Talking is usually a piece of cake — so much so that it’s hard to go an hour without yattering with your bestie. Yet, the thought of speaking in front of an audience can silence even the chattiest of us. As stated in Prevention magazine, there’s no need to give yourself an anxiety attack before every work presentation that comes your way. Read on to prevent irksome stage fright and deliver your next speech with poise.
1. Banish your phone
By forcing your head down and your shoulders in, hunching over your beloved smartphone tends to close your body posture. This naturally saps your self-confidence, suggests recent research. Furthermore, studies suggest that standing with your chin up, shoulders back and legs slightly apart can actually pump up your confidence before any nerve-racking public discourse.
2. Answer the call of nature
Yes, take a break and head to the restroom. Sounds simple But it makes a big difference in reducing stress hormones in your blood, says Malcolm Kushner, author of Public Speaking for Dummies. The last thing you need to worry about is holding it in during your Q&A session with audience members.
3. Breathe nice and easy
Okay, you don’t have to retreat into full on yogi mode but make it a routine to practice slow, rhythmic breathing before public speaking to calm your nervous system and ground yourself, says Janet Esposito, author of Getting Over Stage Fright. As you inhale, repeat to yourself the word ‘calm’ and as you exhale, repeat the word ‘relax’, and try to mentally connect with those feelings.
4. Order refreshments wisely
Avoid lactose-rich foods such as milk which increases mucus, or coffee which dry out your vocal cords and leave you feeling jittery, says Bill Cole, founder of the International Mental Game Coaching Association. Instead, eat easily digestible, lighter foods, such as a handful of almonds or some kaalay channay. Also, drink plenty of water.
5. Be prepared
Fine, you resorted to being a parrot at school and regurgitated everything you read but simply memorising your presentation won’t get you any accolades from your boss. Be super-familiar with what you’re going to say, as well as your subject matter. The better understanding you have of your message, the more comfortable you’ll feel with the material.
6. Imagine the absolute worst
“The day before delivering your work presentation or a speech at an event, spend a few minutes visualising any potential problems that could hinder you, like getting tongue-tied, going blank or tripping and practice your ideal responses,” Cole advises. You plan and hope for the best, but this opens your eyes to potential accidents and gives you confidence to handle them. And remember one thing, even if a slip-up does occur, take a deep breath, crack a joke and continue on.
7. Humanise the audience
As you stand at the podium or at the end of the room facing your audience, look at them as a bunch of individuals, instead of an overwhelming group you must impress. “These are people who have taken out time to listen to what you have to say; they have their own fears,” says Esposito. “Keep in mind that the audience wants you to succeed. They didn’t come to see you tank — that would be a waste of their time,” says Kushner. They’re on your side.
8. Face your fear
“Learn to accept your angst and nervousness rather than fighting it. It will pass more quickly if you don’t focus on suppressing it,” says Esposito. Also, try pumping yourself up with self-encouragement or upbeat music —just as you would before a long run or intense workout. By reframing the event as a personal challenge and not just as an opportunity to look silly, you’ll expel your apprehensions.
9. Be positive
While you’re at it, make sure to encourage self-talk and use optimistic language. Stay away from anything that fuels distress and self-doubt, advises Esposito. Speak to yourself as you would to a friend you were trying to support in the same situation. Research also suggests thinking about a time when you really excelled at a task can help swell your confidence and calm your nerves.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2016.