Jeffrey Howenstine speaking at the Tech25 awards

10 Tips for Combating Public Speaking Anxiety

The BitLoft Director of Operations, Jeffrey Howenstine, recently had a chance to display his public speaking chops at the TechPoint Tech 25 awards lunch. (You might remember Jeffrey from his recent blog post.) Jeffrey wanted to give a great short speech to celebrate the honoree from BitLoft, Thomas Marshal, and he knew the best way to succeed was to walk in the door prepared to talk in front of a crowd.

Even the unflappable Jeffrey was a little nervous, and this whole event reminded me that public speaking is a huge hurdle for many people. The term for the fear of public speaking is glossophobia, and according to Glossophobia.com, “as many as 75% of people” experience this anxiety.

So, I thought I’d share a few tricks for how to fight back against glossophobia. Maybe these tips can help you get ready for a public speaking opportunity you have coming up. Most of these recommendations fall under a major umbrella of preparation. However, I also know that nerves can strike hard when you’re already on stage and in the spotlight, so some of my tips focus on ways you can react in the heat of the moment.

Preparing Content for Your Public Speech

Content, content, content! You can’t very well get up, stand in front of people in silence, and then walk off. Well, you could, but you might confuse some people.

  • Know what you’re going to say. If your strategy is to memorize your content, know it cold and be able to speak it in a way that sounds natural. If your strategy is to know your talking points and speak off the cuff, know your talking points and highlights like the back of your hand.
  • Practice. Time yourself. Say your presentation aloud. If you have someone who can be a mock audience, that’s great. Record yourself and review the recording.
  • If you’re using visuals, prepare them, have them proofread by someone else, and review them. And always have a backup plan. Your visuals should be as comfortable and familiar to you as a pair of old sneakers. And in case of equipment failure, be ready to give your presentation without them.

Preparing Yourself Physically

You need to prepare your space and your body. Your body is actually the most essential presentation asset you have, so take the time to tune it up.

  • Understand your physical space. Are you speaking to a small or large crowd? What are the acoustics in the room? How much do you need to project your voice to be heard? Are you standing at a podium or walking freely? If you’re using visuals, will all of the audience be able to see them from any vantage point?
  • Check your electronic equipment. If you’re using a mic, is it a pin-on mic, a hand-held mic, or a podium mic? Are projection devices working?
  • Learn good projection techniques: Understanding how to project from the diaphragm can save you from a hoarse voice. When you have a good handle on speaking from your diaphragm, try practicing your intention to be heard clearly at the back of the room — find a large, open space and speak as if you need to be heard by someone far away, without shouting.
  • Perform vocal exercises and relaxation techniques. Some great examples include giving yourself a facial massage, reciting tongue twisters, stretching muscles, and singing. (It doesn’t matter if you’re singing off key — just sing and relax your throat. It can be fun!)

Before you begin your public speech, try singing to warm up and relax your vocal chords.

Fighting off Nerves When You’re Already on Stage

Be aware of the common consequences of nerves so that you can recognize them if they occur when you’re speaking. Give yourself freedom to catch these issues in the middle of a presentation and nip them in the bud:

  • Did your voice get tight? If your voice grows shaky, relax your muscles to loosen up your vocal cords. Loosen shoulders, hands, abdomen, throat, and even your face muscles. Take a small sip of water. Avoid clearing your throat unless necessary. Also, chew your words — what that means is try larger mouth motions than normal increases your enunciation and allows for better projection.
  • Did you catch yourself talking too fast? Pause and slow down. Nervous public speakers can often end up talking faster than intended, which throws off timing and can lead to skipped topics. Taking a deep breath can help. When practicing, try planning when your pauses and breath points should occur, and where you want your emphasis. You can even “score” your script — mark up your intended pauses on paper.
  • Are you adding extra “ums”? Try using intentional silences to emphasize important statements. If you catch yourself using filler “ums” and “ers” in the middle of sentences, give yourself more permission to pause. Silence used at appropriate times is your friend, not an enemy. Practice and comfort with your content can also help weed out the ums.

Above all else, always remember: The audience is happy for you to succeed!

P.S. You can check out our video recap from the Tech 25 lunch below. And a big thank you to the folks at TechPoint!

Virginia Sanders is a Content Developer for BitLoft and has a degree in Theatre as well as English. To find out more about BitLoft, Contact Us today.

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