Mountain hiking? Cool. Snowboarding? Sounds great. Public Speaking? No Thanks, I’ll pass. If you are one of the 75% of the world’s population that suffers from speech anxiety, then allow us to help you out. In this blog post, we will share with you tips on how to overcome speech anxiety.
Public speaking is one of the many skills of communication.
For one to be an effective public speaker, one should have a great deal of enthusiasm for speaking.
Being able to totally engage with the audience is also fundamental.
However, this isn’t as easy it sounds for most folks.
A lot of people suffer from speech anxiety that makes it impossible for them to face a crowd or speak publicly.
Nevertheless, we cannot let our fears limit our ability to excel in the speaking sector.
It is important to grow beyond this limiting fear because there are different times when we will be asked to give a speech.
Imagine having to pass up the opportunity to give the best man’s speech at your best friend’s wedding.
Or having to miss an important business deal all because you couldn’t give a simple presentation.
Although speech skills aren’t as common as the skills of listening and writing; nevertheless, it is still much needed.
Statistics have shown that 80% of people speak in front of a crowd before they get to the age of 20.
This does not come as a surprise since communication is practiced daily.
Therefore, it is important that one gains mastery of this skill.
However, there are certain issues that must be overcome to do so.
These issues may arise from low confidence to lack of preparation or even things like environmental factors.
Thankfully, with a lot of practice, one can overcome these issues.
One thing that you must actively do is acknowledge that speech anxiety is a condition that ought to be addressed.
People generally assume that really good public presenters are just talented or naturally good.
But we can assure you that we completely disagree with this notion.
Practice is what births success, not talent.
Therefore, the first step to learning how to overcome speech anxiety is to be open to opportunity and practice.
This is further confirmed when Malcolm Gladwell, author of the # 1 National Bestseller, Outliers said “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”
Before we go further, you may not even know what makes you almost blackout before a presentation.
Therefore, let us help you understand all you need to know about speech anxiety.
What is Speech Anxiety?
Speech anxiety is a nervous feeling that individuals experience before they speak to people.
It can even be as bad as panicking with just a few people in the room.
This condition is often referred to as “glossophobia.”
Notably, mental health surveys have shown that the fear of public speaking is the fourth most common phobia after the fear of death, heights, and snakes.
When we consider speaking in public, we get scared that we may be met with disapproval or judgment.
To overcome this fear, certain solutions from different quarters have become popular.
Ever heard “Just don’t look at their faces. Act like no one is there?”
Or “Imagine they’re all wearing clown noses.”
Unfortunately, these fleeting solutions do not tackle the root cause of speech anxiety.
In most cases, they just lessen the symptoms.
Some of the symptoms of speech anxiety include sweating, a shaky voice, butterflies in the tummy, rapid heartbeat, and brain freeze.
What Causes Speech Anxiety?
You should know that speech anxiety is completely normal, at least to some extent.
Almost everyone, even experienced speakers will get a bit of nervousness before a presentation.
Although a larger number of the world’s population suffers from speech anxiety, the causes are quite varied.
Here are a few causes of speech anxiety:
The Brain Freeze
One of the causes of speech anxiety is brain freeze.
It is the fear that your train of thought will be cut off and it will leave you at the mercy of the audience.
This is quite a fair reason because there has been a lot of reported cases that people blacked out on their audience.
The fear of this makes speech anxiety a reality.
Do we know why the brain freezes?
Well, there is a part of our brain that is prone to anxiety.
This is the pre-frontal lobe that carries our memories.
Once the brain starts to feel that you are tense while conversing, the pre-frontal lobes sense this feeling and interpret it as anxiety.
This subsequently affects the stream of memory, leaving you blank.
While some experience it, some dread it happening.
With this anxious feeling, speech anxiety sets in.
To learn how to overcome speech anxiety, you should try discarding this fear.
The Fear of Failure
Humans naturally engage in the fight or flight mode.
Notably, this is an instinct to either face fear or run from it.
The flight mode usually wins most times.
Human beings tend to shy away from things because of fear of failure.
They do not want to face the shame of saying the wrong things so people don’t make fun of them.
This could even arise from their past failures.
And no, this fear is not childish.
If we want to admit the truth, no one wants to be booed at; or at least that is what we think is going to happen.
You need to realize that everyone, even the pros at public speaking will make mistakes.
It is even a reality check that will enable an individual to improve.
So, what if you fail?
It’s completely okay.
If you are serious about learning how to overcome speech anxiety, you should accept mistakes as a part of life.
As we said before, public speaking is not a walk in the park.
Significantly, it requires a reasonable amount of practice and dedication.
A lot of people get speech anxiety because they are not ready.
Without apt preparation, the confidence will not be there.
In learning how to overcome speech anxiety, you should know your stuff.
Lack of Confidence
Confidence is trusting in your abilities.
We know we said that confidence comes from being well prepared.
This is very true, but sometimes it is deeper than that.
Some people who suffer from speech anxiety are often not satisfied with their abilities.
They don’t feel like they are good enough.
We acknowledge that it is unhealthy to feel inadequate and no one should feel that way.
But alternately, some people really do not have the ability to make a speech.
Where communication skills are absent, there will be no productive output.
If you know that you’ve got the skills to handle public speaking, then do not feel this way.
Similarly, if you feel like you are not prepared, and that you do not have the skills, do something about it.
Do not forget that to learn how to overcome speech anxiety, you should learn how to build confidence.
Speech anxiety may be a result of body discomfort.
Consequently, it may even be low self-esteem.
This is when you feel negative about what makes you an individual.
You may feel very insecure with a part of your body that you think is embarrassing.
Sometimes, this could cause social awkwardness restricting your social life.
Bear in mind that before others accept you, you have to accept yourself.
You are absolutely perfect the way you are.
We should admit that audiences can be pretty rude.
This can be a cause of speech anxiety.
An unfriendly or unfamiliar environment will not do much good for a public speaker.
Therefore, to learn how to overcome speech anxiety, you need to find a constructive way to get through to your audience even the toughest of the lot.
Poor Breathing Habits
Surprisingly, the presence of unfamiliar faces tends to make people’s breathing change rapidly due to tension.
If you are not a singer, you may not be versed with technical methods of breathing to help with uneasiness.
When talking, make sure you try breathing unnoticeably through your mouth.
This will calm you a little bit.
You can even have breathing practices before going on stage.
Comparing Yourself to Others
Do not compare yourself with other public speakers.
You are not them; you are you.
Hence, your obligation is to be a unique kind of public speaker.
Do not judge your abilities by comparing them with others.
Try and set a conducive space where you could be your own person.
Why Should We Overcome Speech Anxiety?
How is public speaking beneficial to us?
Why should we learn to conquer the obstacles that might prevent us from being great speakers?
In life, every individual is faced with an opportunity where public speaking is completely necessary.
Imagine having to keep your mouth shut when a matter you’re really passionate about is raised all because you fear speaking in public.
Hence, the following are some of the reasons why you need to overcome this kind of anxiety:
It can Help Boost Sales
If you are a sales staff in your place of work or even a business owner, you will need to do a lot of convincing.
Moreover, public speaking does not necessarily mean you have to stand on a podium.
It also entails convincing people on why things are best for them.
Therefore, if you want to spike those sales up, you need to learn how to overcome speech anxiety.
It Helps Bring People Together
This will be useful both in the professional, social, and family sphere.
Effectively, when people are confident in their public speaking skills, they will be more willing to air their thoughts.
This way, the opinion of everyone is heard and adjustments are made not to hurt anyone’s feelings.
As a result, bad blood does not build and people will become closer.
It Increases Your Confidence
When you can express yourself in front of others, the level of your trust in your abilities increases.
As a result, you will develop self-confidence by extension.
Also, seeing that what you have to say is well received by people, you’ll want to learn more.
And as you learn more, you will become more confident.
It Helps You Become a Better Listener
When you attend conferences to talk to people as a public speaker, it means that you have to pause at some point to listen back.
Although the audience may not speak directly to you; however, you can pick up their reactions when you take a pause.
You might find out that they are busy talking to those beside them, murmuring within themselves, or not paying attention.
This will help you to determine what you can do to bring them back into the discussion at hand.
As you continue doing this, it will increase your patience in listening to others.
The truth is that you can’t listen effectively if you haven’t learned how to how to overcome speech anxiety.
Therefore, the more you are over your speaking phobia, the easier it becomes for you to listen to others.
It can Help Advance Your Career
Public speaking may give you a kind of self-confidence that will help you in interviews.
And we all know that if there’s one thing employers look out for, it’s candidates with confidence.
Confidence just means that you can handle responsibility.
Confidence also helps you stand out amongst your colleagues.
Furthermore, through this skill, you might even become a leader, proffering solutions when needed.
Tips on How to Overcome Speech Anxiety
Here are a few tips that will help you to overcome that dreadful feeling of anxiety when it comes to public speaking:
Make Notes – How to Overcome Speech Anxiety
As we said, speech anxiety can result from different reasons.
Here’s a tip: Write down the reasons why you dread public speaking.
With this, you can narrow it down to the main cause of your problems.
When we say write down, we do not mean that you should dwell on it; of course not.
We just mean that it will help you know the things to discard or improve on.
Drop the Fear – How to Overcome Speech Anxiety
Yes, you heard us right.
You might be saying, “I thought this write-up was supposed to tell us how to deal with the fear?”
Yes, it is doing just that.
You need to make a conscious effort to fight your fear.
For instance, identify your triggers.
Therefore, stop brewing on those things that trigger your anxiety.
Stop listening to public speaking horror stories.
See the positivity of being able to express yourself in public.
Even if you get a brain freeze, get over it.
The audience will probably not think much of it if you handle it well and get on with your speech.
Pro Tip: Once you get brain freeze, and can’t remember your lines, chip in a short joke or story. This will help you remember your lines as your brain relaxes.
Don’t Try to Be Perfect – How to Overcome Speech Anxiety
To learn how to overcome speech anxiety, discard the thought of perfection.
Indeed, you may have seen spectacular performances by speakers.
However, do not beat yourself up with unrealistic standards.
In fact, the audience may likely learn from your talk if you made remarkable mistakes that were relatable.
Practice a Lot
You have to prepare yourself passionately before your speech.
Read up on what you need to talk about.
If it’s a script you have to read from, make sure you have read it a few times before the presentation.
Additionally, if you are talking by heart, it is best not to cram, instead understand the concept so that you can twist it in your words.
Do not prepare your speech at the last minute; this will only fuel your anxiety.
Own your scripts and vocabulary.
This will help you flow a lot better without stuttering.
Talk Slowly – How to Overcome Speech Anxiety
Nothing and no one is chasing you out there.
Even if you are given a time frame to speak, you shouldn’t rush your speech.
Take your words bit by bit.
The brain feels threatened when you speak hastily.
It may shut down, leaving you blank.
Pro Tip: Before a speech especially planned speeches, find out how long you are expected to speak. This will allow you to plan your speech to fit that duration of time.
Relate with the Audience
To learn how to overcome speech anxiety, you should relate with the audience.
It is not a battlefield.
Some speakers just want to get it over with and runoff.
This shouldn’t be you.
Instead, relate with the crowd by maintaining eye contact or engaging them with experiences.
Make the mood light by chirping in some jokes.
But do not do this in excess especially at business presentations.
Join a Network
There are several interest groups out there.
If your interest is oratory, find a group you can connect with.
These kinds of groups can help you to build confidence as you listen to different experiences.
These groups will also help you hone your speaking skills and be open to different methods of public speaking.
If you want to learn how to overcome speech anxiety, you have to put yourself out there.
Pick Your Topics of Interests – How to Overcome Speech Anxiety
There is nothing that will help you better than speaking about what you love.
When you have an interest in a particular topic, the zeal will be present.
You also won’t feel nervous when talking about it.
Therefore, always choose topics that interest you.
If you are asked to speak on a topic you don’t like or aren’t passionate about, you could either decline the offer.
Or you could find an element within the topic that interests you and center your speech around it.
Be Conversant with the Situation – How to Overcome Speech Anxiety
If you do not know the environmental situation and setup, there will be lots of difficulties.
Therefore, know your aids, techniques, and materials.
You won’t like a situation where you prepare for a scripted speech but then have to do your presentation with Excel or MS Word.
That scenario will be awkward; not so?
Hence, you should ask the necessary questions to avoid the unknown.
Find out what presentation equipment the organizers have in place.
Our advice is that you get yourself acquainted with the different presentation modes.
If you want to learn how to overcome speech anxiety, you have to be prolific.
Take Care of your Body
Make sure to get enough sleep the night before.
Do some breathing exercises or whatever makes you feel at ease.
Be sure to eat right too.
You do not want to get a runny tummy before your big presentation.
Generally, ensure that your body is in top shape before giving that speech.
Whatever vibes you give off may be due to tiredness or anxiety, you should keep in mind that your audience will detect it.
Therefore, take care of your body.
Seek help if you have to.
You can even read a couple of books that talk about this condition.
You could even consult the help of a speech therapist if you have to.
Bottom line is, fight speech anxiety in your own way and use the tips we shared to help you on your way.