Effective Strategies for Overcoming Presentation Anxiety

Nervous for a Presentation?

You’ve been invited to deliver an oral presentation next week. Now all sorts of questions are running through your mind. What should be my opening lines for the speech? Should I memorize what to say to my audience, or should I just read the speech from a paper on that day? You’ve checked for the answers to these questions on Google. Yet, any time you imagine yourself standing on a podium and speaking in front of a large crowd, you keep on experiencing a pounding heart, quivering voice, shortness of breath, dizziness, or sleep loss.

Sounds familiar? If yes, you are experiencing the symptoms of pubic speech anxiety.

Woman doing an office presentation at work

Aim of This Post

The purpose of this post is to provide you practical tips that will help you to overcome speech anxiety and improve your public speaking skills.  Below are the questions we will address in this article:

  • What Is Presentation Anxiety?
  • What Is Presentation Anxiety?
  • How Can I Be Confident in a Presentation?

What is Presentation Anxiety?

Presentation anxiety is also known as speech anxiety or glossophobia. It occurs when you are feeling agitated or nervous before and/or during a speech presentation. Experts estimate that 3 in 4 persons in society experience various levels of speech apprehension. Some speakers feel petrified at the thought of giving a public speech, while others feel extremely shy and anxious during the act of speaking to a large audience. Regardless of which group you belong to, the first step in conquering you being nervous for a presentation is to understand what causes presentation anxiety.

Causes?

You are not alone if you want to know why you are always nervous for presentation. Speech anxiety can affect your self-esteem in a negative way and make you feel less confident in a social setting. In fact, there is no way you can advance your career as a top leader in your workplace if you cannot present your ideas coherently in a public forum.

Well, don’t feel bad if you are suffering from stage fright. We’ve good news for you. Our team of researchers have explored the speech anxiety literature and found that your speech fright may be caused by:

Cause 1: Fear of Failure

Are you a perfectionist? If so, there is a high probability that your speech anxiety stems from fear of failure. Perhaps you are afraid that you may not be able to communicate properly or use hand gestures effectively while delivering your public speech. This fear may make you overanalyse your presentation. And the more you overthink what you want to say on the day of the presentation, the more you feel worried and anxious that you are not prepared enough for the speech.

Dare to fail written in Scrabble tiles against blue background

Cause 2: Insufficient Preparation

Apart from the fear of failure, lack of preparation could be another reason why you are experiencing glossophobia. All great public speeches come with great preparation. This means if you are not spending enough time to prepare for your presentation, the chances are high that you will become nervous for presentation.

Cause 3: Lack of Experience

A great public speaker is someone who has made several public speaking mistakes and learned from them. Most of the powerful speakers you listen to on radios or TVs have decades of public speaking experience. If you don’t have any stage experience under your belt, there is no way you can speak in a public forum like Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Robert Kiyosaki, or Oprah Winfrey.

Cause 4: Self-Consciousness in Front of Large Groups

Being extremely self-conscious and aware of what you say or do in front of thousands of people can inhibit your ability to deliver a great speech. When you are self-conscious on stage, nothing you do seems perfect to you. You worry that your audience is scrutinising every aspect of your speech delivery. This negative thought makes you feel frightened and agitated when you engage in public speaking.

Cause 5: Fear of Being the Center of Attention

If you are an introverted person, you may experience speech anxiety because you don’t like being in the spotlight. Delivering a public speech to two or three persons may be easy for you. But you may feel a higher dose of fear when you are asked to replicate this success in front of a large crowd.

How Can I Be Confident in a Presentation?

Now that you know what speech anxiety is and what causes it, let’s provide you practical tips on how not to be nervous for presentation. Our public-speaking tips are culled from the best public speaking books in the world.

Secret 1: Prepare Strategically for the Speech

Acquiring confidence before an audience requires a lot of strategic preparation. To prepare strategically for your speech, the author of The Art of Public Speaking Stephen Lucas advises that you should become familiar with the topic you want to share with your audience. Do you know the topic like the back of your hand? If not, read research articles published in peer-reviewed journals to gather more knowledge about the topic you selected. The more you read about the subject, the more you come across pertinent information to use for your presentation.

Whether you like it or not, you cannot cover everything you know about the topic on the presentation day. So, try to structure your presentation such that only key aspects of the subject will be discussed. A common technique to do this is to create an outline for your presentation using bullet points or flow charts. With this technique, you don’t need to memorize what you intend to say to your audience.

Be prepared written on a post-it note on a desk

Apart from being knowledgeable about the topic, you also need to be familiar with the venue layout. Make sure you visit the place of the venue a week before the presentation and check whether the venue is spacious and convenient for you and your audience. Also, don’t forget to test the microphone, projector, and sound system in the venue to confirm whether they are working properly.

Lastly, to prepare strategically for your presentation, you have to decide in advance whether you want to:

  • Use PowerPoint or Google slides or other presentation tools.
  • Spend a minute or more on each slide.
  • Buy or lease equipment.
  • Wear a formal dress or a casual outfit.
  • Use Venue A or Venue B.

Secret 2: Research Your Audience

There is no way you can tell your audience a good story without knowing about their background. Carmine Gallo points out this in his book Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds. According to him, learning about your audience will help you to figure out what messages and content your listeners care about. Researching your audience will also help you to anticipate hard questions your audience will ask you and respond to them ahead of time.

Are your audience trainees, middle managers, or colleagues? Find out. Also, research about their academic, cultural, and religious background. Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to identify sensitive issues you should not discuss with your audience.

Secret 3: Set a Goal

Having a speech goal is incredibly important if you want to stop being nervous about presenting your ideas to a large audience, says Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking. A public speaker without a speech goal is like a sailor without a compass. You’ve no sense of direction when you don’t have a specific goal in mind for your speech delivery. Is your goal to inform, persuade, or entertain the audience? Is your goal to stop stuttering when you are talking to a large audience? Or your speech goal is to perfect how to use gestures or signs?

Your speech goal should revolve around what makes you deficient as an effective public speaker. It may be related to the way you pronounce words, use hand gestures, or explain complex details when you making a presentation in a boardroom or an auditorium. Be specific about your speech goals and make sure your goals are realistic, measurable, and time-bound. Your speech goal should be like this: “I want to learn in two weeks how to deliver a speech to a crowd of 200 people without stuttering and using slang.”

Secret 4: Learn from Expert Public Speakers

If you want to be good at something, you need to learn from the best. This rule also holds true in public speaking. To perfect your public speaking skills and be confident in a presentation, try to watch the most-viewed TEDx talks on YouTube. While you are watching famous speech videos, pay close attention to how the speakers are using stories, examples, anecdotes, eye contacts, hand gestures, pauses, and elements of surprise to capture the attention of their listeners.

However, as warned by the author of The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking Dale Carnegie, don’t try to imitate great speakers. Be yourself. Your listeners will not give you the credit you deserve when they realize that you are trying to speak like Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy, or Nelson Mandela. As a speaker, your personality is your precious possession. Cherish it. Develop it. And use it to your advantage when you are delivering your presentation to your audience.

Apart from watching public speaking videos and reading top books on public speaking, you can also learn how to deliver a good speech under the tutelage of a seasoned public. Are you having trouble finding an expert public speaker to mentor you?

Finding a reliable mentor is not as difficult as you think. To find a great speaker to train you, dive into social media networks like LinkedIn and search for the keyword “public speaker.” If you do so, you will find many speakers in the search results. Select the speakers you like and send each of them a formal email message, stating your desire to learn public speaking under guidance. At least, one of the recipients will show interest in helping you to overcome your speech anxiety.

Secret 6: Practice and Practice

Do you know what most individuals who are worried about their presentations refuse to do? Practice. Practice makes you become a better speaker. It also insulates you from being nervous for presentation. When you rehearse your presentation, you know your topic so well that you know when to use punch lines, pause, and hand gestures.

Wondering how to practice for your presentation? In his book Confessions of a Public Speaker, Scott Berkun beautifully explains what you should do before you deliver the main speech:

“And when I say I practice, I mean I stand up at my desk, imagine an audience around me, and present exactly as if it were the real thing. If I plan to do something in the presentation, I practice it. But I don’t practice to make perfect, and I don’t memorize. If I did either, I’d sound like a robot, or worse, like a person trying very hard to say things in an exact, specific, and entirely unnatural style, which people can spot a mile away. My intent is simply to know my material so well that I’m very comfortable with it. Confidence, not perfection, is the goal.”

In other words, you should time yourself, get up from your desk, and rehearse in front of a friend when you are practicing for your presentation. This suggestion will help you to spot major mistakes and address your fear of talking to a crowd.

Secret 7: Stay Calm

Woman in yoga floor position keeping calm

Bear in mind that your ability to manage your emotion and calm yourself from the inside has a direct link to your presentation performance. Garr Reynolds writes in his book Presentation Zen Design that by keeping your stress level under control, you will be able to think on your feet and speak confidently to your listeners during the presentation.

The question is, what strategies should you adopt stay to calm during a presentation? The following tips can help you to keep your mind and body healthy:

Tip 1: Avoid alcohol/caffeine beverages a day before and on the day of your presentation.

Tip 2: Engage in various forms of relaxation exercises before your presentation.

Tip 3: Eat healthy food and drink enough water prior to your presentation.

Tip 4: Practice deep breathing.

Tip 5: Speak more slowly when you are talking to people.

Tip 6: Stop overanalysing your presentation ability.

Tip 7: Try to smile.

Final Thoughts on Being Nervous for Presentation

Delivering a presentation like a pro requires a lot of self-introspection, preparation, and practice on your part. As yourself, “Why am I so nervous for presentation?” Spend some time to find answers to this question. Are you glossophobic because you are afraid of failure or because you are afraid to stand before a large audience? This knowledge will help you to conquer your fear of public speaking.

Even after you’ve identified why you are a glossophobe, you still to prepare for your presentation. Make sure you practice your presentation a bunch of times. The more you rehearse your presentation, the more you will identify your mistakes and deliver a good speech performance. Remember: how successful your presentation is will not be judged based on the knowledge you send but based on what your audience receives.

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