“There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” —Mark Twain
People ask me this question all the time: “How do I overcome public speaking anxiety?” Today, I’m going to give you nine tips to help you overcome that nervous, pee-your-pants feeling that most people tend to feel prior to stepping on stage to speak to a group of people.
Keep scrolling to continue reading, or click below to listen to the audio/podcast version.
Neuroscience tells us that these feelings of fear and anxiety about public speaking are built within our biology.
Thanks to hundreds of thousands of years of ancestral conditioning (via pre-modern society), those increased levels of alertness/nervousness/fear we feel when faced with the prospect of addressing a crowd of people, is the result of some pretty basic behaviors triggered from the brain. Here’s how Scott Berkun explains these behaviors in his book, Confessions of a Public Speaker:
Our brains identify the following four things as being very bad for survival:
- Standing alone
- In open territory with no place to hide
- Without a weapon
- In front of a large crowd of creatures staring at you.
In the long history of all living things, any situation where all the above were true was very bad for you. It meant the odds were high that you would soon be attacked and eaten alive. Many predators hunt in packs, and their easiest prey are those who stand alone, without a weapon, on a flat area of land where there is little cover (e.g., a stage). Our ancestors… developed a fear response to these situations. So, despite my 15 years of teaching classes, running workshops, and giving lectures, no matter how comfortable I appear to the audience when at the front of the room, it’s a scientific fact that my brain and body will experience some kind of fear before and often while I’m speaking.
Bottom line? These scary sensations are here to stay. So rather than run away from the anxiety, let’s embrace it, and learn to utilize it to our advantage so that we can stand and deliver with confidence and charisma. Here are nine of my favorite tips on how to it…
When it comes to public speaking — one of the best ways to overcome anxiety and nervousness is to USE the energy that your body generates as a result of you being so nervous.
One of the coolest things about being anxious is that our bodies produce various chemicals (like cortisol) when we anticipate something we’re afraid of.
And this actually results in an increased amount of adrenaline and energy. But most people are too busy being afraid to actually think about channeling their anxiety into energy and enthusiasm.
The key is to use this energy when it arises to connect with your audience and deliver your message with power and purpose.
When it comes to public speaking—and life in general—your desire must be equal to the effort that success demands. Have a burning desire. Have enthusiasm. Get pumped, baby!
If you can’t cultivate a deep desire to deliver a message — then why the heck are you up there in the first place?
There’s this old saying I love that goes like this: Repetition is the mother of skill.
Set aside time to practice. Write it down. Schedule it. Time block it.
Always remember: Persistent practice leads to powerful performance. Click-to-tweet
If you don’t practice, your anxiety will be at least 10X worse than it would be if you had.
Do you know what you’re going to talk about?
What’s the point of the whole talk? Figure that out. Know what you’re going to talk about. Know it well.
I like to think of it this way: become the “messenger.”
Have a message and think of yourself as the messenger — and remember that people care more about the message than the messenger. Master your message.
Side note: don’t speak until you are sure you have something to say, then say it, and sit down (captain obvious, I know.)
I don’t really recommend memorizing your speech—it tends to make you more nervous trying to remember exactly what to say.
Instead, just practice your points, and if you memorize anything, memorize the beginning of your talk, and the end of your talk.
Know your INTRO.
Know your OUTRO.
Consider finding a prop to use, or write on a black board, or something of the sort.
Having something to do or show can help you suppress that “OMG, everyone’s looking at me” feeling.
Regulate your bodily actions:
– breath in deep through your nose (inhale),
– and then release slowly through the mouth (exhale)
– focus on your breath while you do this. It helps. Big time.
In his book, Public Speaking for Success, Dale Carnegie advises us to speak with confidence and congruence, as if you were addressing someone that owes you money!
It’ll help you believe in yourself and your message because you’ll be speaking with stern intention.
You know the saying: just do it.
The never failing way to develop self confidence and overcome public speaking anxiety—or anxiety of almost any kind—is to just get up there and do it.
Just get up there and speak. You’ll be insanely nervous for the first few seconds. But then it will subside.
With practice, you can begin to tame the fear and anxiety… Heck, after a few talks, you might even start to enjoy it—I know I do.
Follow up post + podcast coming soon: Managing Your Anxiety When It’s Time To Speak