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Afraid of Public Speaking? Here’s How to Get Over it

Afraid of public speaking? Here's how to get over it

Crazy as it sounds, some people fear public speaking more than death. In fact, it’s incredibly common. One Gallup poll found that a whopping 40% of Americans have glossophobia, the technical term for fear of public speaking.

Like many phobias, this one can be conquered — or at least managed. If you’ve got a presentation coming up, here are some ways to calm your nerves and pump up your confidence before you face a crowd.

Six months before: Take a class

Consider signing up for a public-speaking course, like those offered through Toastmasters International. You’ll learn specific techniques for improving your public speaking and find support from people who have overcome the same fears you have.

One month before: Practice obsessively

The more you prepare for your presentation, the less you’ll worry about giving it. Rehearse until you’ve memorized all your talking points and know your PowerPoint deck from the inside out. Try to shift your focus to the content of your presentation and think about why the topic is interesting.

One day before: Hydrate

To avoid that cottonmouth feeling, drink a lot of water the day before your presentation and stay hydrated on the day of. Consider bringing a bottle of water onstage, too. Taking sips has a hidden benefit: It buys you time to regroup or collect your thoughts in the middle of your talk.

Two hours before: Cut down on coffee

If you’re used to drinking coffee every day, don’t skip your morning cup — but don’t go overboard, either. Caffeine can trigger or amplify some of the classic symptoms of glossophobia, such as shaky hands, rapid heart rate and shortness of breath. Rather than making you feel more alert, too much coffee will make you feel jittery.

One hour before: Leave early

Rushing to your presentation will only add to your stress. Plan to get to your destination early, building in a cushion of 30 minutes or more. Not only will this keep your heart rate in check, but it will give you the opportunity to scope out the space where you’ll be presenting.

30 minutes before: Tech check + work the room

The first thing you should always do when you arrive for a presentation is to make sure all the technology details are accounted for: is your file on the right computer, do you have the right tools (mic, clicker, etc), and do you know how everything works? The last thing you want is to have to figure out how to click through your slides while you are delivering the presentation!

Once that’s all set, walk around and mingle with the people who will be in your audience. Shake hands, make small talk, smile and be friendly. You’ll feel more comfortable with your audience if you know who they are. Having these short interactions will also serve as a reminder that your audience wants you to succeed, not fail.

10 minutes before: Breathe

At this point, your best bet isn’t to study your slides or try to rehearse them one more time, it’s just to get your mind ready for the task at hand. Take a deep breath, hold it briefly, and release it slowly. One technique that comes from meditation is to use a 4-7-8 count – 4 seconds in, 7 seconds hold, 8 seconds out. Repeat this 5 times.

During: Say cheese

Smiling is one of the best remedies for presentation jitters. Not only does it make you look personable and confident on stage, but it actually causes your brain to release feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. And what does serotonin do? Reduces stress.

After: Celebrate

You did it! You practiced, you prepped, and you delivered your presentation like a pro. And even if you made some mistakes along the way, you still got through it, and that’s an achievement worth celebrating! Give yourself a moment to release the tension and energy that comes with being in the spotlight, then give yourself a well-earned pat on the back for taking on one of the toughest challenges that most people will ever face. 

Update (02/24): we’ve revised this article to add some new tips on managing the stress of public speaking

Looking for more information about public speaking and beyond? Check out our resources for expert advice and tested strategies.

About the author

Kyle Kartz is the Creative Director of Storytelling at VerdanaBold. He is an expert copywriter and strategist, with experience driving major campaigns for global brands in multiple industries. He is passionate about communications, the outdoors, and cooking.



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