Generally regarded as a form of social phobia, public-speaking anxiety is the fear that appearing before the public while giving a speech or presentation will result in being ridiculed by the audience.
What is Public Speaking Anxiety?
You've worked for weeks preparing your presentation. You've tweaked it, read it over, presented it to your friend, and recited it in front of the mirror. The big day arrives, and the conference room is full. As you walk toward the podium, you can feel your heart racing, palms sweating, and you can't seem to swallow the huge lump in your throat. You look back toward the door, trying to resist the temptation to turn around, just as you hear your name being called. Public speaking anxiety, or stage fright, is a very common condition. Many people don't realize they have it, until the first time they are called upon to make a speech or presentation. The following tips might be helpful if you suffer from nervousness and anxiety when simply thinking about speaking in front of a group.
A prevalent symptom of anxiety is shortness of breath or shallow breathing. Take a few deep breaths before walking onto the stage, or entering the conference room. Breathe in to the count of seven, hold it for a moment, and then slowly breathe out. Deep breathing helps relieve many of the symptoms of anxiety. If you feel yourself getting short of breath during your speech, think about breathing, pause for a moment and take a subtle deep breath.
Know Your Material
Being prepared and organized will help you feel sure of yourself. Take the time to study and review your material. If you know your topic inside and out, you'll be able to deliver your presentation with confidence. Visual aids such as slides or flip sheets can be helpful when delivering a presentation. Make sure you have notes to refer to in case you lose your focus.
Engage Your Audience
Connecting with your audience can help you relax. Make eye contact, and open with a personal story or a joke to get the audience loosened up. People who attend your presentation expect to learn something. They are perceiving you as the expert. A question and answer segment is a good way to let the participants do the talking for a moment, and will create a rapport between you and the audience.
Seek the Assistance of a Professional
If these tips aren't enough to help you cope with your public speaking anxiety, there are a variety of short term treatment options available. Most cases can be easily managed with the help of a therapist. Your physician can give you a referral, if the condition is so intense that it interferes with your ability to succeed in the workplace.