Whether you’re contributing during a meeting or delivering a presentation to your co-workers, public speaking is inevitable in the workplace. It can be quite daunting, especially if you’re an employee surrounded by experienced leaders who may be more comfortable delivering information to a room. Even though you may experience anxiety thinking about public speaking, it doesn’t have to be debilitating.
Several articles hint at general remedies such as “Practice!” and “More practice!”, but what are some tangible methods to help you in the moment?
Here are five ways to relieve your physical and emotional symptoms of public speaking:
Take deep breaths and smile as you exhale. Red face and intense blushing are the most common symptoms of public speaking, and one of the most difficult to control, as it affects apprehensive and confident speakers alike. To control the symptoms, focus on your breathing. Additionally, smiling has been proven to decrease stress levels. A study published in the Psychological Science journal concluded that even the most forced of smiles can genuinely make you happier.
Point it out. This may sound counterintuitive, but casually pointing out signs of nerves to your audience (“Don’t worry, I’m not sunburned, just blushing!”) may actually reduce anxiety later on when you’re not wondering whether they are focusing on your face instead of your words.
Display passion for your subject. The more you fear that you will appear nervous, the more nervous you will appear. Instead of assuming that everyone is focusing on your appearance, make sure you’re passionate about your subject. That way, you will be more focused on imparting your information, and the audience is able to become caught up in your enthusiasm.
Carry notecards or a journal. The anxiety we feel that affects our voices is oftentimes caused by a conscious or even subconscious feeling of being unprepared. Aside from practicing in front of people you trust, you can relieve stress by scribbling down thoughts and bullet points during a conference. That way should you feel like contributing, you have something physical as a reference point, and don’t feel so on the spot.
Put fewer words on the slides if you have a speech to deliver alongside a presentation. Focus on the visuals. While this may seem paradoxical if you tend to forget what you were saying, with fewer words, you are less likely to feel bound to a script. If you vary from your speech, no audience member will be able to tell the difference, and there is more freedom.
Take care of your physical hygiene. To feel more comfortable during your presentation, it can be helpful to check all of your bases before beginning. Do you tend to start sweating more before speeches? Bring extra deodorant and re-apply liberally. Does your throat start feeling dry minutes before presenting? Fill up a bottle of cool water to bring along. Worried about your breath? Pop in a fresh mint. Taking care of your physical hygiene helps to inspire self-confidence and reduce feelings of unpreparedness.
Next time, if you find the symptoms of anxiety surfacing, try a deep inhale and smile as you release the breath. Try calmly and dismissively making a remark about the symptom(s), and focus on conveying passion. Write down notes during a meeting or bullet points as a way of combating fear of contribution or getting tongue-tied. Make sure you are physically taken care of, and finally, remember that everyone listening in the room wants you to succeed. They want to learn something new. So instead of letting anxiety get the best of your presentation, think of the moment as an opportunity to share your knowledge, and let the words flow.
For more information, check out any of the following eLearning courses on public speaking hosted by OpenSesame: a general presentation on public speaking, an hour long course on communicating effectively, or many, many, more.