Top 10 Ways to Combat Speaking Anxiety

I was recently approached by a friend in the banking industry to tell what she needs to alleviate anxiety for a major presentation she needed to give the next day to a large group of chief financial officers.   I’m happy to oblige and placed my speech coach hat on!!  Prior to teaching speech in the classroom, I spent a couple of years working as a speaking coach for a trade association, coaching CEOs of member companies on both content and presentation of their speeches at conferences.  Here are the big items to remember:

Top 10 Ways to Combat Speaking Anxiety

Nothing relaxes you more for presentations than the knowledge you are prepared:

1. Know the Room – become familiar with the place in which you will speak. Arrive early and walk around the room including the speaking area. Stand at the lectern, nspeak into the microphone. Walk around where the audience will be seated. Walk from where you will be seated to the place where you will be speaking.

2. Know the Audience – If possible, greet some of the audience as they arrive and chat with them. It is easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of strangers.  At the very least, know the basics about your audience (who they are, their likes, background, etc)

3. Know the Material – If you are not familiar with your material or are uncomfortable with it, your nervousness will increase. Practice your speech or presentation and revise it until you can present it with ease.  (a future post will detail specific methods to become familiar with material)

4. Learn how to relax – You can ease tension by doing exercises. Here is my “Just Breathe” exercise: Sit comfortable with your back straight. Breathe in slowly, hold your breath for 4 – 5 seconds,then slowly exhale for 4 – 5 seconds. To relax your facial muscles, open your mouth and eyes wide, then close them.  Repeat.   No previous yoga practice needed here. 🙂

5. Visualize yourself speaking – Imagine yourself walking confidently to the lectern as the audience applauds. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and assured. When you visualize yourself as successful, you will be successful. Truth.

6. Realize people want you to succeed . . . they really do.  All audiences want speakers to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They don’t want you to fail.

7. Don’t apologize for being nervous – Most of the time your nervousness does not show at all. If you don’t say anything about it, nobody will notice. If you mention your nervousness or apologize for any problems you think you have with your speech, you’ll only be calling attention to it. Had you remained silent, your listeners may not have noticed at all.

8. Concentrate on your message – not the medium.  Your nervous feelings will dissipate if you focus your attention away from your anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience, not yourself.

9. Turn nervousness into positive energy – the same nervous energy that causes stage fright can be an asset to you. Harness it, and transform it into vitality and enthusiasm.

10. Gain Experience – Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. Most beginning speakers find their anxieties decrease after each speech they give.


coming soon . . . Combatting anxiety for a meeting, for a group discussion, and for social occasions

GG's blackboard

First Week of School Assignment

August 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Mini-Lessons, Splendid Speeches

Top 10 Nouns That Represent Me Speech

Here is a first week of school, getting-to-know-you assignment I’ve been using off and on for 11 years now!!!  I’ve used this for my speech, reading and English literature classes; it suits almost all levels and classes.  It’s a fun, easy exercise for the students to get to know the teacher and each other at the beginning of the year.

Summary:  Students brainstorm a list of 50 nouns that represent them.  {This proves to be a terrific parts of speech review.}  Many students find this to be a daunting list .  . . one hint I offer is to go home and stand in the middle of their rooms.  What do they see?  Write down those things.  Once the list is generated, students must narrow it down to their 10 favorites, being sure that each of those 10 items can be easily represented with a tangible token (that they can bring in!).  Students will present their top 10 list along with the ten tokens in a short glorified show and tell.  I tell the students they can explain each item as much or as little as they choose:  some opt to simply read off the list and hold up each item; others unleash unique stories behind each item.  Either way, the speeches tend to run 1 – 3 minutes each.

Students find out more interesting quirks, passions and values about each other in one – three minutes than they may otherwise have the opportunity to discover if we dive directly into curriculum. This a great way to get them up in front of the class very early in a relaxed atmosphere; I don’t evaluate their presentation skills for this early speech.  As a model, I present my own noun speech on the very first day of school.  It’s the perfect context to disclose a little about myself (past items I’ve shared – movie ticket stubs from my favorite movies, health magazines I read to exemplify my fitness enthusiasm, my colored whisk to reveal my propensity for kitchen experimentation, my favorite sports team pencil, etc) As I tell my students, it’s an easy A!  By the same token, this is super easy to evaluate.  As illustrated in the rubric, if the student completes the assignment, it’s an almost guaranteed A.  The only real way to fail this one is not to complete it.  Check it out →


Top Ten Nouns That Represent Me


Noun Speech Rubric

Come back and share your experiences with this assignment.  How did your students like it?  I’ll share my own classroom experiences with this speech as soon as school starts.  TTFN, as Tigger says!

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