Stressed by the idea of speaking in public? You’re not alone! Here are six simple tips to defuse the anxiety.
For some students, the mere thought of public speaking is enough to put them in a state of panic. Luckily, there are some very simple things you can do to calm your nerves before an oral presentation that will help minimize the stress and build your confidence.
It’s an easy acronym to remember and it says it all: Keep it Simple, Stupid! The best presentations are those that educate and inform, not strive to impress and dazzle. Use clear, straightforward language and make sure your key points are concise. Talk about what you know and you’ll look and feel more confident and authoritative, which relaxes you as you speak.
2) Time your presentation
There are a few good reasons to time your presentation. First, you’ll adhere to the time limit set out by your professor. Second, you’ll know if you need to speak more slowly (or quickly) to deliver your key points. Third, timing yourself will help you edit and re-structure your points to give your presentation a smooth and natural flow that feels neither rushed nor sluggish.
3) Practice with friends who know little about the subject
Do a trial run of your presentation in front of friends who are unfamiliar with your topic. They’re more likely to point out where you’re being vague or unclear. Their feedback—being told what needs to be clarified and fine-tuned—will go a long way towards helping you perfect and defend your thesis.
4) Test your vocal chords
Talk to a classmate or ask the professor a question before your presentation, just to make sure your vocal chords are working. Stress and anxiety can tighten the throat. By speaking aloud beforehand, you eliminate the possibility of having your voice crack as you start your presentation.
5) Skip the caffeine
It might be a big ask, but avoid caffeine on your big day. The anticipation of public speaking already gets the adrenalin pumping, and caffeine will only exacerbate that natural nervousness. It’s much better to take small sips of water in the half hour before your big moment in order to lubricate your throat and eliminate the dry mouth that often comes with stress and nerves.
Public speaking experts all agree that breathing is one of the simplest and most effective way to relax your body, especially a technique known as “belly breathing”. Belly breathing means breathing with the help of your diaphragm rather than using only with the upper part of your lungs.
Before your presentation, stand in a comfortable position and put a hand on your belly (the area that goes in-and-out most noticeably when you breathe). Take calm, medium-deep breaths and feel how this area expands as you breathe. You’ve just given yourself a nerve-calming dose of oxygen. Now exhale, release the residual anxiety and show your classmates who’s the boss of your presentation.