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How to cope with public speaking

Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.

Even if you don’t make regular presentations in front of a group, public speaking is a useful skill to have from making a speech at a friend’s wedding to inspiring a group of volunteers at a charity event. Developing your public speaking skills can increase your confidence and help you overcome speech-related anxiety you may have.

Even those who live with social anxiety disorder (SAD) can become confident speakers with traditional anxiety treatment and by working on public speaking skill development.

How to cope with public speaking

Voice Control

Your voice is the most important tool you will use as a public speaker. One simple way to improve your voice is by learning to breathe fully and deeply from your diaphragm.

Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, is essential for accessing your most powerful voice. It is the technique professional singers use to make their voices sound fabulous. It enables them to hold notes long after most people would be out of breath.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Practicing diaphragmatic breathing also reduces feelings of breathlessness caused by speech anxiety. This type of breathing will allow you to better control the following aspects of your voice:

  • Tone (quality)
  • Pitch (high or low)
  • Volume

Before your speech, place one hand on your abdomen, and breathe into your hand. Count to 10 as you inhale and fill your stomach, then count to 10 again as you exhale. Remember to breathe from your diaphragm as you deliver your speech.

Body Language

Simply put, body language is your body’s way of communicating without using words. It’s the combination of facial expressions, gestures, and movements that convey what’s going on in your mind. Practice strong, confident body language to fuel your presentation:

  • Stand up straight. If you’re physically capable of standing up straight, then make sure you stand tall and straight during your presentation.
  • Assume the [power] position. If you’re feeling stressed before your presentation, take a moment to stand in a powerful position. Doing this for just a few minutes will raise your testosterone and increase your self-confidence while reducing stress, anxiety, and cortisol.   One of the most popular power poses is the “superhero” pose: Put your hands on your hips, keep your chin up, and your chest out.
  • Be facially expressive. Your facial expressions should match the message you are delivering. If you’re giving an upbeat speech, try to have a relaxed and joyful look on your face.
  • Plant your feet. Shifting your weight from side to side can lull your audience into a semi-hypnotic state (also known as sleep). Stand tall and firm.

If you feel that your stage presence is lacking, view clips of speakers you admire. Aim to imitate parts of their style that you feel could work for you. Then, “fake it until you make it.” In other words, act confident until you feel confident.

Delivery

When it comes to public speaking, delivery is everything. Even if you have a great voice and good body language, your message will get lost if the audience can’t easily follow what you say. Below are some tips for developing good delivery skills:

  • Speak slowly, but not too slowly. Talk too fast and your audience will have a hard time understanding you. Talk too slowly and you risk putting them to sleep. When it comes to public speaking, talking at a conversational pace is your safest bet.
  • Pause between ideas. Great public speakers often pause for two to three seconds or even longer. A well-placed pause gives the audience time to digest what you are saying. It also makes you sound more confident and in control.
  • Avoid filler words. Words such as “um,” “ah,” “you know,” and “like” diminish your credibility and distract from your message. Instead, replace these filler words with pauses.
  • Carefully articulate and pronounce your words. A mumbling public speaker is hard to understand.

Audience Relations

Good public speakers are in tune with their audience. Public speaking is more than standing in front of a group and talking; you also need to engage your audience.

  • Acknowledge your audience as soon as you take the stage. This helps to make you seem more like a “real” person and keeps a conversational tone.
  • Grab their attention immediately. When you speak, you have about 60 seconds to capture your audience’s attention and captivate them before they tune out.   Use this time to ask a rhetorical thought-provoking question, tell a captivating story, or share a shocking statistic—anything that will keep them intrigued.
  • Find a friendly face. There’s bound to be friendly people in the audience. Find those people and pretend that you’re speaking to only them.
  • Make eye contact. Regardless of how big your audience is, try to make eye contact with as many people as possible. It will make them feel like you are speaking directly to them.

A Word From Verywell

Fear of public speaking is a common experience, and developing new public speaking skills can help you face your fear confidently. If you have extreme anxiety while speaking in public, however, it is important to seek help from your doctor or a trained mental health professional.

While improving your public speaking skills is helpful, for people with social anxiety, those efforts should be grounded in a solid framework for overcoming your anxiety.

How to reduce the fear of public speaking.

Posted May 14, 2013

THE BASICS

  • What Is Stage Fright
  • Find a therapist to overcome stage fright

How to cope with public speaking

“There are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars.”

Did you know that according to the Wall Street Journal, public speaking is the number one fear in America? The fear of death is ranked number two! That’s right—we seem more afraid of public speaking than we are of physical demise, heights, jumping out of a plane, or dreaded in-laws.

If you think about it, fear of public speaking is also a fear of death—an emotional death. We feel naked and exposed in front of an audience. We think people are going to scrutinize everything we say and do. We pressure ourselves to be perfect, or else our self-worth suffers. We dread confronting the possibility of rejection.

Now for the good news, most of us can reduce our anxiety of public speaking and increase our confidence by avoiding a few poor habits, while incorporating some helpful ideas. The following are five tips to reducing public speaking nervousness, excerpted from my reference guide (click on title): “Ten Tips for Presentation Confidence and Reducing Nervousness”.

1. Don’t Expect Perfection from Yourself

None of us are perfect. We all know that. Yet when it comes to public speaking, some of us tend to kick ourselves over every little perceived mistake we make. We magnify our imperfections, while ignoring all that’s good and well. The truth is, even the best, most experienced speakers make many mistakes. When they do, they recover, keep going gracefully, and all is well. This is one of the keys to public speaking success: to keep going gracefully. The audience will never know most of your mistakes, unless you halt your speech, break down, and confess them. Carry on with poise. Give yourself permission not to be perfect.

2. Avoid Equating Public Speaking to Your Self-Worth

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a successful professional who has worked hard to get to where you are today. Public speaking is only a small part of your overall professional ability. If you’re not confident at it, there are many ways to help you improve. I’ve seen otherwise intelligent and capable professionals shrivel up on stage, as if suddenly nothing about them is right. Whether you’re good at public speaking or not has nothing to do with your value as a person. It’s simply a skill that you can learn and become better at with practice.

3. Avoid Being Nervous About Your Nervousness

Singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, legendary for his live concert performances, once observed that if he felt completely relaxed before a show, he wouldn’t perform as well as if he had felt nervous. Springsteen knows how to channel his nervousness into excitement and power on stage.

Speakers who lack confidence often feel nervous, and then on top of that feel anxious about the fact that they’re nervous, which compounds the anxiety. That’s a lot of stress to bear.

Nervousness is our adrenaline flowing, that’s all. It’s a form of energy. Successful speakers know how to make this energy work for them, and turn nervousness into enthusiasm, engagement, and charisma. They have fun with it (see confidence tips #8 and #10 below). It’s okay to be nervous. Make the energy work for you.

4. Avoid Trying to Memorize Every Word

Unless you’re reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or your marriage vows, there’s no need to memorize every word of any speech. Attempting to do so will simply increase stress, and cause greater nervousness if the sequence of the words you’re trying to memorize goes amiss.

5. Avoid Reading Word for Word

Avoid reading your presentation word for word from a script. There’s a big difference between reading and speaking. Dry reading dissipates information, often at the risk of the audience tuning out. Speaking is creating an impact with your content and personality, so that not only is your message understood, your professional profile rises. People who read excessively from a script in the U.S. effectively reduce their chances of upward advancement.

How to cope with public speaking

For more tips on public speaking confidence, see my reference guide (click on title): “Ten Tips for Presentation Confidence and Reducing Nervousness.” You can also contact me for private coaching at [email protected]

For more on personal and professional success, see my book: “How to Let Go of Negative Thoughts and Emotions”.

© 2013 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.

“There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” —Mark Twain

People ask me this question all the time: “How do I overcome public speaking anxiety?” Today, I’m going to give you nine tips to help you overcome that nervous, pee-your-pants feeling that most people tend to feel prior to stepping on stage to speak to a group of people.

Keep scrolling to continue reading, or click below to listen to the audio/podcast version.

Why do we get public speaking anxiety in the first place?

Neuroscience tells us that these feelings of fear and anxiety about public speaking are built within our biology.

Thanks to hundreds of thousands of years of ancestral conditioning (via pre-modern society), those increased levels of alertness/nervousness/fear we feel when faced with the prospect of addressing a crowd of people, is the result of some pretty basic behaviors triggered from the brain. Here’s how Scott Berkun explains these behaviors in his book, Confessions of a Public Speaker:

Our brains identify the following four things as being very bad for survival:

  1. Standing alone
  2. In open territory with no place to hide
  3. Without a weapon
  4. In front of a large crowd of creatures staring at you.

In the long history of all living things, any situation where all the above were true was very bad for you. It meant the odds were high that you would soon be attacked and eaten alive. Many predators hunt in packs, and their easiest prey are those who stand alone, without a weapon, on a flat area of land where there is little cover (e.g., a stage). Our ancestors… developed a fear response to these situations. So, despite my 15 years of teaching classes, running workshops, and giving lectures, no matter how comfortable I appear to the audience when at the front of the room, it’s a scientific fact that my brain and body will experience some kind of fear before and often while I’m speaking.

Bottom line? These scary sensations are here to stay. So rather than run away from the anxiety, let’s embrace it, and learn to utilize it to our advantage so that we can stand and deliver with confidence and charisma. Here are nine of my favorite tips on how to it…

1. Turn anxiety into energy.

When it comes to public speaking — one of the best ways to overcome anxiety and nervousness is to USE the energy that your body generates as a result of you being so nervous.

One of the coolest things about being anxious is that our bodies produce various chemicals (like cortisol) when we anticipate something we’re afraid of.

And this actually results in an increased amount of adrenaline and energy. But most people are too busy being afraid to actually think about channeling their anxiety into energy and enthusiasm.

The key is to use this energy when it arises to connect with your audience and deliver your message with power and purpose.

2. Have a deep desire to talk.

When it comes to public speaking—and life in general—your desire must be equal to the effort that success demands. Have a burning desire. Have enthusiasm. Get pumped, baby!

If you can’t cultivate a deep desire to deliver a message — then why the heck are you up there in the first place?

3. Practice.

There’s this old saying I love that goes like this: Repetition is the mother of skill.

Set aside time to practice. Write it down. Schedule it. Time block it.

Always remember: Persistent practice leads to powerful performance. Click-to-tweet

If you don’t practice, your anxiety will be at least 10X worse than it would be if you had.

4. Think of yourself as a messenger.

Do you know what you’re going to talk about?

What’s the point of the whole talk? Figure that out. Know what you’re going to talk about. Know it well.

I like to think of it this way: become the “messenger.”

Have a message and think of yourself as the messenger — and remember that people care more about the message than the messenger. Master your message.

Side note: don’t speak until you are sure you have something to say, then say it, and sit down (captain obvious, I know.)

5. Know your intro + your outro.

I don’t really recommend memorizing your speech—it tends to make you more nervous trying to remember exactly what to say.

Instead, just practice your points, and if you memorize anything, memorize the beginning of your talk, and the end of your talk.

Know your INTRO.

Know your OUTRO.

6. Use props.

Consider finding a prop to use, or write on a black board, or something of the sort.

Having something to do or show can help you suppress that “OMG, everyone’s looking at me” feeling.

7. Breathe.

Regulate your bodily actions:

– breath in deep through your nose (inhale),

– and then release slowly through the mouth (exhale)

– focus on your breath while you do this. It helps. Big time.

8. Talk like they owe you money.

In his book, Public Speaking for Success, Dale Carnegie advises us to speak with confidence and congruence, as if you were addressing someone that owes you money!

It’ll help you believe in yourself and your message because you’ll be speaking with stern intention.

9. Just do it.

You know the saying: just do it.

The never failing way to develop self confidence and overcome public speaking anxiety—or anxiety of almost any kind—is to just get up there and do it.

Just get up there and speak. You’ll be insanely nervous for the first few seconds. But then it will subside.

With practice, you can begin to tame the fear and anxiety… Heck, after a few talks, you might even start to enjoy it—I know I do.

Follow up post + podcast coming soon: Managing Your Anxiety When It’s Time To Speak

Books on public speaking

  • Public Speaking For Success by Dale Carnegie
  • Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

How to cope with public speaking

Got a Self-Improvement question you’d like me to cover in an article or podcast? Email it to me here В»

Initial Considerations

Glossophobia – the fear of public speaking

It is the single most common phobia (fear)

Approximately 75% of people experience this

You are not alone in your fear

You cannot eliminate your fear–but you CAN manage and reduce it.

THIRTY WAYS TO MANAGE PUBLIC SPEAKING ANXIETY

Getting Ready

Select a topic of interest to you

Prepare carefully–know your material

Practice–rehearse your talk with a friend

Know your audience

Challenge negative thinking–make 3 x 5 cards of positive thoughts or have friends write out inspirational thoughts for you.

Expect positive reactions–expect success!

Know the room–if unfamiliar, visit your speaking space before you talk.

Employ aerobic exercise strategies–daily aerobic exercise can cut anxiety by 50%.

Eat for success–foods containing tryptophan (dairy products, turkey, salmon) and complex carbohydrates tend to calm the body. Eliminate caffeine, sweets, and empty calories.

Sleep for success–know and get the number of hours of sleep you need for optimal performance.

The Day of the Presentation

11. Eat several hours before the talk–not immediately before

12. Dress for success–your success! Dress comfortably and appropriately for the situation. Look your best

13. Challenge negative thinking–Continue positive thinking

14. If you need to, express your fears to a friend

15. Review 3 x 5 cards of inspirational thoughts

16. Practice your talk one last time

17. Go to the room early to ready equipment and your podium.

18. Exercise immediately before the talk to reduce adrenalin levels.

    • Employ anxiety reduction techniques
    • Aerobic exercise
    • Deep muscle relaxation
    • Visualization strategies
    • Deep, rhythmic breathing (4 hold 7)

19. Use the restroom immediately before the talk

20. Take a glass of water to the talk

The Presentation: A positive experience stemming from careful preparation!

21. Interpret anxiety symptoms as excitement

22. Use the podium to practice grounding strategies. Touch the podium to steady yourself and to remind yourself that you are safely connected to the ground which is firm and steady beneath your feet.

23. Take a security blanket with you–a complete typed version of your talk to only be used as a backup strategy.

24. Use tools to reduce audience attention on you.

    • PowerPoint presentation
    • Video film clips
    • Handouts
    • “Show and tell” objects to pass

25. Get out of yourself–engage the audience

26. Look at friendly faces in your audience

27. Use humor as needed

28. Use the room’s physical space to your advantage–walk around as appropriate.

29. Appropriately regulate your voice

    • Speak clearly–enunciate
    • Open your mouth–do not mumble
    • Slow down if necessary
    • Lower your voice–speak from your diaphragm
    • Project your voice–use energy when you speak
    • Use appropriate animation

Additional Considerations

Seek out public speaking opportunities to desensitize (reduce) your fear of communication apprehension.

Consider use of anti-anxiety medication

Join Toastmasters International to have a supportive and safe way to practice

By Anett Grant

A few years ago, I had a terrifying experience while diving with sharks in the Maldives. The instructor told me, “You go first. And dive down quickly—the currents are big today.” I felt a pang of anxiety—I was used to going down slowly. Still, I dove in. When my descent ended, I looked around and saw nothing but deep blue around me. Since I had been the first to jump in, I had no reference point—nothing but blue above me, below me, ahead of me, and behind me. I had been diving for decades, but for the first time, I felt an incredible sense of panic. It wasn’t until I looked on my depth gauge that the anxiety subsided a little. By keeping my vision trained on my depth gauge, something familiar to focus on, I was able to stay calm until the other divers entered the water.

Perhaps you feel the same way I felt underwater whenever you speak in front of a crowd. You get a similar feeling of panic, of disorientation. To overcome these feelings, you need to find your own depth gauge to focus on. You need to give your brain something to do other than ruminate over your insecurities.

Here are five strategies to focus on that will alleviate your speaking anxiety:

1. Become more conscious of your feelings

One of the ways you can overcome your speaking anxiety is by becoming more aware of the warning signs of anxiety so you can intervene early. Think of anxiety as a wave. If you wait too long to react, the wave is going to overtake you. What feelings and physical reactions do you experience when anxiety hits? Do your hands begin to shake? Do you have a sick feeling in your stomach? Does your chest begin to tighten? Tune into your body to explore when the feelings begin. The earlier you notice the anxiety, the more time you have to do something about it.

2. Don’t write out your script

Another strategy for dealing with speaking anxiety is to stop writing out scripts for your presentations. You might think, “But wait! I need my script so that I don’t forget anything!” However, using a script can actually contribute to feelings of anxiety.

Of course, you need to practice what you’re going to say as much as possible. But don’t become too obsessive about remembering everything word for word. If you do, anxiety will set in the second you forget exactly how you phrased something the week or the night before. What word did I use again? Wait, did I just repeat myself? There’s only one point left, right? And so on. If the only way you can present effectively is by memorizing a script, you’re setting yourself up for an avalanche of anxiety if you forget something. The solution is to find a middle ground between rigidity and completely winging it. Be prepared with a general structure and key points to your presentation, but give yourself room to speak off the cuff too. When you stop obsessing over scripts, you’ll feel freer and less anxious. And don’t be afraid to use technology as a tool in speech prompting!

3. Build rhythm into your speaking

I once worked with a client who constantly paced whenever he spoke. When I asked him why he paced so much, he told me that the rhythm of pacing calmed him down. While it was good that he found a solution to deal with his speaking anxiety, he found the wrong solution. Yes, he was calm, but his audiences were irritated! It’s hard to focus on what someone is saying if you’re distracted by their constant movement.

Rhythm can indeed be a great way of dealing with speaking anxiety, but instead of pacing , use rhythm in your speaking by using repetition. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself , especially if you’re repeating key messages critical to your presentation. Repetition in speaking is not only okay, it’s necessary to help your audience retain your message. By using rhythm, you’ll get into a flow that will help prevent anxiety from setting in.

4. Control your breathing

One of the best ways you can deal with speaking anxiety is by controlling your breathing. Ignore people who tell you to take a big breath before speaking. Instead, focus on your exhales. By taking small sips of air on inhales and extending your exhales, you will start to calm down. This method of breathing will take practice, but trust me, I’ve seen it make an incredible difference for people who struggle with speaking anxiety.

5. Remember: The audience wants you to succeed

Finally, if you start to get anxious, reassure yourself that the audience is on your side. I’m reminded of a children’s theater performance of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” I saw a few years ago. At one point, one of the flippers fell off one of the penguins, and you could feel the audience getting worried. Would one of the kids trip over the flipper? Luckily, nothing happened, and the audience breathed a collective sigh of relief. The point here is that the vast majority of people want your presentation to be a success. So if you “lose a flipper,” don’t panic—just pick it up, carry on, and imagine you can hear the audience’s sigh of relief. They are in your corner.

Whether your speaking anxiety comes in the form of occasional jitters or constant dread, don’t let that stop you from communicating your ideas with power and purpose. By using these strategies, you’ll become less anxious and more focused on being your best in every speaking situation.

How to reduce the fear of public speaking.

Posted May 14, 2013

THE BASICS

  • What Is Stage Fright
  • Find counselling to overcome stage fright

How to cope with public speaking

“There are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars.”

Did you know that according to the Wall Street Journal, public speaking is the number one fear in America? The fear of death is ranked number two! That’s right—we seem more afraid of public speaking than we are of physical demise, heights, jumping out of a plane, or dreaded in-laws.

If you think about it, fear of public speaking is also a fear of death—an emotional death. We feel naked and exposed in front of an audience. We think people are going to scrutinize everything we say and do. We pressure ourselves to be perfect, or else our self-worth suffers. We dread confronting the possibility of rejection.

Now for the good news, most of us can reduce our anxiety of public speaking and increase our confidence by avoiding a few poor habits, while incorporating some helpful ideas. The following are five tips to reducing public speaking nervousness, excerpted from my reference guide (click on title): “Ten Tips for Presentation Confidence and Reducing Nervousness”.

1. Don’t Expect Perfection from Yourself

None of us are perfect. We all know that. Yet when it comes to public speaking, some of us tend to kick ourselves over every little perceived mistake we make. We magnify our imperfections, while ignoring all that’s good and well. The truth is, even the best, most experienced speakers make many mistakes. When they do, they recover, keep going gracefully, and all is well. This is one of the keys to public speaking success: to keep going gracefully. The audience will never know most of your mistakes, unless you halt your speech, break down, and confess them. Carry on with poise. Give yourself permission not to be perfect.

2. Avoid Equating Public Speaking to Your Self-Worth

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a successful professional who has worked hard to get to where you are today. Public speaking is only a small part of your overall professional ability. If you’re not confident at it, there are many ways to help you improve. I’ve seen otherwise intelligent and capable professionals shrivel up on stage, as if suddenly nothing about them is right. Whether you’re good at public speaking or not has nothing to do with your value as a person. It’s simply a skill that you can learn and become better at with practice.

3. Avoid Being Nervous About Your Nervousness

Singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen, legendary for his live concert performances, once observed that if he felt completely relaxed before a show, he wouldn’t perform as well as if he had felt nervous. Springsteen knows how to channel his nervousness into excitement and power on stage.

Speakers who lack confidence often feel nervous, and then on top of that feel anxious about the fact that they’re nervous, which compounds the anxiety. That’s a lot of stress to bear.

Nervousness is our adrenaline flowing, that’s all. It’s a form of energy. Successful speakers know how to make this energy work for them, and turn nervousness into enthusiasm, engagement, and charisma. They have fun with it (see confidence tips #8 and #10 below). It’s okay to be nervous. Make the energy work for you.

4. Avoid Trying to Memorize Every Word

Unless you’re reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or your marriage vows, there’s no need to memorize every word of any speech. Attempting to do so will simply increase stress, and cause greater nervousness if the sequence of the words you’re trying to memorize goes amiss.

5. Avoid Reading Word for Word

Avoid reading your presentation word for word from a script. There’s a big difference between reading and speaking. Dry reading dissipates information, often at the risk of the audience tuning out. Speaking is creating an impact with your content and personality, so that not only is your message understood, your professional profile rises. People who read excessively from a script in the U.S. effectively reduce their chances of upward advancement.

How to cope with public speaking

For more tips on public speaking confidence, see my reference guide (click on title): “Ten Tips for Presentation Confidence and Reducing Nervousness.” You can also contact me for private coaching at [email protected]

For more on personal and professional success, see my book: “How to Let Go of Negative Thoughts and Emotions”.

© 2013 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.

Making a public presentation in your community can be nerve racking. Learn the Public Speaker’s 6 tips for calming your nerves before speaking in front of an audience.

How to cope with public speaking

Linda needs to speak to the Board of Trustees – she feels strongly about about the road they want to build through her neighborhood and wants to voice her opinion, but something is stopping her. She’s got speaker’s anxiety!

Unfortunately, it’s very common. But when you care about an issue, you can’t let nervousness or anxiety stop you from getting involved.

If you’re on the PTA, you may be asked to talk about an upcoming fundraiser. At church, you may be asked to be part of the service or to teach a class. Although you may not consider yourself a public speaker, we all have times when we need to speak up and be heard in our communities. >

Today, I’ll cover 6 tips to calm your nerves before speaking in front of a group:

  1. Stay hydrated.
  2. Exercise to stay calm.
  3. Try pictures, visualization, and laughing just before you speak.
  4. Make a change to calm down during the speech.
  5. Embrace the energy.
  6. Be prepared.

Tip #1: Stay Hydrated

Years ago, I went to small claims court with a friend. As soon as he started talking, his tongue went dry and his lips turned white. It was so uncomfortable to watch him struggle through his few sentences to the judge! Later on I learned that dry mouth, also known as cotton mouth, is a very real sign of anxiety and the person experiencing it is suffering. The secret? Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before you speak. Keep your water bottle with you at all times. I find the more nervous I am, the more water I need.

Tip #2: Exercise to Stay Calm

If you know when you’ll be speaking publicly, plan a good workout earlier in the day. Even a quick stroll can really help. According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, exercise can alleviate anxiety by releasing endorphins that make you feel better. Exercise also increases the body temperature, which can have a calming effect. It distracts you from your worries and helps you feel more confident. Even the social interaction of smiling at someone as you walk by or greeting someone in the gym can help calm anxiety.

Tip #3: Try Pictures, Visualization, Laughing Just Before You Speak

Sometimes we don’t realize we’re nervous until just before it’s our turn to speak. You may feel calm and prepared until just before your name is called. If you’re out of view, you can try methods such as looking at a baby photo, smiling big, telling yourself a joke or taking big deep breaths. If you’re in plain sight, use your brain to calm yourself. Try visualization or discreet, deep breathing. Keep a smile on your face and try to look relaxed.

If you’re going to use these methods, plan ahead. Here’s how.

How to cope with public speaking

I’ve been doing a lot of presenting recently, and I have no problem admitting that it’s tough. For those not born with natural eloquence, public speaking can be remarkably nerve-racking.

We can’t all deliver the next Gettysburg Address, but there are several small things you can do prior to your next big presentation that will help calm your nerves and set you up for optimal oration.

1. Practice. Naturally, you’ll want to rehearse your presentation multiple times. While it can be difficult for those with packed schedules to spare time to practice, it’s essential if you want to deliver a rousing presentation. If you really want to sound great, write out your speech rather than taking chances winging it.

Try to practice where you’ll be delivering your talk. Some acting strategists suggest rehearsing lines in various positions-standing up, sitting down, with arms open wide, on one leg, while sitting on the toilet, etc. (OK, that last one may be optional.) The more you mix up your position and setting, the more comfortable you’ll feel with your speech. Also try recording your presentation and playing it back to evaluate which areas need work. Listening to recordings of your past talks can clue you in to bad habits you may be unaware of, as well as inspiring the age-old question: “Is that what I really sound like?”

2. Transform Nervous Energy Into Enthusiasm. It may sound strange, but I’ll often down an energy drink and blast hip-hop music in my earphones before presenting. Why? It pumps me up and helps me turn jitters into focused enthusiasm. Studies have shown that an enthusiastic speech can win out over an eloquent one, and since I’m not exactly the Winston Churchill of presenters, I make sure that I’m as enthusiastic and energetic as possible before going on stage. Of course, individuals respond differently to caffeine overload, so know your own body before guzzling those monster energy drinks.

3. Attend Other Speeches. If you’re giving a talk as part of a larger series, try to attend some of the earlier talks by other presenters. This shows respect for your fellow presenters while also giving you a chance to feel out the audience. What’s the mood of the crowd? Are folks in the mood to laugh or are they a bit more stiff? Are the presentations more strategic or tactical in nature? Another speaker may also say something that you can play off of later in your own presentation.

4. Arrive Early. It’s always best to allow yourself plenty of time to settle in before your talk. Extra time ensures you won’t be late (even if Google Maps shuts down) and gives you plenty of time to get adapted to your presentation space.

5. Adjust to Your Surroundings. The more adjusted to your environment you are, the more comfortable you’ll feel. Make sure to spend some in the room where you will be delivering your presentation. If possible, practice with the microphone and lighting, make sure you understand the seating, and be aware of any distractions potentially posed by the venue (e.g., a noisy road outside).

6. Meet and Greet. Do your best to chat with people before your presentation. Talking with audiences makes you seem more likeable and approachable. Ask event attendees questions and take in their responses. They may even give you some inspiration to weave into your talk.

7. Use Positive Visualization. Whether or not you consider yourself a master of Zen, know that plenty of studies have proven the effectiveness of positive visualization. When we imagine a positive outcome to a scenario in our mind, it’s more likely to play out the way we envision.

Instead of thinking “I’m going to be terrible out there” and visualizing yourself throwing up mid-presentation, imagine yourself getting tons of laughs while presenting with the enthusiasm of Jimmy Fallon and the poise of Audrey Hepburn (the charm of George Clooney wouldn’t hurt either). Positive thoughts can be incredibly effective-give them a shot.

8. Take Deep Breaths. The go-to advice for jitters has truth to it. When we’re nervous, our muscles tighten-you may even catch yourself holding your breath. Instead, go ahead and take those deep breaths to get oxygen to your brain and relax your body.

9. Smile. Smiling increases endorphins, replacing anxiety with calm and making you feel good about your presentation. Smiling also exhibits confidence and enthusiasm to the crowd. Just don’t overdue it-no one enjoys the maniacal clown look.

10. Exercise. Exercise earlier in the day prior to your presentation to boost endorphins, which will help alleviate anxiety. Better pre-register for that Zumba class!

11. Work on Your Pauses. When you’re nervous, it’s easy to speed up your speech and end up talking too fast, which in turn causes you to run out of breath, get more nervous, and panic! Ahh!

Don’t be afraid to slow down and use pauses in your speech. Pausing can be used to emphasize certain points and to help your talk feel more conversational. If you feel yourself losing control of your pacing, just take a nice pause and keep cool.

12. Use a Power Stance. Practicing confident body language is another way to boost your pre-presentation jitters. When your body is physically demonstrating confidence, your mind will follow suit. While you don’t want to be jutting out your chest in an alpha gorilla pose all afternoon (somebody enjoyed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes a bit too much), studies have shown that using power stances a few minutes before giving a talk (or heading to a nerve-racking interview) creates a lasting sense of confidence and assurance. Whatever you do, don’t sit-sitting is passive. Standing or walking a bit will help you harness those stomach bats (isn’t that more appropriate than butterflies?). Before you go on stage, strike your best Power Ranger stance and hold your head high!

13. Drink Water. Dry mouth is a common result of anxiety. Prevent cottonmouth blues by staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water before your talk (just don’t forget to hit the bathroom before starting). Keep a bottle of water at arm’s reach while presenting in case you get dry mouth while chatting up a storm. It also provides a solid object to hurl at potential hecklers. (That’ll show ’em.)

14. Join Toastmasters. Toastmaster clubs are groups across the country (and the world) dedicated to helping members improve their public speaking skills. Groups get together during lunch or after work to take turns delivering short talks on a chosen topic. The more you present, the better you’ll be, so consider joining a Toastmaster club to become a top-notch orator. Just don’t forget, it’s BYOB (Bring Your Own Bread).

15. Don’t Fight the Fear. Accept your fear rather than trying to fight it. Getting yourself worked up by wondering if people will notice your nervousness will only intensify your anxiety. Remember, those jitters aren’t all bad-harness that nervous energy and transform it into positive enthusiasm and you’ll be golden. We salute you, O Captain! My Captain!

As you become accustomed to public speaking and presenting you will grow more comfortable and able to be more natural and let “the real you” come out. But if you are still quite nervous about the idea of presenting in front of others, don’t worry, this is natural. In fact, virtually every confident and engaging presenter you see today was at some point earlier in their careers much less sure of themselves in front of a live audience.

I have written a lot about Steve Jobs over the years. He’s as a business leader who does a great job of presenting in a natural, comfortable, conversational style. His presentations feature large-screen visuals that are insync with his narration in a harmonious way that engages his audience. Earlier this week Steve Jobs, who is on medical leave from Apple, gave another good presentation introducing the iPad2 (watch it). Yet, Jobs was not always as comfortable speaking before an audience. This clip below was reported by numerous news organizations last month. The clip features Steve Jobs getting ready for a live TV appearance when he was in his early 20s.

In the clip above Jobs appears to be at least a little nervous, though I think he’s more excited and anxious to get started than anything else. Still, this clip is a kind of confirmation that everyone can get better and become more relaxed and comfortable with time. But it is also a reminder that it is perfectly OK and absolutely natural for you to feel nervous in front of an audience.

Can you ever be 100% comfortable?
In a great little documentary called Comedian (a must for any public speaker) Jerry Seinfeld had this to say about getting more comfortable on stage: “You’re never really comfortable. Even though you may think you are. you really aren’t.” But in time, Seinfeld says, “you learn how to open, how to sustain, how to pace. ” and you will get more comfortable.

The slides above are from a series of slides available on Slideshare.net.

In the Naked book I do touch on the issue of nerves. In this chapter a nice two-page callout section was written by my buddy in Australia Les Posen. Les is a Clinical Psychologist practising in Melbourne who uses his knowledge of the cognitive sciences to help presenters deliver their best possible presentations. Below is an excerpt from his contribution to the Naked book which appears on pages 92-93.

Five tips for dealing with presentation nerves
by Les Posen

“Starting about 60,000 years ago, our brains developed a marvelous system of providing us with remarkable defenses against environmental threats. Sometimes, those defenses are set-and-forget types, such as automatically blinking when a bug hits your windscreen, even though you “know” you’re protected. Other times, an evolutionary newer part of our brain where we make decisions and plans—the part that makes us most human—warns us of an upcoming threat. In the case of presenting, it might be fears of not connecting, or of our ideas not being accepted, or of going blank in front of 500 pairs of eyes. In historical terms, we still possess the fear of what it means to be stared at by so many people: Either we are the monarch, or more likely, we are the next sacrifice! Through evidence-based research and practice, clinical and performance psychologists have developed ways to help suppress these learned and ingrained fears, especially when we know we can perform well if only we give ourselves the chance. There are five interventions I teach and want to share with you:

1. Chunking and exposure.
Identify and break down your presenting challenges into small manageable chunks, and deliberately expose yourself to each of them step by step.
2. Rehearsal.
Beyond just practicing your slide timings, actually visualize and hear yourself say the words with your slides. You see yourself in front of the crowd and rehearse your presentation to a variety of audience reactions, both positive and negative.
3. Self-talk.
Anxiety grabs onto self-critical talk such as “I’ll do a terrible job. What happens if the slide show fails. What happens if they don’t laugh at my jokes.” Your task is not to feed your anxiety with this type of talk, but to change it into “I can do this. I will follow my rehearsed plans. This is manageable.”
4. Arousal control via diaphragmatic breathing.
Calm your brain’s fear center with slow, deliberate breaths with slightly longer exhales. Slower rhythm (rather than deep breathing) is helpful for fear management.
5. Deliberate practice.
Practice your beginning, identify challenging concepts, and practice, practice, practice—out loud. These techniques work, and I use them myself as well as with clients. They are powerful and will prove useful in scenarios other than presenting.”

The tips from Les Posen above are not the last word on dealing with presentation anxiety, but these bits of advice can certainly help. One of the biggest tips to remember as well is to be well prepared. A big source of difficulty comes when speakers simply have not prepared. The only thing scarier than presenting in front of a crowd is doing so while being ill-prepared and unsure of yourself and your content.

How to cope with public speaking

There are two types of people in the world: those who love speaking in public and those who are scared stiff at the thought of it.

Performance anxiety and stage fright are perfectly normal phenomena that occur to many people. It is important for you to understand what stage fright is, so that you can fully overcome it.

Stage fright or performance anxiety is a persistent phobia which is aroused in an individual when required to perform in front of an audience.

So how do you overcome stage fright when speaking in public?

Know Your Stuff

Nothing will stop stage fright in it’s gripping tracks like being prepared. Know your content, your speech and more importantly your audience. If you know what you are talking about then you have no reason to be nervous.

Understanding your topic will enable you to speak more naturally and hence more confidently. Also, should a technical hitch occur, this won’t faze you as you are already confident on the subject.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Knowing your stuff helps, but it doesn’t necessarily eradicate the problem. You need to practice as much as you can before the performance or public speaking d-day.

Really know your content inside out and practice (preferably in front of a live audience) as much as possible to build your confidence.

Talk Yourself Down

You need to realize that even though stage fright is “all in the mind,” the fear manifests itself in physical ways. The best offence is to change your negative talk. Stop worrying about, “What if I forget the content?”

Change that into positive talk like, “What if I am great at this?” It may sound simplistic or too easy, but positive affirmation will go a long way in reducing stage fright when speaking in public.

Wallow in the Worst

If you can’t calm yourself down with positive talk, then maybe it is time you thought about the worst case scenario. Once you do this, you’ll realize that the worst case scenario isn’t really that bad. This might help calm your nerves.

Visualize the Outcome

Call it what you will: reflection, visualization, meditation. Whatever you call it, just do it. Spend time visualizing yourself giving a perfect presentation and speaking in public – filled with humor, warmth, confidence and intelligence.

The more you imagine being great, the more likely you will achieve it.

It is Not All About You

Though you might feel like everyone is out to laugh, criticize or judge you, that is not the case. Get over the feeling that the world is going to hang on your every mistake.

Focus on your speech, audience and what they deserve from you. This will ease the pressure that is already accumulating.

When Things go Wrong

Sooner or later, something will go wrong. Your projector or microphone might stop working. If you already know your content, then chances are that this won’t faze you as much. If, for instance, your microphone stops working, don’t stress over it, carry on with a louder voice. Chances are the technical people are already stressing and working to sort the problem out, so you getting worried over the same issue won’t help.

Keep Calm, Don’t Rush It

Don’t rush your presentation. Start slow and allow yourself time to get into a comfortable pace. You need time to get used to the audience and the audience also needs time to get used to you.

Focus on Getting Through the First 5 Minutes

Imagine your entire presentation is only five minutes long. This will make it less stressful. Focus on just getting through the first five minutes and by this time you will have already calmed down and the rest is downhill.

Never Apologize for Being Nervous

Three quarters of the time, no one will notice you are nervous. Why tell them? You may feel yourself shaking and shivering, but your audience might not be aware of it. Don’t mention it. It will make your audience nervous too and they will be too worried about your performance to get much out of your presentation.

Don’t Share Your Mistakes

You have prepared, practiced and feel good about your speech or presentation. Suddenly, on stage you realize you mixed the order of topics or you forgot an important point. But remember, you’re the only one who knows about this. Your audience doesn’t. So, don’t make them aware of a mistake that they didn’t even know existed. If you bring it up, some people might start looking for more holes, which ultimately distracts from the whole purpose of your presentation in the first place.

Arrive Early

Obviously, if you are late, this will only heighten your anxiety. Arrive early and acclimate to your surroundings. You can even check out the stage and the auditorium as get yourself used to the environment.

Stretch

If you are nervous, odds are your body will be stiff and your muscles tight. Fifteen minutes before speaking in public and going on stage, do a few stretches. This will loosen the tense muscles and relax your body.

Breathe

Nervousness is always accompanied by fast, short breaths and if this is not addressed, it will throw you off balance. Minutes before you go on stage, take some slow, deep breaths, so that by the time you get to the stage your breathing is relaxed.

Double Check Everything

Do you have a laptop or notes? Check that everything works. When you walk on stage and suddenly realize that you forgot your notes, it’s too late. Of course, your nerves will take over. Know your speech or presentation so well that should this happen, you can continue without a hitch.

Don’t Fight Your Stage Fright … Work With It

You have to expect and accept the fact that you will feel anxious, especially the first few minutes of your presentation. The more you resist your anxiety, the more it will work against you. Again, focus on the presentation when speaking in public and the anxiety will slowly ease off.