How to decrease your public speaking anxiety

Your hands get sweaty. Your throat tightens.

Your gut turns into a knot. Your head is too full and too foggy to think clearly. Your heart is racing… no, you aren’t about to step into a Nascar vehicle, or being chased by a large black bear. You are preppin’ to step on stage.

I have spoken in front of a room full of people hundreds of times. Hundreds. I am very familiar with this feeling.

For a long time, that’s exactly how I would describe my physical experience before speaking. Things have gotten better for me, after hundreds of presentations, but I still remember… and I still get hints of that anxiety when the stakes are high.

I still totally get it.

The cool part is, I am also powerfully aware how immense the public speaking opportunity is. I have felt the energy in the room shift in meaningful, positive ways because I got on that stage. I have heard the inspired stories of those who took extraordinary action because they were inspired by my speech. Those stories, that energy shift, my own little way of changing the world via the stage is why I am so compelled to get up there. I don’t engage in public speaking because I want the fame or notoriety.

I get on stage because it is a powerful medium for change.

In order to keep getting up on those stages, in spite of all of that anxiety, I had to gather some power tools for dealing with all of that public speaking anxiety. That’s what this post is about.

I want to give you my favorite tools for decreasing public speaking anxiety.

Today, I’ll share my three very favorite speech anxiety strategies: 1. breathing, 2. positive visualization, and 3. audience connection and rapport.

Breathing

You probably know that our minds are inextricably connected with our bodies. Consciously pulling in a deep belly breath – the kind that makes your belly button push outward – and then releasing all of that air and then some, slows the mind. That process of pulling in breath, distending your belly, releasing the breath deeply, automatically decreases your physical anxiety sensations. Use it anytime you are nervous. It’s amazing.

Positive Visualization

Did you know that you can actually increase your “experience” with positive public speaking events by simply imagining yourself delivering that fabulous presentation? Research has indicated that our imagination of a particular event can actually increase our effectiveness at such an event in real-life (here’s one description of such research.) This means that when you actively close your eyes and imagine yourself delivering a brilliant, amazing presentation, you are that much closer to delivering that brilliant presentation in real-life. We also know (from other smart researchers), that positive visualization significantly decreases anxiety. I often spend at least a few minutes each day I prepare for a presentation, imagining myself on stage delivering a riveting, engaging public speaking presentation – totally connected with the audience, watching their heads nod in agreement, smiling – and it makes me actually quite excited to get on stage and have that experience. Try it!

Audience Connection and Rapport

Speaking of watching the audience nod their heads, smiling… there is nothing more effective for decreasing any public speaking anxiety I might be experiencing than feeling genuinely connected with my audience. When I spend a solid amount of time thinking through what they need, what I can share that will truly make their lives better, I feel awesome getting up on stage and adding that kind of real value for them. Spending that time thinking about them, caring about their lives and needs, and then delivering my speech or training with that approach make me feel really great. It makes me forget that I am “on stage” and allows me to just dive deeply into making a difference in the world.

I have a list of great strategies for decreasing public speaking anxiety that I would be happy to share with you.

Click here to download the list: Strategies for Decreasing Public Speaking Anxiety (no opt-in required.) Let me know which are your favorites.

And please, if you have other strategies that aren’t on that list, share them in the comments or send them to me via email so I can share them with our community.

Thank you, jjjj56cp, for sharing this cool black bear photo for all to use and enjoy.

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