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

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