Coping with the Anxiety and Stress of Public Speaking: Yes MORE!

By Marsha Petrie Sue, MBA

I’ve had requests to provide more information on managing presentation anxiety and stress. Most people are not born with natural eloquence, making presenting remarkably nerve-racking.  Managing anxiety and turning crazy thinking into energy is a learned skill. Having been a professional speaker for over 26 years, there are some steps that I keep in mind – and yes, there are times when I feel nervous!

  1. Practice
    1. Find a location similar to your presentation and practice
    2. Stand if you plan on standing during your talk
    3. Record your presentation. Audio is good, video is better. Listen or watch your recording and write down three or more things you like, then one or two observations you would like to change
    4. When possible, practice with a small audience and ask them for feedback sharing what they liked best and changes for you to consider
    5. On line presentation? Practice on WebEx and check your animation, volume and facial expression. Use polling and other tricks to keep the audience engaged!
  2. anxiety-1Work on your Pauses
    1. Nervousness drives rapid speech. The audience suspends listening if you are delivering with a ‘fire hose’ approach
    2. Practice pausing prior to your actual presentation. This allows the group to assimilate your important message
  3. Manage Self-Talk
    1. Work on managing the Emotional Vampires living in the right side of your brain. Their message drives you down a negative spiral/rabbit hole!
    2. Train the left side of your brain to take over by over-learning a quote, prayer or anything as words reside in the brains left hemisphere. My favorite: I’m glad I’m here, I’m glad you’re here, I care about you and I know what I know
  4. Know your surroundings
    1. Check the location of your presentation prior to your speaking
    2. If possible, test the technology you will use including a microphone, computer, on-line link, remote, lighting, etc.
  5. Arrive Early and Meet Audience Members
    1. Verify set up, staging, computer placement, test microphone, etc.
    2. Take time to meet audience members. This allows you to have a few friendly faces and will help reduce nervousness.
    3. When appropriate, watch the speaker prior to your presentation. This helps you read the audience and perhaps play off any references made
  6. Diaphragmatic Breathing
    1. Nervousness is exasperated by our systems pushing us into Fight or Flight. Heart palpitates, sweaty palms, crazy brain thinking, memory problem and shaking voice.  BREATHE!
    2. Practice breathing. Deep breaths that push your stomach out. 80% of oxygen is absorbed in the diaphragmatic part of lungs.  Nervousness creates shallow breaths.  No oxygen to the brain = anxiety!
  7. Smile
    1. Helps the audience connect with your message
    2. Smiling can release endorphins which fight stress hormones, cortisol and adrenalin
    3. Watch your posture. Slumping reduces lung capacity and affects vocal quality. Also, degrades perception of professionalism.

Good luck on that next presentation.   For more advice on how to plan your presentation, you will find additional tips here

Shall we talk about PowerPoint and how to put together slides that work? Let me know!

What tricks do you use to manage anxiety?  Would love to hear from you.

Cheers, Marsha

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Professional Speaker, Executive Coach, Best Selling Author
Marsha Petrie Sue, MBA

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