How to Reduce Your Speech Anxiety

Six Methods:Handling Your AnxietyPreparing Your SpeechFiguring Out the Logistics of Your SpeechPracticing Your SpeechTaking Care of Yourself Before the SpeechStarting Your Speech

Most people have a case of the nerves a little bit before presenting a speech. When you don't handle these nerves properly, they can negatively affect your speech by making you seem unsure about what you are saying. It may be difficult to get rid of these nerves entirely. But you can learn how to reduce your speech anxiety by understanding your anxiety, preparing for and practicing your speech, and taking care of yourself.

Method 1
Handling Your Anxiety

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    Write down reasons why you’re anxious. Having a clear understanding of your anxiety will help you reduce it. Jot down a few reasons why you feel nervous about your speech. Try to dig into specific reasons.
    • For example, if you write down that you’re worried that you’ll look stupid in front of a crowd, think about why you think you’ll look stupid. Is it because you worry that your information is wrong? Once you know this, you can spend more time researching and learning your topic.[1]
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    Quiet your inner critic. When you think negative thoughts about yourself and your performance, your anxiety will grow. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, you may think, how will your audience have confidence in you? When you catch yourself thinking negatively, stop yourself. Replace it with a positive thought.
    • For example, you might think, “I’ll forget my entire speech. I don’t know what I’m doing.” Stop this thought and replace it with, “I know my topic. I’ve done lots of research. Plus, I will have my speech written down and I can look at it when I need to. And if I stumble over a few places, that’s okay.”[2]
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    Know that you’re not alone. The fear of public speaking is known as glossophobia. About 80% of the population gets anxious about speaking in public.[3] This group feels nervous, has clammy hands, has a racing heartbeat, and feels jittery. Know that it’s perfectly normal to feel this way before a speech.
    • While it can be an uncomfortable experience, know that you will get through it. And each time you give a speech, you’ll get more accustomed to the experience.

Method 2
Preparing Your Speech

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    Find out the guidelines for your speech. We tend to fear things that are out of our control. Though you cannot control every aspect of your presentation, you can reduce speech anxiety by controlling the situation as much as possible. If you are asked to give a speech, find out the expectations of the organizer.
    • For example, are you giving a speech on a particular topic, or do you get to choose your topic? How long is the speech supposed to last? How long do you have to prepare the speech?
    • Knowing these elements from the very beginning will help reduce your anxiety.
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    Get to know your topic. The more you know your topic, the less nervous you will feel when you talk about it in front of others.[4]
    • Choose something about which you are passionate to address in your speech. If you do not get to choose the topic, at least try to find an angle that interests you and which you know something about.
    • Research more than you think you should. Not everything you learn will end up in your speech, but it builds your confidence in the subject matter.
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    Get to know your audience beforehand. Be sure to know who your audience is. This is key because you will tailor your speech to this audience. For example, you will give a different speech to experts than the speech you’d give to novices.
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    Write a speech that suits you. Use language in your speech that fits your speaking style. Try not to adopt a way of speaking that isn’t natural or comfortable, as your discomfort in the style of the speech will likely come across in your delivery.
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    Have a well-prepared speech. The more prepared you are, the less anxiety you will feel. Have the entire speech written out beforehand. Find appropriate illustrations and examples for your audience. Create effective and professional-looking presentation aids to accompany your speech.
    • Have a back-up plan. Consider what you will do if your presentation aids do not work due to equipment malfunction or power outage. For example, print out a copy of your slides to refer to should your slide show not work. Decide how you will fill the time if your video does not work.

Method 3
Figuring Out the Logistics of Your Speech

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    Get familiar with your presentation venue. When you know where your presentation will take place, you can envision yourself giving your speech. Check out the room where you’re be presenting. Get a feel for the size of the audience. Know where the restrooms and water fountains are.
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    Ask about your presentation time slot. Figure out when you’re giving your speech. Will you be the only speaker, or will there be several speakers? Are you going first, last, or in the middle?
    • If you are given a choice, determine what time of day you’d prefer your speech. Do you tend to operate better in the morning or in the late afternoon?
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    Figure out your tech needs. If you’re planning to use audio or visual aids in your presentation, find out if the venue can accommodate them. Will they
    • Communicate presentation preferences to the organization. For example, if you prefer using a hand-held microphone over a headset, tell them. Other things to consider are using a stool, having a podium or table, and having your slides show up on a small monitor for you to use so you do not have to read off the big screen. Work these details out with the organization, instructor, or other representative before the day of your speech.
    • Test audio and visual aids beforehand. If your presentation aid doesn’t work during your actual presentation, you will feel heightened anxiety. Try to prevent this by testing your aids in advance.

Method 4
Practicing Your Speech

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    Rehearse your speech on your own. We tend to be nervous about things that are unfamiliar to us. Take the time to practice. You do not need to memorize your speech word for word, [5] but you do need to familiarize yourself with your main points, introduction, transitions, conclusion, and examples. At first, practice alone. This will give you a chance to iron out any uneven spots in your speech. Read it out loud. Get used to hearing yourself. Test the wording and make sure you are comfortable with it.
    • Then practice in front of the mirror or videotape yourself so you can see your gestures and facial expressions.
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    Focus on the introduction. If you start your speech off well, your speech anxiety will drop considerably. Then you will likely feel more comfortable throughout the rest of your presentation.
    • Although you don’t need to memorize the speech, be very familiar with how your speech begins. This will allow you to start the speech confidently and with authority.
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    Practice in front of others. Find friends, colleagues, or family members who are willing to listen to your speech. Ask them to provide suggestions. This will give you the chance to become more familiar with speaking in front of an audience. Consider it a test run for speech day.
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    Practice in your speech venue. If it’s possible, practice in the room where you will actually present your speech. Take note of how the room is set up. Find out what the acoustics sound like as you speak. Stand at the podium or front of the room and get comfortable here. This is, after all, where you’ll be presenting from.

Method 5
Taking Care of Yourself Before the Speech

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    Get a good night’s sleep. Having a full night’s rest before you present your speech will ensure that you are clear-minded and not tired when you present. Get 7-8 hours of sleep to ensure you are well-rested.
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    Eat well. Eat a healthy breakfast to give you energy for your speech. You may not be able to eat much if you are nervous, but you should try to eat something. A banana, yogurt or granola bar is good for a nervous stomach.
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    Dress appropriately for the presentation. When you are giving a presentation, you should dress for the occasion. Typically, you should dress nicely for a formal presentation.
    • Wear something that makes you feel confident yet comfortable. If you are too uncomfortable, you might spend too much of your attention on how your feet hurt or your neck is itchy.
    • If you’re unsure of the dress code, ask the organizers. Shoot for more formal over less formal clothing.
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    Take deep breaths. Breathing deeply can help calm your mind, slow your heart rate, and relax your muscles.[6]
    • Try the 4-7-8 method: Inhale through your nose for a count of 4. Then hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale out your mouth for a count of 8.[7]
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    Try meditation. Meditation is a great way to slow down your mind and be present in the moment. This will help reduce your anxiety over your speech by bringing you away from your anxious anticipation. You will instead focus on what is happening in this precise moment. Try this simple method of meditation:
    • Find a comfortable seat or bed in a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed.
    • Relax your body and close your eyes.
    • Start breathing deeply, inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of four. Focus your mind on your breath.
    • When your mind begins to wander, acknowledge the thought and let it go. Return your focus to your breath. Breathe in. Breathe out.
    • Try this meditation for 10 minutes every day to reduce overall anxiety. Make sure to meditate the morning of your speech.
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    Use visualization exercises. Visualizing that you are a successful public speaker will help you when you are actually doing it. Run through your speech and imagine how the audience might react at different points. Think about different reactions, such as anger, laughter, awe, applause. Take deep breaths as you imagine each of these reactions.[8]
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    Go for a walk before your speech. Get your blood and oxygen pumping a little bit by taking a short walk or getting other exercise the morning of your speech. You will burn off some of your stress with the exercise. It will also give your mind a chance to focus on something else for a bit.
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    Stay away from caffeine. Caffeine can contribute to jittery feelings, exacerbating your anxiety. Your usual cup of coffee in the morning might not make a big difference. But when you’re already feeling anxious, coffee or caffeinated soda can add fuel to the fire.[9]
    • Instead, try a calming herbal tea, such as chamomile or peppermint.

Method 6
Starting Your Speech

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    Read your anxiety as excitement. Instead of thinking how nervous you are, think of these feelings as excitement. You are excited about giving this speech and having the opportunity to share your thoughts and expertise on a topic.[10]
    • During your speech, use your nerves to energize your gestures and body movement. Try to keep it natural, however. Don’t pace around, but it’s okay to walk a bit if you feel comfortable doing so.
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    Speak confidently. Fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias, but many of these people hide their nerves well enough that the audience isn’t aware of their anxieties. Don’t tell the audience that you’re nervous or anxious. If the audience perceives you as confident and positive, you will feel more confident and positive.[11]
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    Find friendly faces in the audience. Though many people think making eye contact will make their anxiety worse, it can actually reduce it. Simply find some friendly faces in the crowd and imagine that you are having a conversation with them. Allow their smiles to encourage you throughout the speech.[12]
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    Let go of mistakes. Do not get hung up on mistakes. You may mispronounce something or stumble over some words, but do not let that bother you. Most people in the audience will not even notice. Set realistic expectations for yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake.[13]


  • Join a Toastmasters group in your area. Toastmasters is an organization that helps its members improve communication and public speaking skills.
  • If you need to regularly speak in public and you feel extremely anxious about it, consider seeing a mental health professional.

Article Info

Categories: Stress Anxiety and Crisis Management