Tips for Managing Public Speaking Anxiety

Speaker at business luncheon
Jetta Productions/Iconica/Getty Images

Public speaking anxiety, also known as glossophobia, is one of the most commonly reported social fears. While some people may feel nervous about giving a speech or presentation, if you have social anxiety disorder (SAD), public speaking anxiety may take over your life.

Symptoms 

You may worry weeks or months in advance of a speech or presentation, and you will probably have extreme physical symptoms during a performance such as the following:

  • shaking
  • blushing
  • a pounding heart
  • quivering voice
  • shortness of breath

These symptoms are a result of the fight or flight response—a rush of adrenaline that prepares you for danger. When there is no real physical threat, it can feel as though you have lost control of your body.

Could It Be Social Anxiety Disorder?

Public speaking anxiety may be diagnosed as SAD if it interferes with your life—such as

  • changing courses at college to avoid a required oral presentation
  • changing jobs or careers
  • turning down promotions because of public speaking obligations

If you have intense anxiety symptoms while speaking in public and your ability to live your life the way that you would like is affected by it, you may have SAD.

Treatment 

Fortunately, public speaking anxiety is relatively easily managed using short-term treatment methods such as systematic desensitization and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). If you live with public speaking anxiety that is causing you significant distress, ask your doctor for a referral to a therapist who can offer these services.

Self-Help 

In addition to traditional treatment, there are a number of strategies that you can use to cope with speech anxiety and becoming better at public speaking in general. Without traditional treatment, however, anxiety symptoms aren’t likely to disappear on their own.

Public Speaking Anxiety: Tips to Prepare to Give a Speech

Whether you are giving a speech at a wedding, at a shareholders' convention, or in a college classroom, there are strategies that you can use to give yourself a leg up when it comes to managing anxiety.

Everything from the environment that you speak in to the way that you maintain eye contact with the audience can impact your anxiety level while speaking in public.

Don’t make the mistake of failing to invest time and energy in preparing well for your public speaking engagement. Even if you have SAD, with proper treatment and time invested in preparation, you can learn how to deliver a great speech or presentation.

Public Speaking Anxiety: Tips for the Day of a Speech

As a person with SAD, it is important to put together a routine for managing anxiety on the day of a speech or presentation.

Create a routine that you know will put you in the proper frame of mind and give your body the ability to maintain a relaxed state. In addition, learn how to address your audience in a way that projects confidence and keeps people interested in what you are saying.

A Word From Verywell

Here is how to put all of what you have learned together to manage your public speaking anxiety.

  • Learn to accept some anxiety. Even the most seasoned performers experience a bit of nervous excitement before a performance—in fact, most believe that a little anxiety actually makes you a better speaker. Learn to accept that you will always be a little anxious about giving a speech, but that it is normal and common to feel this way.
     
  • Set goals. Instead of trying to just scrape by, make it a personal goal to become an excellent public speaker. With proper treatment and lots of practice, you can become good at speaking in public. Who knows, you might even end up enjoying it.
     
  • Put things into perspective. If in the end you find that public speaking isn’t your strong suit, remember that it is only one aspect of your life. We all have strengths in different areas. Instead, make it a goal simply to be more comfortable in front of an audience, so that public speaking anxiety doesn’t prevent you from achieving other goals in life.

Sources:

Blöte AW, Kint MJW, Miers AC, Westenberg PM. The relation between public speaking anxiety and social anxiety: a review. J Anxiety Disord. 2009;23(3):305-313. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2008.11.007.

Grice GL, Skinner JF. Mastering Public Speaking. 5th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon; 2004.

Pull CB. Current status of knowledge on public-speaking anxiety. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2012;25(1):32-38. doi:10.1097/YCO.0b013e32834e06dc.

Continue Reading