In Part One of Use Emotional Intelligence to Address Speech Anxiety, we outlined how to address fears of public speaking through internal emotional management. In this part, we will focus on external emotional management strategies, namely how to use your body and practice for the big day.
Use Your Body
Regardless of whether you use the strategies discussed in part one, right before getting up to speak, you may get a little nervous. You have a lot of excess energy in there. You do not want to get rid of all of it, and believe me, you will not, but you want to get rid of some of it. Try some “tense and relax” techniques.
Clench and relax your fists. Clench your fists really hard, and then release them. Can you feel the tension leaving? It really works. Some people get a lot of tension in their necks, if you do try shoulder shrugs. Push your shoulders up to your ears hold them there for 10 seconds and release. A good overall tension reliever is the use of stretching exercises. Do some deep knee bends, stretch your arms up, open your hands really wide and then close them. All of these exercises are good ways to release some of that tension.
Practice the speech to gain more confidence in your ability. It is especially helpful to do so in the exact room where you will be giving the speech. Get up in front of the room and try to envision what it is going to be like when you give your speech. This will help you feel more comfortable when you speak, and fill you with greater confidence.
If you can’t practice in the room, try to use visualization, a research-based strategy widely employed by top athletes. Visualize what you know about the room and the audience, and imagine giving the speech. See with your mind’s eye everyone staring at you, listening with rapt attention. Imagine the applause breaking out after your speech, and your boss giving you a big thumbs-up sign after you finish.
The sooner you get up in front of a group and you realize that you have something important to say, and you get out there and just do it, the sooner you will get rid of your fear. This follows the research-based exposure therapy approach to public speaking anxiety.
Sure, the first couple of times, you’re going to be nervous, but you’ll get over it. People will compliment you and you will say, “Oh, really, I didn’t think I did such a good job.” Remember do not judge your external environment by your emotional self’s perceptions. You may feel nervous inside but many times on the outside, you appear more confident. This is where videotaping comes in handy.
Also remember that “failure is an event, not a person.” If you do not have a successful speech, there might be other factors that may be causing this besides you. It’s not that you failed; it’s the event that failed.
Speaking is a skill that grows weaker with disuse and stronger with practice. The secret to improving your speaking skills is practice. Where can you get speaking opportunities? They exist all around us – at work, in community groups, at churches. You can also set up speaking engagements at various organizations like Fraternal Order of Police, Urban League, Community Action Agencies, Farm Bureaus, Rotary Clubs, Knights of Columbus, Kiwanis Club, Church Groups or League of Women Voters. These are all great opportunities to practice. Remember, your first speech is likely to be your worst speech, so you will keep getting better and less anxious going forward!
This post was co-written by Patrick Donadio and Gleb Tsipursky
Bio: Patrick Donadio, MBA, is a keynote speaker and communication/speech coach with over 30 years of experience working with leaders and their organizations. His book, Communicating with IMPACT, is forthcoming in 2016. To contact him about speaking or coaching for you or your team, call 614-488-9164, e-mail Patrick@PatrickDonadio.com or visit www.PatrickDonadio.com
Bio: Gleb Tsipursky, PhD, is the President of Intentional Insights (www.intentionalinsights.org), a nonprofit that helps people reach their goals using science to build an altruistic and flourishing world, and serves as a professor at Ohio State. A best-selling book author, he regularly published pieces in prominent venues. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org