How to handle your public-speaking anxiety
You probably will have experienced public-speaking anxiety on a minor level at school: maybe when it was your turn to read out the paragraph in English, or you had to have a quick ‘show and tell’ in front of the class about what you did over the weekend. That was hard enough in front of your twenty-or-so classmates who were also nervously waiting for their go, so the expectation of having to do this at uni is on another scale.
Unfortunately, giving presentations or speaking to a large number of people (students or lecturers) can be a significant part of your course. Here are a few tips that I found have helped me with my pre-presentation nerves.
Practice, practice, practice
It may involve saying the same paragraphs out loud to yourself over and over again but trust me, those vital minutes practising in private will make you feel so much more confident when you are in front of an audience. Repeating and getting familiarised with what you need to say will mean that by the time you have to present, you should not have to worry about panicking over what to say next – by then the words should be automatically flowing, and you will have created your own spin on saying things.
Take your time
Often you go to talks and presentations to find that the speaker is talking so quickly, you can barely hear them or take in what they are saying before they move on to the next point. When you are nervous, it is human instinct to speak faster; try to convince yourself that you are calm and in control. Speak slowly and more clearly and what you say will come out so much clearer and with more confidence.
Get to the venue early to suss out the size and to eliminate the possibility of being late and feeling rushed. Dress confidently (maybe shoes that have a bit of a heel to give you some more height or a new belt that you look and feel good in). Not only would this have a positive impact on how you physically present yourself but also it would give you the added self-esteem boost when faced with a room full of people and potentially all eyes on you.
Smiling (even a forced one) can trigger the receptors in your brain to send the message to your body that you are happy. So, even if you feel like crawling into a dark corner and crying, flash a smile, and you might even begin to feel a little brighter and ready to take on the task you’re about to face.
Try not to panic
If it’s an assignment situation, chances are everyone is in the same boat and just as nervous as you are – public-speaking anxiety is very common. Instead of watching and judging you they will be getting nervous about when they have to go up! It’s scary addressing a large group of people; even lecturers know that, so they will take that into consideration.
These are just a few things I do to prep myself for presentations and public speaking. For my placement, I have had to talk to over 200 school kids in their assemblies in front of their teachers which I never thought I would be able to do! Trust me, if I can do it, so can you!