Imagine this scenario: you are in class and your professor suddenly asks you to go up in front of the class and read from a recent article the class was assigned to discuss. If this makes you nervous then you have speech anxiety. Now imagine you had just prepared for a class presentation but as soon as you step up in front of the class, you stumble over your words. If this makes you nervous, then you have speech anxiety.
There are two types of speech anxiety: People who have anxiety while preparing for the speech, like in the first scenario mentioned, and people who have anxiety while giving a speech such as the second scenario mentioned. No matter which group you fall in, we are here to give you some great anxiety management tips. Speech anxiety is annoying and at times, it can be embarrassing. But remember, it’s completely normal. Whether you’re speaking to a small class or in front of a large audience, you want to put your best foot forward, and we want to help!
Some sources of speech anxiety may come from:
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of being judged
- Fear of being singled out
- Fear of negative thoughts with cultural differences
Here are some tips on how to reduce speech anxiety:
1. Get to Know your Audience
In order to deal with some of the fears mentioned above, you should get to know your audience and find out what their interests are. This way you will feel more comfortable knowing that what you are speaking about is important to your listeners.
2. You Don’t Look as Nervous as You Feel
Most people worry that they appear nervous in front of their audience. A majority of the time, the audience doesn’t notice your anxiety. In our experience, when we think we look nervous in front of people, we receive comments from some of the audience members saying we appeared calm. Also, try not to have a flimsy piece of paper with you for reference whilst giving a speech, instead, use a clipboard or an index card to better hide any shakiness in your hands.
Make sure to give yourself enough time to prepare your speech; managing your time well can help your nerves.You will appear well prepared in front of your audience and you’re more likely to get a good mark, or positive feedback. Moreover, your speech anxiety will be reduced because you feel well prepared.
4. Focus on Yourself
Don’t focus on the facial expressions of your audience. Some people might appear to be disinterested in your speech but in reality, their facial expression could be for a number of other reasons. Instead focus on your presentation and not on the audience’s response.
4. Imagine Support in the Audience
It can be daunting looking into the audience that is listening to your speech. Especially when they are strangers. Try to imagine or visualize a family member or friend in the audience giving you a supportive look. This will make you less nervous while giving your presentation.
5. One Mistake is not a Failure
Most people worry that after one mistake during the speech their entire speech is ruined. But, a simple mistake does not mean you have automatically failed just like a missed question on a quiz does not mean you failed the entire quiz. Remember that your quiz is not graded only on presentation but on other aspects such as topic selection.
Everyone experiences some degree of speech anxiety. You’re not alone. You can always seek help from a school adviser or counselor if you’re having problems with delivering speeches, and there are plenty of resources online that can help. We hope that these tips will guide you on your way to giving a less anxiety filled speech.
Some of these examples were given from The Public Speaking Playbook by Gamble, T.K. and Gamble, M.W.
Image courtesy of: Wikipedia