Strategies For Coping With Presentation Anxiety: Part 1

Speech anxiety is no joke; it is a very real fear for about 40% of people. In this two-part series, we’ll address some strategies you can use to reduce and manage your presentation anxiety. We will break the strategies into two stages, what you can do to reduce anxiety before you speak and what you can do to reduce anxiety while you are speaking. For now, let’s talk about what happens before your presentation.

Name Your Fears
One thing that might help you get a grasp on your presentation anxiety is to name your fears. Write down or speak out loud what you are afraid of. When I teach public speaking, I have my students brainstorm a list of all the negative things that could happen as a result of speech anxiety. They begin listing things like freezing up, nervous laughter, shaking hands, shortness of breath, making a fool of yourself, fidgeting, blushing, sweating, and swaying. Once we’ve listed all these fears and brought them out into the open, they aren’t as scary. Simply naming what we are afraid of can help. Lead developer and architect at IBM, Jason Lengstorf puts it this way, “There is no way the actual outcome will be scarier than what I can dream up … Once a fear is dragged into reality and exposed to a little daylight, the giant monster-shaped shadow in my imagination shrivels.”

Control Your Thoughts
Our thoughts leading up to a presentation have a lot to do with our mindset when it’s actually time to give that presentation. If you find yourself listening to a negative internal narrative, you need to change that using something psychologists call cognitive restructuring. Cognitive restructuring works to reframe and change those negative thoughts into thoughts that are constructive and positive, and it works. In a study on the effectiveness of cognitive restructuring as an anxiety-reducing technique, researchers found that it can significantly reduce panic symptoms. So if you find yourself thinking, “I’m going to fail. I’ve never been good at public speaking,” you might try replacing that narrative with, “I’ve put in the time and effort to make this presentation great. I have the skills I need to succeed.”  Be intentional about shutting down any thoughts that don’t lead to mental strength and success.

Prepare Your Message
We can’t talk about how to reduce presentation anxiety without remembering how important it is to adequately prepare and practice. The fact is, you will probably be a little nervous on the day you are set to speak no matter what you do. That’s perfectly natural. But if you haven’t completely prepared a strong message and practiced it sufficiently, that will inevitably add to your anxiety. It’s always better to be fully prepared and a little nervous than underprepared and very nervous.

I’ve been speaking for a long time, and I still get a little nervous every single time I present. But just like I know the nervousness will come, I know that I have strategies I can use to help me reduce my anxiety. At the end of day, we can’t afford to let our nervousness dictate our thoughts or our actions. We have to refuse to let presentation anxiety silence us.

If want to learn more ways to prepare yourself to be a successful speaker, register now for our online presentation skills course.

The post Strategies For Coping With Presentation Anxiety: Part 1 appeared first on Presentation Mentor.

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