Fear of public speaking is a common form of anxiety. It can range from slight nervousness to paralyzing fear and panic.
Many people with this fear avoid public speaking situations altogether, or they suffer through them with shaking hands and a quavering voice. But with preparation and persistence, you can overcome your fear.
These steps may help:
- Know your topic. The better you understand what you’re talking about — and the more you care about the topic — the less likely you’ll make a mistake or get off track. And if you do get lost, you’ll be able to recover quickly. Take some time to consider what questions the audience may ask and have your responses ready.
- Get organized. Ahead of time, carefully plan out the information you want to present, including any props, audio or visual aids. The more organized you are, the less nervous you’ll be. Use an outline on a small card to stay on track. If possible, visit the place where you’ll be speaking and review available equipment before your presentation.
- Practice, and then practice some more. Practice your complete presentation several times. Do it for some people you’re comfortable with and ask for feedback. It may also be helpful to practice with a few people with whom you’re less familiar. Consider making a video of your presentation so you can watch it and see opportunities for improvement.
- Challenge specific worries. When you’re afraid of something, you may overestimate the likelihood of bad things happening. List your specific worries. Then directly challenge them by identifying probable and alternative outcomes and any objective evidence that supports each worry or the likelihood that your feared outcomes will happen.
- Visualize your success. Imagine that your presentation will go well. Positive thoughts can help decrease some of your negativity about your social performance and relieve some anxiety.
- Do some deep breathing. This can be very calming. Take two or more deep, slow breaths before you get up to the podium and during your speech.