Overcoming Performance Anxiety: Tips for Public Speaking and Presentations!


If you’ve ever felt your heart race, palms sweat, and knees wobble at the mere thought of public speaking or delivering a presentation, don’t worry – you’re not alone! The fear of public speaking, known as glossophobia, is very common. It’s estimated that 75% of people have this fear to one degree or another. Performance anxiety affects people of all ages, but it’s particularly common among high school and college students or young adults like yourselves in the workplace. But guess what? We’re here to share some fantastic tips to help you conquer those nerves and shine on stage or in class.

Embrace the Butterflies

It’s normal to feel anxious before speaking in front of others. Instead of seeing it as a weakness, view it as a sign that you care about doing well. Embrace those butterflies in your stomach; they are your body’s way of preparing for a great performance!

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Preparation is key to reducing anxiety. Familiarize yourself with the content and practice regularly. Rehearse in front of a mirror, with friends, or family. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel, and confidence is the opposite of fear.

Know Your Audience

Understanding your audience is important. Tailor your message to resonate with them. This connection can make you feel more at ease and feel like you’re speaking to friends rather than strangers.

Start Small

If you’re new to public speaking, don’t start with a massive crowd. Practice with a couple of friends. If you can, increase the number gradually. As you increase the audience size you’ll gain confidence.

Visualization Techniques

Athletes have been using visualization to overcome performance anxiety for decades. Picture yourself acing the presentation. Imagine positive feedback, maybe even applause. Visualization can help build self-assurance and reduce anxiety. (And no, don’t picture your audience in their underwear.)

Breathe and Relax

When the nerves start to kick in, breathing exercises can help. In Chapter 2 of Beyond the Spiral, we discuss the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This simple technique can calm your mind and body, allowing you to focus and regain composure.

Focus on Your Message, Not Yourself

Shift your internal focus away from yourself and towards your message. Concentrate on delivering value to your audience. When you care about what you’re saying, anxiety tends to take a backseat.

Engage with Your Audience

Interact with your audience to create a more dynamic atmosphere. Ask questions, encourage participation, or share relatable anecdotes. Engaging with others can ease tension and make the experience enjoyable for everyone. Not only does it help with your anxiety, but it makes your audience feel more interested.

Make Mistakes Gracefully

No one is perfect, and that’s okay! If you stumble or make a mistake (and most of us do), don’t let it derail you. Acknowledge it, laugh it off, and keep going. Remember, your audience is on your side and wants you to succeed.

Re-frame Negative Thoughts

Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Instead of thinking, “What if I mess up?” say to yourself, “I’ve prepared well, and I can do this!” You can find more practical techniques for reframing in Chapter 5 of Beyond the Spiral.

Celebrate Your Successes

Each time you conquer performance anxiety and deliver a successful presentation, pat yourself on the back! Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. It’s all part of your growth journey.

Join a Speaking Club or Take a Class

Many college students will find themselves in need of a communications credit. Why not tackle your fear head-on by choosing a public speaking class? Or perhaps you can consider joining a public speaking club like Toastmasters, where you can practice in a friendly and supportive environment. Learning from others and receiving constructive feedback can do wonders for your confidence.

Remember, public speaking and delivering presentations are skills that can be developed with time and practice. Be patient with yourself, and don’t be too hard on your first few attempts. Embrace the learning process and know that every great speaker was once nervous too. So, go out there and nail that presentation or speech!