Your palms are sweaty, your heart is beating fast and there are butterflies in your stomach. You attempt to go over what you plan to say and suddenly you have amnesia. These are some of things that individuals who fear presenting in public experience. Don’t worry, join the club; this fear is pretty common.
According to Peter Cardon (2016) in Business Communication: Developing Leaders For a Networked World, “Many polls show that adults fear public speaking more than death” (453).
Whether it’s a group project, a business proposal, or a new policy at work, you’ll probably have to (if you haven’t already) present in public. However, fear can impair your ability to communicate a message effectively (Cardon, 2016, p. 453). Hence, it is important to discuss the ways that individuals (such as yourself) can overcome the fear of presenting in public. Overcoming this fear can help you become a more effective communicator and presenter.
In this way, this blog post will provide ways that you can overcome your fear of presenting in public. Additionally, this blog will include real life example using a CEO who had a fear of presenting in public but overcame this fear using a variety of techniques.
Recommendations for overcoming your fear of presenting in public.
According to Cardon (2016), here are five ways you can overcome your fear of presenting in public:
- Use relaxation techniques
- Be mindful of your breathing
- Envision yourself in a positive way
- Monitor your food / beverage intake
- Acquaint yourself with the audience before the presentation (p. 454).
Use relaxation techniques
Relaxation is always a great way to overcome anxiety. There are a plethora of techniques that you can use to relax. These techniques include:
- Hiking or exercising
- Listening to music
- Watching a movie
- Watching the sunset
- Contemplating on things you are grateful for (Cardon, 2016, p. 454).
Try making a list of healthy activities that calm you down. Then, do these activities a few days before or a few hours before your next important presentation (if possible).
Be mindful of your breathing
Similar to meditation, taking deep breaths can also help you reduce your anxiety and relax. Not to mention, it aids with the tone of your voice (Cardon, 2016, p. 454).
According to Nick Morgan (2015) in How Can You Deal With The Fear Of Public Speaking, “…take a deep breath before you speak, then swallow, then begin. The breath helps you build some resonance in your voice, keeping it from being squeaky or shaky” (p. 1).
Try taking ten deep breaths from your diaphragm a few minutes before your next presentation.
Envision yourself in a positive way
Similar to relaxation, positive visualization allows you to focus on the positive by picturing (envisioning) yourself accomplishing your goals (Cardon, 2016, p. 454).
Jacquelyn Smith (2014) in 10 Things You Should Do In The 15 Minutes Before A Big Presentation stated, “‘Harnessing the power of the mind-body connection means that you can learn to use your thoughts to positively influence your body’s physical responses,’ Price says. As a result, you can decrease stress and increase a sense of wellbeing and control, just by holding positive thoughts and images in your mind” (p. 1).
Try to envision yourself achieving your presentation goals (ex. engaging your audience, memorizing your speech, etc.) before your next presentation.
Monitor your food / beverage intake
While some foods may help you present, others may not. Caffeine may cause you to have jitters and dairy creates mucous that can affect how smoothly you speak (Cardon, 2016, p. 454).
Larry Kim (n.d.) in 15 Ways to Calm Your Nerves Before a Big Presentation noted, “Dry mouth is a common result of anxiety. Prevent cottonmouth blues by staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water before your talk (just don’t forget to hit the bathroom before starting)” (p. 1).
On the night before and day of your presentation, try to avoid eating foods or drinking beverages that may negatively (in regard to your presentation) affect the way you speak or feel.
Acquaint yourself with the audience before the presentation
Try breaking the ice with audience members (to get rid your nervousness) before you actually present. Walk around the room where audience members are, introduce yourself and briefly converse with them. This can help you warm up to your audience and allow your audience to warm up to you (Cardon, 2016, p. 1).
Likewise, Kim (n.d.) stated, “Do your best to chat with people before your presentation. Talking with audiences makes you seem more likeable and approachable. Ask event attendees questions and take in their responses. They may even give you some inspiration to weave into your talk” (p. 1).
A real life example
Now, we will use Ted Karkus, the CEO of ProPhase Labs, the makers of Cold-EEZE lozenges, as an example of someone who feared presenting publicly and overcame this fear using different techniques.
According to Rebecca Knight (2014) in How to Give a Stellar Presentation, Karkus was notified a week in advance that he would be speaking at an investor conference and he was terrified. In order to overcome his fear and be prepared for his presentation, he practiced, and focused on the positive (his capabilities to speak passionately about the company) (Knight, 2014, p. 1).
By practicing, Ted was able to boost his confidence so that he could present well, despite his fears. Additionally, by focusing less on his fears and more on his competencies such speaking passionately, Ted was able to relax before presenting (Knight, 2014, p. 1).
He also used an acting coach to help with his memorization of the presentation and naturalness when presenting to overcome his fear of presenting poorly (Knight, 2014, p. 1).
Of course, all of these factors allowed Karkus to overcome his fears and present so well that individuals approached him with business ideas after his presentation ended (Knight, 2014, p.1).
This conveys that it is possible to overcome your fear of presenting publicly and that some of the techniques that I listed earlier such as focusing on the positive really do help! Focusing on the positive helped Mr. Karkus!
To assist you even further, here’s a link to a video by Harvard Extension School that describes other ways you can overcome your phobia of presenting in public.
Presenting in public can be very nerve racking but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. These techniques along with many others can help you overcome this fear so that you can be an effective and skilled presenter. Are you ready to try? Get out there, present and have fun!
Cardon, P.W. (2016). Business Communication: Developing Leaders For a Networked World. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.
Kim, Larry. (n.d.). 15 Ways to Calm Your Nerves Before a Big Presentation. Inc. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/larry-kim/15-power-up-tips-to-make-you-a-better-presenter.html
Knight, Rebecca, (2014). How to Give a Stellar Presentation. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/11/how-to-give-a-stellar-presentation
Marinigh, Lauren. (2014). Advice To A Sheridan College Advertising Student. Lauren Marinigh. Retrieved from http://www.laurenmarinigh.com/sheridan-college-advertising-student/
Morgan, Nick, (2015). How Can You Deal With The Fear Of Public Speaking? Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/nickmorgan/2015/08/18/how-can-you-deal-with-the-fear-of-public-speaking/#1117e8be1e25
Schwertly, Scott. (2013). Public Speaking: Fear vs. Anxiety. Linked In. Retrieved from https://blog.slideshare.net/2013/11/11/public-speaking-fear-vs-anxiety
Smith, Jacquelyn. (2014). 10 Things You Should Do In The 15 Minutes Before A Big Presentation. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/what-to-do-15-minutes-before-presentation-2014-5