Speaking is hard work. As though it wasn’t hard enough, despite us knowing about the importance of public speaking, there is that pesky issue of speaking anxiety. What’s that you say? It’s when we start to understand that we’re going to be standing in front of a (potentially large) group of people and will be expected to both remember what we want to say and do a good job of delivering our message. When our bodies start to realize what we are planning on doing, that’s when the real fun starts…!
What Is Speaking Anxiety?
So what is this thing that we call speaking anxiety anyway? Think back to the last time that you gave a speech. Do you remember if you had any flushing going on (becoming red in the neck, face, or upper chest area]? Did you experience any shaking of your body? If so, then you’ve been experiencing the physical symptoms of speaking anxiety.
This anxiety can take on a number of different forms. It can play havoc with the way that we speak. We can end up repeating words, unintentionally using filler words, and stuttering. It can also affect how we deliver a speech by making us fidgety, causing us to break eye contact, along with swaying and pacing. What we are all experiencing is a set of the body’s “fight or flight” response mechanisms.
Our body has realized what we are planning on doing – standing in front of a group of people and delivering a speech. It’s letting us know that it would rather be doing something else, in fact it would prefer to be doing almost anything else! The good news is that everything that you are experiencing is a perfectly natural response to a stressful situation. Now all you have to do is to find out what you need to do in order to counter it…
How Can We Deal With Speaking Anxiety?
In order to deal with the physical symptoms of speaking anxiety, you need to take physical steps to counter them. One of the simplest is to make sure that you are breathing correctly. You want to make sure that you are breathing both slowly and deeply. Additionally, you are going to want to make sure that you are breathing properly by filling your lower abdomen by inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth – so called “belly breathing”.
Another effect of speaking anxiety is that your body’s core temperature gets raised. You are going to want to take steps to lower it. One way to go about doing this while you are heading for the stage is to place something cool in your hands. Something that will accomplish this is a cold bottle of water.
Pacing and swaying are all symptoms of a speaker having too much energy and not knowing what to do with it. In order to get rid of these distracting movements, we need to find a way to channel that energy in other directions. One way to do this is to gesture broadly during your speech and then step towards your audience. Another way is to secretly squeeze your toes – it will burn off energy and nobody will ever be the wiser!
What All Of This Means For You
One of the facts of life is that despite the benefits of public speaking, speaking will make all of us anxious. Some more than others. We would like to be able to focus on our speech and not how our bodies are rebelling against the speech that we are planning on giving. This means that we’re going to have to take steps to calm ourselves down.
In order to overcome our natural “fight or flight” instincts that take over when our bodies realize that we are planning on giving a speech, we need to take a number of steps. These are all designed to put control of our body back into our hands.
The first thing that we need to do is to get our breathing under control. This includes both remembering to breath and making sure that we breathe correctly. Next we need to lower our core body temperature by getting in contact with something that is cooler than we are. Finally, we have to find a way to burn off the excess energy that we are dealing with.
There is nothing that we can do about becoming nervous about our next speaking opportunity. This is just a fact of life. Our bodies will react in exactly the way that we expect them to – they are going to display all of the hallmarks of being nervous and under pressure. It is our job to realize this and take steps to calm ourselves down and get our bodies back under control. Do this right and nobody will ever know just how nervous you really are.
Your audience just wants to hear your speech – they don’t really want to see that you are nervous. It’s your responsibility to deliver the best speech possible and this means that you need to find ways to make sure that nobody is going to know just how much pressure you are under. Follow the suggestions that we’ve outlined and the next time that you give a speech you will be the only one who knows just how nervous you really are.
Question For You: If you feel yourself starting to get nervous during a speech, what steps should you take?
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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
p>Every time you give a speech, you need to have a goal. In fact, you may have many different goals for a given speech. However, one goal that you always need to have is to understand the importance of public speaking and make sure that this speech is better than all of the speeches that you’ve ever given before. There are a lot of different things that can stand in your way including feeling as though your audience is judging you and not knowing how best to prepare for a speech.