Essential tips for overcoming performance anxiety

- Managing public speaking fear

By: Susan Dugdale  | Last modified: 12-22-2019 | First published: 08-01-2006

Below you'll find a collection of essential tips, and ongoing links, for overcoming performance anxiety related to public speaking.

Feel the fear and do it anyway graphic.

You really don't need to wage war or lock yourself in to a grim, gritted-teeth battle. These suggestions work.

Use them faithfully and you'll go from knee-knockingly terrified to, Yes, I can!

(Maybe not immediately, but much, much sooner than you would without them. ☺)

Ready? Let's begin!

To start, get the adrenaline flowing in your body working for you by side stepping into systematic planning.

This way, when and if it does peak, it will have a well rehearsed pathway to run down. You will have that nervous anxiety under control and contained.

1. Be a fact finder

Control begins with finding out as much as you can about the event and what is expected of you.

  1. Know where the presentation or speech is scheduled to happen.
  2. Know precisely when you are required to be there.
  3. Find out how long you are expected to speak for.
  4. If you don’t know or haven’t been told, find out what subject matter is suitable, the intended purpose of your presentation. Is it to inform, motivate, entertain ...
  5. Get an estimate of the expected size of the audience and who they are likely to be: male,female, mixed audience, old, young, mixed age range and any other pertinent defining characteristics.
  6. Ask whether it's a formal or semi-formal occasion as you'll want to dress appropriately.
  7. Make sure you WRITE IT ALL DOWN and put it somewhere you know you’ll not lose it: place, date, time, length of speech, subject, audience AND the name of your contact person from the organization or group you’re speaking for, plus their phone number.

2. Plan & prepare

Planning and preparation are essential if you are going to conquer your fear.

Think of it as reassuring yourself you are safe. When you are safe, you have no need to feel afraid and the unpleasant symptoms of fear or anxiety are minimized.

The more you are sure of what you are going to do, the better it will be. Good planning and preparation will give you peace of mind.

The terms, planning and preparation, cover many areas. Some are essential. Others you may, or may not, need depending on your personal situation. The links below will take you to more.

The essential aspects of presentation preparation are:

Image: Creativity in progress graphic
Text: How to write your speech in 7 simple, straight forward steps

Yeah, Yeah, but ... I NEED EMERGENCY HELP NOW!
And you've got it here, a single click away.

 Effective emergency anxiety management tips

Graphic image: 14 ways to manage public speaking fear

3. More to maximize your impact

If you're hungry for more check these pages. Each offers suggestions to deepen your understanding and skills.

  • Voice image secrets: Understand why it's important to have the best dressed voice in town. Grooming isn't just for clothes. How you speak can determine what other people think about you.
  • Articulation/diction exercises: Tips to ensure you are understood. If you are inclined to mumble or fudge the ends of your words, then this is for you. 
Image: cartoon image -retro woman with a piece of string tied around her finger. Text: Remember to use vocal variety when speaking. Monotony is boring!
  • Coloring your voice: If you speak in a bland gray monotone you risk boring your listeners! They switch their ears off. Learn to speak in vibrant, alive TECHNICOLOR vocal variety.
  • Pacing your speech: How fast is too fast? How slow is too slow? Get your speaking pace JUST RIGHT.
  • Remembering to breathe: Good breath control governs whether you squeak with anxiety or deliver as smooth as silk. If you hold your breath when you are concentrating or anxious, these exercises are for you.
  • To use humor or not to use humor: When your idea of a good laugh turns bad, it can be ugly. Learn how to use humor effectively to avoid the embarrassment of being the only one who ‘got’ the joke.
Graphic: The right word might be effective but nothing is ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.
  • Using silence: Give your words space so they can be fully effective. Pausing gives the listener time to hear and understand what you are saying. Silence is one of the most powerful speaking techniques to use. Get the power of the pause.
  • Posture: What is your body language telling your audience? Make sure its story fits your speech as your listeners use their eyes as well as their ears. The blend of what you look like with what you sound like is an essential element in giving a successful speech.

4. But wait, there's more ...

Image: Phrenology head showing the center for fear of public speaking.