Introduction | Message | Audience | Structure | Physical Aspects | Psychological Aspects

Coping with Anxiety

Anxiety is a painful experience, and it is mainly associated with how we will be perceived by other people.
Anxiety before an exam is a common reaction which disappears once the exam has commenced.
There is often a reason for stage fright which justifies our fears.
Once the cause has been identified, it is possible to go back to the symptoms and treat them accordingly; Such fears can include:

  • fear of forgetting what you will say or fear of speaking incoherently
  • fear that the audience will not take you seriously
  • fear of offending someone or making a mistake
  • fear of being asked a question and not knowing the answer
  • fear of physical symptoms such as a “dry throat“
  • afraid of finishing too soon or speaking for too long

Sometimes our fears and anxieties are totally irrational:

  • fear of a fire alarm, fear of ridicule regarding your clothing choices.
  • The feeling of anxiety however can be reduced by undertaking advance preparation.*

Fear is an expression of our emotions. On the physical side, fear can lead to shaking, red face, sweaty palms, palpitations, excess perspiration, a broken voice, and sometimes tears.
Irrational anguish is most often localized in the throat, stomach, or around the heart. This indefinable physical discomfort can sometimes affect the entire body.
This is exacerbated by the way you perceive the audience may react.
All this can lead to a complete loss of concentration or even a blank: we no longer know what to say or how we should say it.
We would like to scream, cry, run away, but we can’t!
Anxiety is an expression of the fear we are experiencing.

But it isn’t all bad: fear can often helps to prevent the perceived risks: Certainly the fear increases the heart rate, but it also increases the oxygen supply to our brain.

  • It is normal to feel this fear before an important test. The key is to achieve control over the emotions we feel!

Take control!
Often anxiety and nerves do not arise from the situation you are experiencing but from the way you perceive it. The treatment therefore lies in understanding the problem first.
In the process of addressing fear, what are we able to control? What part of the fear can we address? We cannot control fear itself but can work to address the underlying causes for the fear we feel.
Fear is related to the perception of risk, it is necessary to reassure yourself: “there is no danger, you can go”.
Nerves are a manifestation of the fear at the perceived risks of speaking in public, it is necessary therefore to identify these risks in order, not to eliminate them, but reduce them!

Technical Matters
Prepare your content well. The more you comfortable you are with your content, the less fear you will feel, do
not try to learn your presentation by heart, but master every aspect of your speech.

Imagine the worst!
List what could happen to you in the worst case scenario: So what?.. Public Speaking does not kill!
By attempting this exercise, you send reassuring information to your brain concerning your management of the worst case scenario and your nerves will be lessened.
Repeat in front of a mirror, in front of a camera, in front of friends or family members and work on your performance until you are satisfied.

Non-verbal Communication
Our postures, gestures, facial expressions, our mimics, the quality of voice (rhythm, flow rate, tone), how we occupy space, or our dress code, all constitute non-verbal communication.
The secret of good communication lies essentially in the correlation between the verbal and nonverbal message.
Gestures are an unconscious language, it is important to therefore that both the conscious and the unconscious message are in line.
Ask yourself, what message do I want to share? When you have answered this question, your gestures will naturally correspond to the words that are spoken, this is called “congruency».

Positive visualization
A few days before presentation, lie down and imagine you doing excellent work. In visualizing your presentation, try to remember as many details as possible, do this for at least half the length of your real presentation and complete the exercise several times. Imagine yourself speaking to an attentive and passionate audience: Imagine that you are feeling very comfortable in yourself; you are relaxed, serious and speaking with a calm voice. The words come naturally; you’re feeling so relaxed and comfortable that you could talk for hours. People are listening, taking notes, smiling at your wit and your stories …
It is PERFECT: Imagine that at the end of your speech: people get up, applaud, laugh and whistle. Preserve that magical moment when you connected with your audience, when there was real complicity.
Your mind will integrate this positive experience and your anxiety will be reduced.

Be aware of involuntary contraction of your muscles (shoulders, neck, neck, back, abdomen) and slowly relax them:
Slowly shrug your shoulders several times, slowly turn your head to the right, then left, while breathing from the abdomen.
Relax your face: the jaw, mouth, cheeks.
Stand upright, with feet slightly apart and mentally repeat the following sentence:
“I feel stable,” while you are feeling that in all your body.

Breathing from the Abdomen
Breathe deeply from your abdomen a few minutes before the beginning of your presentation to decrease the feeling of nerves.
Breathe in deeply to ventilate the body and oxygenate the muscles and brain.
Drink a glass of water to avoid a dry mouth!

Put your hands on an object
If your hands are shaking, do not rub them, do not hide them, place them firmly on an object (table, micro, ..)

Look at a person in the audience that seems responsive!
Search for someone in the audience who shares your plight, who supports you or who responds well to you and watch him/her for the first few seconds.
You will feel reassured and less stressed.

Tell everyone that you are nervous before your speech!
In admitting to your nerves your audience will be more understanding and you will feel better.

Feelings of anxiety and nerves are not a sign of weakness, they are a positive sign!
You must accept increased levels of stress not as a sign of weakness, but as a sign that you are sensitive to everything, aware of the issues and concerned with your speaking and how you will be received. In other words, nerves are a good sign!
Your body is responsive and is preparing itself so you give the best of yourself.
Instead of saying “Oh heck, I stressed, I’m nervous it’s going to be a disaster”, say “Ok I am feeling under pressure, this is normal, it means that I am fully aware and I am preparing my physical and intellectual resources. »
Nerves are used to mobilize our energy to give the best of ourselves.

  • Remember nerves produce excellence!

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