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How to Overcome Nervousness in Public Speaking

By Brenda Scottsdale ; Updated June 13, 2017

To some people, speaking in public is an exhilarating, satisfying experience. Others become nervous, nauseated and sweaty at just the thought of public speaking. While nervousness can help motivate and energize you, too much anxiety is counterproductive. Often our fears are overblown; an article on the Stanford University website recommends preparing for the worst possible scenario so anything that actually happens on speech day won't seem so bad.

Preparation

Speak about a topic you feel enthusiastic about, if you get to choose your topic. If your topic is assigned to you, identify an area within this subject area that you can get excited about. Your passion will be contagious and will transform your nervousness into excitement. According to the Dale Carnegie website, "If your attitude is good -- your talk will be."

Give yourself weeks to prepare, so you can focus on the material, rather than your feelings of nervousness. Know much more about the topic than what you plan to cover during your speech.

Rehearse until you are thoroughly familiar with your speech. Familiarize yourself with the room in which you'll be speaking and, if possible, rehearse in that room so there won't be any surprises on speech day.

Warm up physically before you begin to speak. According to speech experts at Stanford University, physical movements, such as walking or arm circles, will help dissipate your nervous energy.

Ensure you get enough sleep and eat nutritious meals in the days leading up to your speech. Taking care of yourself physically will help you be more resilient and feel less nervous.

Facing Your Audience

Pretend you are speaking to a group of close friends and colleagues rather than a group of strangers. Your tone will be more conversational and engaging.

Greet your audience before you formally begin your speech. After the greeting pause briefly, slowly count to three, and then begin. This tactic will help you calm down and prepare you for the task ahead. Once you start to speak, pause and breathe deeply if you feel your anxiety increase.

Realize that your audience most likely wants you to succeed. It wants to laugh and be entertained.

Gain Perspective

Imagine delivering the most exciting, engaging and stimulating speech of your entire life. Toastmasters recommends using visual imagery to conquer feelings of nervousness.

Remind yourself that your audience is likely unaware of how nervous you feel. Apologizing when you stumble over a word will likely draw attention to an aspect of your presentation that they probably didn't think was a big deal.

Forget your technique, stance and delivery style. Relax, have fun and be yourself. Focus on what you are saying, rather than preoccupying yourself on minor details such as hand gestures, eye movements and facial expressions.

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