Public Speaking: Overcoming Your Fears

By Nate George


To many, just thinking about public speaking can send shivers down their spine. Nervousness, anxiety, and downright fear are certainly not foreign concepts to a student with an upcoming speech. We’re here to help, though! With just a few tips and tricks, you’ll have the confidence you need to knock your speech out of the park.

The first, and admittedly most essential, component of preparing for a public speech is easing your nervousness. I know, I know, easier said than done. However, a nervous speaker is an unsure speaker, and this apprehension is easily recognized by the audience. Sure, you can picture the audience in their underwear, but I would be more nervous speaking to a naked crowd than a fully clothed one. The key to becoming comfortable speaking in public is to become comfortable with your presentation material. Write out your speech. Read your speech, then read it again. And read it another time. Read your speech until you don’t simply remember the information, but you know it. Your presentation will come off as confident and knowledgeable if it is apparent that you are not simply reading words off of a paper. Plus, your sense of nervousness should wane as you realize that you aren’t simply memorizing the words but are learning the information.

In order to develop confidence with your speech, practice reciting it in locations that are full of distractions. Wait…what? Yes, practicing your speech in your dorm with the door closed is an easy way to memorize it, but you are doing only that–memorizing. Practice reciting your speech in a bustling environment. The cafeteria, a room full of friends, or a fraternity party would all be effective (some more than others). That way, instead of relying on memorization to deliver your speech, you will instead know how to respond to distractions or mishaps with knowledge (and not panic your way through empty words written on a wrinkled note card).

In addition, many students faced with a class presentation suffer from a condition titled “land-locked sea sickness.” This disease is characterized by a steady rocking back and forth with hands jammed deep in the pockets. Unless your speech is taking place on a Deadliest Catch crab boat, this posture is detrimental to the success of your presentation. Instead, stand up straight, keep your hands by your sides or resting on the podium, and appear energized and happy to be there (even if you aren’t). Don’t be afraid to move around the room, either! Making calculated steps across your presentation area can help keep your audience engaged and add an element of confidence and poise to your presentation. However, make sure to avoid aimlessly pacing all over the room, which will convey nervousness and uncertainty.

In short, stand tall, know what you’re talking about, and leave your nerves at the door!


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