With spring around the corner, a lot of us in school have presentations, speeches, and papers due on the horizon. Public speaking, a favorite of most students (sarcasm) often carries with it a little black storm cloud that rests itself over the upcoming speaker’s head. The build-up to a big presentation is oftentimes more stressful than the project itself. Speaker anxiety is like the little devil on your shoulder, whispering not-so-sweet nothings into your ear and slowly convincing you that what can go wrong, will go wrong. Murphy’s Law, after all.
Well, good news! You can shut that little shoulder devil up. It isn’t always easy, but there are several ways that can make the process leading up to a big presentation/speech much less stressful.
1. Be prepared.
Instead, of spending the majority of your time worrying about what you’re going to do or say, actually plan on saying or doing something! Our minds like to trick us into thinking we’re very busy working on the project we’re dreading, when in reality we may be spending more time biting our nails over it. Structure your presentation, brainstorm, practice. Once you’re comfortable with the project itself, doing it in front of others will seem that much easier. You know what you’re talking about! Get confident in your work.
2. Consider the purpose of your presentation for your audience.
Make it about them, not what they’ll think about you. What you’re presenting is meant to benefit them in some shape or form, right? Visualize their positive responses and qualify to yourself how beneficial and worthwhile your time is. The more your focus on others, the less you’ll focus on your inward nervousness.
3. A pep talk won’t hurt.
Some people think ‘pep-talk’ and imagine a cheese-ball “it’s going to be okay” pat on the back. As lovely as that may be, it’s not what I’m talking about. Give yourself a real pep talk. Get loud and proud! Don’t be afraid to talk to your reflection in the mirror. No one is around. I certainly won’t judge you! Look, you deserve self-respect so don’t be afraid to dish it to yourself. You are capable as long as you are willing to succeed. Make a conscious effort to reinforce positive thinking.
4. Force yourself to speak publicly more often.
It’s called habituation; when you actively look for ways to do the things that scare or stress you out more and more so that it becomes more comfortable. Once you start looking, you may be surprised by how many opportunities present themselves. With every triumph, you’ll build confidence.
I can’t say enough how grateful I am for being taught breathing exercises, especially in times of stress. It can be a bit disarming at first how effective deep-breathing techniques really are when you’re feeling the weight of worry on your shoulders. There’s a science behind it all, but the short explanation is the increased intake of oxygen helps slow your heart rate, calming you down. Try it.
All in all, YOU CAN DO IT. Kick butt and take names!