for a while and offset that “upset” feeling and “butterflies” prior to a speech. We also must stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. High caffeine drinks are not the best idea as we are often jittery enough. In addition to water, juice, sports drinks, and tea are good choices.
On average, we need eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Sleep deprivation makes us more susceptible to stress and less able to effectively deal with it. Also, when we are stressed it is often hard to shut off our worries and get a good night’s sleep. It is easy to get caught up in a stressful and unhealthy cycle. Some tips to getting that good night’s sleep include:
- Make a set bedtime – like 11:00 or midnight – and stick with it (within a half hour)
- Create a relaxing routine – like taking a shower or bath, setting out stuff for the next day, and then watching a favorite show
- Design an environment conducive to sleep – cooler temperatures, reduced lighting