Mark Twain famously said, “There are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars.”
It’s true that many of us are apprehensive about speaking in public and for good reasons. You feel emotionally exposed, vulnerable to scrutiny, and open to making mistakes. You fear rejection or ridicule.
Public speaking regularly pops up on the top of most-feared lists in the U.S. A few years ago, the annual Chapman University Survey of American Fears reported that 25% of responders reported being afraid or very afraid of public speaking.
Luckily, it is possible to significantly reduce your anxiety about public speaking while increasing your confidence. Some folks are successful at defeating the fear by incorporating easy-to-implement techniques, using preparation as a weapon or using CBD to relieve anxiety. But first…
What to Avoid When Speaking in Public
Speaking in front of an audience can be terrifying, especially if you already suffer from anxiety. We can be our own worst critics, magnifying our perceived mistakes and setting expectations way too high.
Here’s what you can try NOT to do:
• Expect yourself to be perfect. Allow some room for mistakes. Everyone makes them, even the most seasoned speakers.
• Stop talking. Even if you make a mistake, keep going. The audience might never know. Halting in the middle of your presentation will create a delay and discomfort you might not be able to recover from.
• Equate your self-worth with your ability to speak in public. Chances are, it’s only a very small part of what you do. Either way, it has nothing to do with who you are as a person or your value. It’s just a learned skill most can master.
• Not engage with your audience. When you’re reading from script word-for-word and not trying to connect in any way with your audience, you risk facing a tuned-out crowd.
Practical Tips for Overcoming Stage Fright
Blowing your audience away or at least tackling anxiety is possible with some preparation and organization. Basically, it’s about becoming a better communicator by listening and connecting.
Consider the following strategies:
Writing your speech down, videotaping yourself, and then reviewing with a critical eye or practicing in front of a friend for honest feedback can help you learn the material.
Organize your material
This is an essential part of the prep and can make or break your performance. If you know your topic, main points, the length of your speech, and who your audience is, it’s easier to grab and hold everyone’s attention.
Be flexible in delivery
Staying attuned to your audience can help you perceive your listeners’ mood, the level of their attention, and how well your message is being perceived. Adapting based on visual and emotional clues as you go can help you stay engaged and effective.
Engage your audience
Using effective gestures as well as clear and clean language, maintaining eye contact with the audience, and interjecting your speech with personal stories and humor can all improve delivery. They can definitely hold your listeners’ attention. Non-verbal communication is as important as verbal as are auditory and visual aids when used in moderation.
Make the nervousness work for you
Feeling nervous is just experiencing a form of energy. If you channel that adrenaline rush into feeling alert, it can help deliver a better performance.
Many public-speaking training courses recommend starting with an interesting quote, statistic or anecdote to grab attention. Closing with a powerful statement or a memorable summary will keep your audience with you until the end of your speech.
Breathing and Visualization Exercises That Empower
The Institute of Public Speaking emphasizes the power of good breathing when you speak in front of an audience. It helps to avoid shortness of breath and halting speech.
Physiological symptoms that come with ineffective breathing can be distracting and downright scary. The list includes increased heartbeat, sweaty palms, shaking, and tunnel vision. The good news is that a few breathing exercises can help alleviate anxiety.
Another helpful aid is a set of creative visualization tools. You can use them to replace the negative thoughts and expectations with positive ones. This could quiet the inner voice that sets you up for failure, creating a more realistic awareness in a safe space.
Reducing Public Speaking Anxiety With Cannabis
Unlike THC which can increase heart rate, anxiety, and paranoia, cannabidiol (CBD) is the non-psychoactive component of the marijuana plant. Studies show that taking CBD can calm the brain. It prevents it from firing off fear signals by naturally elevating an endocannabinoid called anandamide. This helps reduce the over-activity in your brain that’s causing the anxiety.
Thanks to CBD’s proven positive effect on brain chemistry, it could also potentially help with easing the symptoms of social anxiety and stress associated with the fear of public speaking. A 2010 study, for instance, showed that CBD can reduce the symptoms of social anxiety in people affected by social anxiety disorder (SAD). Results showed that people not only felt better and more positive, but their brains responded to anxiety in a different way, too.
A 2015 review of studies also indicated that CBD oil could be a promising form of short-term treatment for SAD, panic disorder, and general anxiety disorder. Another study dealing with anxiety about public speaking specifically showed that CBD relieved the symptoms.
Overcoming a fear of public speaking can seem like a daunting task in itself, but winning the room is possible for even the most timid among us. Next time you need to prepare to give a lecture, speech or even a wedding toast, try some of these practical tips to defeat the fear.