Presenting at work can be nerve-wracking, but as a professional, it’s essential to communicate with clients, partners, and investors with confidence. Whether you’re presenting a pitch or leading a meeting, speaking anxiety can affect your delivery and message. Fortunately, there are ways to ease your nerves and speak with confidence. Here are 9 ways to bring that anxiety down, helping you succeed when speaking.
1. Know Your Material
One of the best ways to reduce speaking anxiety is by being prepared. Make sure you’ve researched and practiced your presentation or pitch. We certainly feel more nervous when we’re not sure what we’re supposed to say, so remove that cause of anxiety by preparing. Knowing your material inside and out will give you more confidence in delivering your message.
2. Practice Out Loud
Whether it’s to your friends, a poster of your favorite band, or your dog if you’re extra nervous (seriously), you should practice your presentation out loud.
We know it’s less stressful giving a presentation once we’ve already given it a time or two. Imagine if your boss asked you to give the same presentation you just gave three more times that day. You may not love doing it, but by the time you got to presentation number four, it would be way less stressful.
Give yourself that opportunity to reduce the anxiety a little by practicing out loud to faces, be they human, canine, or otherwise, before the big day.
If you are nervous, write down what you are nervous about. Once you shine some sunlight on your anxiety, much of it will likely fade at the edges.
3. Visualize Success
Visualizing success is a powerful tool to calm anxiety. Before speaking, imagine a positive outcome. Picture yourself standing confidently, delivering your message with ease, and receiving a positive response. It’s essential to focus on the positive and remind yourself that you’re capable of delivering a great speech.
4. Logic Your Way Out
For some people, thinking through the realistic worst-case scenario helps them dispel the fortune-telling specter of anxiety. If you are nervous, write down what you are nervous about. Describe what you think might happen. Then, reflect on how likely it is to actually go as poorly as you’ve imagined. Once you shine some sunlight on your anxiety, much of it will likely fade at the edges.
5. Focus on Your Breathing
It may sound trite, but deep breaths really work. We’re wired that way. When you feel anxious, your breathing can become shallow and rapid. Focus on your breath by taking deep, slow breaths. Breathing can help you calm down and get centered before speaking. Take a few deep breaths before starting your speech, or even practice some deep breathing exercises to help minimize your anxiety.
6. Ground Yourself in the Room
Anxiety often comes from the fight or flight response in our brain, even when it’s not essential. We call this an “amygdala hijack.” You can overcome this by grounding yourself in the present moment. Focus on your surroundings and take in the details of the room — like the colors, smells, or sounds. Describe silently to yourself the sensory details of that object (…”that chair has four legs under a vinyl seat; the legs are about one inch wide; they are chrome; they have a smooth texture…”)
Sensory grounding can help you short-circuit the part of your brain saying “run!” and let the rest of your brain resume a more level perception of your reality.
7. Connect with Your Audience
One of the keys to speaking confidently is connecting with your audience. Make eye contact, smile and be welcoming. By connecting with your audience, you create an atmosphere of trust, which will help you relax. Engage with them by asking questions or asking for feedback.
8. Release Your Muscle Tension
As you read this, press the tips of your fingers from one hand to the tips of the fingers of your other hand. Hold it for an 8-count. Now release the tension and drop your hands by your side. Take a deep breath and feel your arm muscles relax just a little bit. This gesture not only helps you release some literal chemical tension in your body, but it also refocuses your attention on a physical reality, thus giving you another way to short-circuit the part of your brain firing with fight or flight signals.
Humanity is engaging, and to be human is to be flawed. To be confident while speaking, it’s important to give yourself permission to make mistakes.
9. Make Room for Mistakes
When it comes to giving business presentations, be it an investor pitch or a Monday morning standup meeting, perfection is rarely achievable. What’s more, it’s even not always best to be perfect. Humanity is engaging, and to be human is to be flawed. To be confident while speaking, it’s important to give yourself permission to make mistakes. Remember that if you make a mistake, it does not reflect on your entire speech. The audience will understand and appreciate your effort!
Reducing speaking anxiety can take time and practice, but with these tips, you’ll be on your way to delivering confident, effective, and compelling messages. Be prepared, visualize success, focus on your breathing, connect with your audience, and shift your focus from anxiety to your moment and your message. These tips will help you build your confidence and conquer speaking anxiety. Remember that anxiety is natural and that many people experience anxiety before speaking, but with practice and focus, you can overcome it and deliver a great message.