Public Speaking Anxiety

Anxiety Comments

An effective strategy to deal with any problem is to find the root cause of the problem and try to fix it with simple and easy solutions. In the book Speaking up without Freaking out, Matt Abrahams applies this strategy to Public Speaking Anxiety and discusses quick practical solutions that everyone can try.

It is worth noting that a little anxiety is a good thing - it tells us that we care about the situation. We just don’t want too much of it that could ruin the moment.


Here are 5 reasons why we get anxious when presenting and a few tips to combat each of them -

1. I don’t have the skills

You’re nervous because you think you don’t have the skills to present well.

Imagine this - you’re a novice skier and someone puts you on top of a double diamond slope. Would you be nervous? Of course you would!! The right strategy would be to start with a bunny slope, gain some skills and technique and slowly progress to a green, blue and a black slope. The same thing applies to public speaking as well. You might start public speaking at an Improv class or at Toastmasters where there there is an ‘always say yes’ attitude.

2. I’m on stage

You’re perfectly fine having a casual conversation, but you get nervous when you’re on stage.

A trick to overcoming this type of anxiety is to convert your speech into a conversation. Here are some tips to help you achieve that -

  1. You can start your speech with a question - this tricks your mind to believing that it is a conversation.
  2. You can use the word ‘you’ in your speech while referring to the audience or even mentioning the names of some of the people in the audience.

3. I don’t know how to start

You prepare for the speech but you go blank just before you’re about to start.

Do you know that most of the football teams have their first few plays scripted? Going from silence to fully presenting can be a daunting task at first, but you can overcome it by scripting exactly what you want to say in the first 30 seconds. This will help you calm your nerves and get you going.

4. I’m presenting to superiors

You’re nervous because you’re presenting to superiors.

This is a common scenario for a lot of us - we’re comfortable presenting in front of our peers but delivering the same speech in front of superiors gives us jitters. There are a couple of ways to overcome this -

  1. Contemplate on positive events after your presentation - it could be the delicious dessert at your next meal or the weekend trip.
  2. Utter curse words (to yourself) before the speech - Uttering curse words can prepare you for a battle and in some cases can give you confidence.

5. The stakes are high

You’re nervous because of the importance of the situation.

You don’t want to think ahead for this one :). During the last few minutes before the speech, try to focus on the present and avoid thinking about the consequences of your speech. There are multiple techniques to stay in the moment -

  1. Engage in a mild intense physical activity (like pushups).
  2. Repeat tongue-twisters or focus on a math puzzle.
  3. Watch something funny or listen to music.

Source - Speaking Up Without Freaking Out By Matt Abrahams

Kaushik Rangadurai

Code. Learn. Explore

Share this post