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6 Strategies for Managing Public Speaking Anxiety

If the idea of public speaking makes you nervous, you’re not alone. Most people experience some form of anxiety before or during a presentation, yet how they manage that fear determines how the audience perceives them. The best speeches may seem effortless, but pre-presentation effort is what makes them seem this way. To mitigate your speaking anxiety and improve your presentation skills, try these tips from Matt Abrahams, Stanford Graduate School of Business lecturer, executive coach and author of “Speaking Up Without Freaking Out.”

  1. Stand and deliver. We tend to be more eloquent in our heads than in speech. Don’t just review your slides. Get up and rehearse out loud to get the full benefit of practice time.
  2. Practice effectively. Try focused practice, delivering one aspect of your presentation repeatedly until you become familiar with it. Grouping topics helps make practice and anxiety more manageable and prevents overlearning.
  3. Find your voice. Reading aloud for 10 to 15 minutes will help you build stamina and find your natural flow, while reciting children’s literature will help expand your vocal range.
  4. Be present in the moment. Do things that keep you focused on the present and not the near future. Right before speaking, listen to music, count backwards or repeat tongue twisters.
  5. Focus on your audience’s needs. Shift the focus away from you. Understand the needs of your audience and present your concepts in a way that meets those needs.
  6. Engage the audience. The simplest way to encourage positive feedback from your audience is to actively engage them in the presentation. Show a video or take a poll and then facilitate a discussion around the content. It’ll take the attention away from you as well as calm your nerves.

Melissa Fleming has previously worked for Catchafire, Fast Company, Harper’s Bazaar, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Time Out New York Kids, Town & Country and Vogue, among others.