Public speaking is an awesome way to share what you’re passionate about with others, but it can also be pretty intimidating. Personally, I love giving speeches on topics that I’m excited about–but this doesn’t mean that I don’t get nervous. You might feel the same way.
Luckily, anyone can get over the fear of public speaking. This article includes the best, proven public speaking tips that are guaranteed to help as long as you put in the necessary effort. If you like these tips, feel free to check out our performance anxiety course for even more help.
Coping with Public Speaking Anxiety: Relaxation
Relaxation is one simple, proven way to cope with glossophobia (the fear of public speaking). Specifically, researchers have found that noticing when your muscles become tense and relaxing into them is an effective way to cope with public speaking anxiety.
It is a common reaction to turn away from negative feelings. This makes sense, and you probably don’t even notice it when it happens. Most of us have learned to automatically avoid feelings of anxiety. However, this only tends to exasperate them.
In our courses, we teach you how to relax into your negative feelings by turning toward them. Turning toward your anxiety gives you the information that you need in order to cope with it. If you hide from the anxiety, you will be blinding yourself to this helpful information.
In particular, it is helpful to know where in your body the anxiety is located. Maybe your jaw is clenched, your chest feels tight, or there is a pit in your stomach. Once you know where you are feeling your anxiety, relax into it, and let yourself feel it. This will let the anxiety spread throughout your body, helping you to have less fear of public speaking.
Addressing the Fear of Public Speaking: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Another evidence-based way to cope with the fear of public speaking is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Basically, it is about retraining your brain to think clearly. It is based on the idea that our thoughts determine so much of what we believe to be reality, and largely, how we feel.
This can be helpful for public speaking anxiety because it often stems from our thoughts. Thoughts relating to rejection and embarrassment are common to this fear and can shape what we believe about our experience. CBT can direct us toward more helpful thoughts.
The key to CBT is to learn to be an objective observer of your inner world. What are you feeling and thinking? What are the facts? When you can stop judging your inner world, you become open to the idea that your thoughts and feelings may not perfectly adhere to reality.
This is an important skill to have because we can make our anxiety worse by believing that our thoughts are facts. For example, you might believe that it is a fact that your audience doesn’t like your speech. However, you can’t know this for sure–it is just a thought. Simply being able to separate thoughts from facts allows you to accept a less anxiety-inducing reality, which can help you to better cope with speech anxiety.
Dealing with the Fear of Public Speaking: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Lastly, a research-based way to cope with the fear of public speaking is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This is a type of CBT, but its emphasis is more narrowly focused on being non-judgmental of yourself and taking action to solve your problems.
In terms of public speaking anxiety, this might mean accepting yourself, despite your weak speaking points, and then working on improving them. Accepting that it is okay to have some weaknesses allows you to have the power to change them.
A normal reaction to recognizing one’s weaknesses is to feel shame and hide from one’s weaknesses. But accepting yourself and reminding yourself that being flawed is a natural and normal part of life helps you to face them and take action.
This strategy can be especially helpful when you feel anticipatory speech anxiety. When you’re preparing your speech, practice by recording yourself. Then when you watch it, remember that it is okay to have weaknesses, and accept yourself as you are. Then take note of what you want to fix and continue to practice. This will help you to improve and gain confidence, which can then help you to feel less anxious about your speech.
Mastering Public Speaking Anxiety: Journaling
Because each of these strategies is rather abstract, we suggest journaling to enrich your experience. Putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper can help solidify your understanding of your inner experience, making you more objective, accepting, and effective in coping with public speaking anxiety.
During your daily reflection, take some time to write down where you feel anxiety in your body when giving speeches. You can also write down some of your thoughts and feelings, separating what is fact from what is your interpretation of events. When journaling your daily targets, write down some goals you have to improve in your public speaking skills. You will be astounded by the results!