Does Public Speaking Stress You Out?

Public speaking. Just hearing the phrase sends some people running. Does that sound like you?  Public speaking is often cited as the number one fear of adults.  I recently asked participants in my public speaking workshops what makes them nervous about speaking in public. Answers include: People laughing at them, forgetting what they want to say, failing miserably, appearing incompetent. Can you relate?

I remember the feedback I received from my first stress management presentation. The woman who hired me said,  “You can tell you’re new.” I wanted to run under a rock, hide and never speak again. I shared this with my husband and he reminded me, “Stacey, you ARE new.”

Instead of running and hiding, I made a commitment to improve my skills. I joined Toastmasters, put myself in situations that required me to speak and faced my fear head on.  I needed a few tools in my back pocket to make it work.

I offer the following tools and strategies, which I use personally and with clients, as a starting point for improving public speaking confidence.

Feel the Part. Passion and energy for your topic is critical. Still nervous?  Acknowledge the fear, then consider taking deep breaths to slow your thoughts and your heart rate.  Visualizing a successful presentation is a great way to shift from negative to positive thoughts.

Look the Part. Smile, dress, posture and eye contact count. How you physically present yourself says a lot.

Know the part. Researching and preparing your talk is as important as knowing your audience, the expectations and the environment you’ll speak in.  The more you know the more you can tailor your content to your audience and increase your chances for success. Get curious.

Improving your presentation skills is a process that requires consistent practice, patience and effort. We learn and build confidence by doing. The more you speak, and yes, even make mistakes, the more you will grow and develop your skills and your confidence as a presenter.

How about you? Does public speaking stress you out?  How do you manage the fear?

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  • Chris Edgar

    Hi Stacey — I happen to love public speaking, so this is a juicy topic for me. If I ever find myself getting anxious, I find it useful to tune in to the pressure of my feet against the ground. Some people ask me “well, doesn’t that take your mind off your words?” But in fact, it keeps my attention on this moment and what I’m doing, as opposed to wondering about what people might be thinking. I still have room to grow as a speaker, around the sense I sometimes get that “people really want me to finish up and sit down now! I’ve got to speed up so I get done faster!” But speeding up is never helpful for me because I’m naturally a fast talker. :)

  • Stacey Shipman

    Hi Chris – We have that in common – thinking I need to “finish up” and talk faster is common, and like you I’m already a fast talker…it’s the “high stress”, excitable part of me! I believe there is always room to improve, practice is the best way.

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