February 7, 2018

8 Ways to Manage Public Speaking Anxiety

Man speaking in front of crowd
8 Ways to Manage Public Speaking Anxiety

For many, the idea of speaking in public is daunting. While a little nervous energy is healthy, excessive public speaking anxiety can be crippling. Being charismatic and engaging doesn’t necessarily come naturally, even to successful business people and world leaders. Whether it’s a keynote speech for hundreds of people or a simple team meeting, it takes a lot of effort to be a great speaker, starting with controlling your nerves.


Learn how to manage your nerves and boost your confidence so you can confidently conquer public speaking.


1. Get into the Zone

Focusing mentally before a public speaking event will allow you to give your best quality output. Make sure you’re comfortable with the venue by arriving a little early to get a feel for the set up. If possible, do a brief run through with the microphone. Whether it’s a small breakaway room or even the parking lot, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and take a moment to focus. Different people need different things, so you’ll need to learn what works best for you.


2. Warm Up

Public speaking can feel like a workout. Get yourself physically ready by doing some vocal exercises, which will help you project your voice and come across more confident in your delivery. Now, strike a power pose. Amy Cuddy, a body language researcher at Harvard Business School, suggests power posing to ease nerves before a presentation or public speaking engagement. According to Cuddy’s research, simply putting your hands on your hips or striking the CEO or Superman pose for two minutes will reduce your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This will give you a boost and make you look and feel powerful.


3. Work on Your Body Language

Public speaking isn’t just about what you’re saying, it’s also about how you’re saying it. The way you convey yourself—your body language, your facial expressions, and even your gestures—can affect the impact of your delivery. It’s important to be mindful of these nonverbal cues. Simple things like keeping your posture upright and expanding your chest helps. Smiling and making eye contact will put your audience at ease even if you’re speaking about a more serious topic.

You can read more body language dos and don’ts in our blog, 8 Common Professional Body Language Mistakes to Avoid.


4. Memorize Your Content

Memorizing the sequence of your slides or your note cards—whatever you’re using to prepare or presenting visually—will help you to feel in control and allow you to anticipate which slide comes next, making you look more professional. Start by memorizing key points and you’ll slowly begin to weave a story line. It will also reduce the likelihood of you getting off track should you feel overcome with your public speaking anxiety.


5. Tell a Story

The more data-driven your content, the harder it is to keep your audience engaged. Telling a story with your content is a good way to connect with your audience. It will help them understand where the concept comes from and what it means. The key is making sure you have a thread that links the different ideas and concepts throughout your presentation.

Structure your material so you start and end strong. Don’t waste time with a longwinded introduction, especially if you have a time limit. You may even consider starting with a personal anecdote or provocative question—something that will make the audience feel they can relate to and connect with you.


6. Rehearse

The best way to boost your confidence is to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. This will also help you memorize the material. Ideally, rehearse in front of someone. If that’s not possible, you can use a mirror. Always time yourself while rehearsing to ensure you don’t exceed the time you’ve been allocated. If your presentation includes a question-and-answer session, you can prepare some model questions and answers ahead of time to help ease your public speaking anxiety.


7. Pace Yourself

Be mindful not to lose your audience. There’s a fine line between speaking too fast and too slow. Speaking too fast can make you come across as nervous. You can manage the pace of your public speaking by including pauses before or after key statements. This will make them stand out and have the added benefit of giving you a breather.


8. Stay Hydrated

Drinking warm drinks before your engagement will soothe your throat. Nerves can make your mouth go dry, so keep a bottle of water nearby to keep hydrated.


The best way to build your confidence is to take up every opportunity you can to speak. Share on X


Like most things in life, practice makes perfect when it comes to combating public speaking anxiety. The best way to build your confidence is to take up every opportunity you can to speak, no matter how small the audience. The more experience you have, the more confident you’ll be and the better you’ll become at managing your nerves.


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