Marcel Schwantes, Founder and Chief Human Officer, Leadership From the Core, communication expert and best-selling author, offer’s us nine helpful strategies to eliminate presentation or “speech” anxiety, based on author and public speaking expert David Greenberg.
Some people rank the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of death! It is very real and can be debilitating. Even billionaire Warren Buffett admits that early in his career he was terrified of public speaking. He decided that to reach his full potential, he had to overcome his fear of it. If you are faced with a similar challenge, there are several techniques to help you overcome your fears.
- Accept that being nervous is not a bad thing
Greenberg says, “Being nervous means you care about giving a good presentation. Your nervousness produces adrenaline, which helps you think faster, speak more fluently, and add the needed enthusiasm to convey your message.
- Don’t try to be perfect
Greenberg explains that the fear of public speaking often stems from a fear of imperfection. He urges us to “accept the fact that no one ever gets it perfect and neither will you.” Rather than striving to become a “super-speaker,” Greenberg’s simple advice is to just be yourself. “Your audience will appreciate it,” he says.
- Know your subject matter
One must “earn the right,” says Greenberg, to speak on a particular topic. “Become an authority on your topic and know more than most or all of the people in your audience. The more you know, the more confident you will be,” he says
- Engage your audience
Audience involvement is key. Ask your audience questions or have them participate in an activity to hold their attention. Greenberg says that turning your presentation from monologue to dialogue helps reduce your nervousness and engages the audience
Breathing from your stomach muscles, not your chest calms the nervous system. Here’s what to do: Take a few deep breaths before and even during your presentation. “As you inhale,” says Greenberg, “say to yourself ‘I am,’ and as you exhale, say ‘relaxed.'”
- Visualize your success
Close your eyes and picture yourself delivering your talk with confidence and
enthusiasm. What does the room look like? What do the people look like? How do you look? “Picture your successful presentation in detail and allow your mind to help turn your picture into a reality,” says Greenberg.
- Practice out loud
The best way to reduce your anxiety is to rehearse until you feel comfortable, advises Greenberg. “Practicing by yourself is important,” he says, “but I urge you to also practice in front of a friend, colleague, or coach who will give you honest and constructive feedback.”
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Caffeinated drinks can increase your heart rate, make you jittery, and cause your hands to shake, which gives your audience the impression you’re a nervous wreck. And, it goes without saying, drinking alcohol to cope with your fears will increase your chances of forgetting things and slurring your words
- Make eye contact
Greenberg suggests arriving early when the room is full of empty chairs and practising by “pretending that you are looking into people’s eyes.” When you begin your talk, pick a few friendly faces in different areas of the room. Says Greenberg, “Not only will the audience appreciate it, but also you will see that they are interested in your message. Add a smile and you are bound to see some in return.”