Tips To Reduce Public Speaking Anxiety

By Bessie D. Burton

Why does trying to speak another language make us so nervous? It's incredible how someone can be brilliant in other highly complex subjects and have panic attacks when they have to learn another language. This is so common that there is even The Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS). So how can you overcome this common problem? Below are a few ideas that could help.Learning another language is hard and feeling nervous about learning it is normal. It's like having to give a presentation about what you've learned every day. That's not expected in any other subjects. You are often given weeks or at least days to prepare to present in other circumstances. Learning a language is different in so many ways.

It's critically important to feel comfortable with the people around you, particularly when you are learning. Make sure you have a teacher who is supportive and helpful. If not, find a new one.Role playing is one of the most helpful things you can do to reduce your speaking anxiety. As I mentioned in item one, speaking a foreign language is like having to present constantly. When I have to give a presentation at work, I prepare extensively to help me feel more comfortable, including scripting and rehearsing it as many times as I can. The same steps can be applied to language. What are some common conversations that you have that you can script and rehearse?Practice is the key to all language acquisition, but you don't always have someone to practice with. Also, if you are suffering from anxiety, you may not have the nerve and motivation to practice with another person. A way to practice on your own is to narrate your activities. When you are getting dressed in the morning, try saying the steps out loud, like "I'm going to take a shower" and "I'm putting on my shirt".Sometimes identifying what triggers your anxiety can be a big step in controlling it. Try and keep a journal of when you feel anxious. Is it a certain person that makes you nervous? Is it a certain situation?What I am going to teach you here is the fact that there is a physical reason for our feeling frightened when put into a position to speak in public. That reason is our body's perception that speaking in front of others is a "threatening situation" that demands the over-creation of adrenalin. And it is the over-creation of adrenalin that gives us our symptoms of feeling frightened.

In medical terminologies, public speaking anxiety is referred to as "glossophobia." It is a very common reported type of social fears. It is actually normal that you will experience nervousness during your presentation or speech. However, in the case of a person with a Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), your feeling of anxiety during public speaking will take out and control your life. You will worry too much a few weeks to months before the date of your speech or presentation. On the day of the presentation, you will suffer from intense physical symptoms of anxiety such as pounding heart, blushing, inability to breathe, and quivering voice. These symptoms result from the flight or fight response of your body. There is a sudden release of adrenaline that prepares you for a sudden threat of danger. At this moment, you will experience loss of body control.

Let me also say this up-front - The information I present here will help those with a moderate to serious fear of speaking in public, as well as give "an edge" to those who do not really fear public speaking, but just want to improve their performance . Those that have used this information successfully have included many in business who must routinely give presentations , show business folks who want to be able to deliver the best performance possible and those who just join an organization and must participate in large meetings once in a while. The symptoms of fear that I will explain how to control are identical to all of us. The only thing that separates us in terms of public speaking is the severity of those symptoms and how we're able to control them.

One more thing - you do not have to take the medication I will recommend here forever. It is only necessary during the period of time that you are re-training your brain to understand that speaking in public is not a threatening situation and therefore it doesn't have to create an over-abundance of adrenaline in order to survive THEREFORE, THE MEDICATION IS REALLY A "TRAINING AID", NOT A "CRUTCH".Speaking in public is the No. 1 fear of Americans. It surpasses our fear of losing our jobs, losing our relationships and, believe it or not, people write in surveys they fear public speaking even more than death (although I suspect that given a true life and death situation, they could muster the courage to give a little speech).Because speaking in public opens the opportunity for us to be judged by others in a very personal way more so than any other activity we do in life. And it is this fear of being judged that creates anxiety that can be paralyzing at times. Simply put, many of us have a fear of looking foolish, of being laughed at, of making a mistake, of being vulnerable.

OK, so we understand what causes the anxiety but how can we overcome it? Below are a few tips to help you in your next public speaking experience:Hello Anxiety!We all get nervous and you will get nervous before your next speech. Welcome the anxiety! The feelings that you are experiencing is a fear of performance. Tell yourself that it is OK to be nervous and that we are able to function with it.

I should admit to you now that I have a serious, and at times, excessive fear of public speaking and am therefore in the "gray" zone between the 80% and 5% categories. Therefore, I know from experience what I am going to teach you will help the vast majority of everyone who has a fear of standing up and speaking in public. In addition, this information will also help those who do not really fear public speaking, but just want to give a better performance.This, of course, is a hard question to answer. For many of us the cause of a moderate to serious fear of speaking in public cannot be associated with anything in particular in our childhood. However for others, it can be traced back to a particular incident that has triggered the symptoms felt when faced with the necessity to speak in public. Some of us can vividly remember a particular incident in our lives where we became very self-conscious and embarrassed for some reason in front of a crowd of people. Often this incident occurred as far back as elementary school when our self-worth and self esteem were just beginning to develop and may not relate to actually speaking in public at all.

How many times have you heard someone talk and you feel lost? Once you know the material, you need to organize it in a coherent way. Ask yourself, what is the goal of my speech? Make sure you present your material in an organized way (beginning, middle and end). This process gives you a map that if lost, can help you find your way back. With practice, if you forget what you where saying will help you gather your thoughts and know where you were.

Luckily for us, understanding the true source of our fear doesn't really matter. For some reason our brains have created a connection/link between standing up in front of people and speaking with a "threatening situation" of intense vulnerability.And let me say this now - our fears are completely independent of our intelligence. In fact, I believe those with higher IQ's may actually be more susceptible to fears brought about by childhood events than those of lower intelligence.Realistically, a deep-seeded fear may not be "curable" (in the clinical sense of the word). This is because it is a result of our genetic makeup and our external & internal conditioning which is a result of one or more of those incidents I mentioned that created our feelings of anxiety in the first place. But, as I'll explain in a moment - you do not have to cure your fear; you need only to cure the symptoms of that fear in order to be able to function without fear.For those of us with a serious fear of speaking in public our minds create what I'll call a "malfunction" of our natural defense system. It is our natural defense system that identifies a "threatening situation" that may confront us and creates the "fight or flight" response in our bodies. For us, when put into a position to speak in public our body's natural "fight or flight" response initiates the over-creation of adrenaline because we perceive speaking in public as a very serious "threatening situation."Therefore, the bad news in this discussion is the fact that our minds cause our bodies to create exorbitant amounts of adrenaline completely out of our control. And it is adrenaline that creates all of the symptoms that make us look and feel frightened.This understanding that it is the over-creation of adrenaline that creates my symptoms exactly at the time when I must speak in public was the key to finding a cure to my speech anxiety. And I promise you - it is the key for you as well.

It doesn't matter why we react as we do to speaking in public and it doesn't matter if we remember a particular incident that triggered our anxiety or not. Since our fear is not based on an actual threat to us, we need only eliminate the symptoms of that fear to gain back our self-confidence and function as if we don't have fear. Intellectually, we know there is nothing really to fear when we speak in public, but our bodies act as if there is and it's completely out of our control.Without the symptoms of fear we can speak in public in a more thoughtful and relaxed manner than we ever thought possible. And if we can speak in public in a relaxed manner, guess what - WE CAN SPEAK IN PUBLIC!! PERIOD Really, it's just that simple.The symptoms of fear of speaking in public are curable specifically at the time you're put in a position to speak in public by taking a doctor-prescribed, safe, inexpensive and non-addictive medication. As I will explain, this medication allows us to control the cause of our symptoms exactly at the time when they are getting out of control. Therefore, what I am going to teach you will help those of us who have to routinely give presentations for our careers, those who need to only give several speeches a lifetime for wedding toasts, funerals, and the like, as well as those in show business who must be relaxed and confident enough to focus on their performance.

Finally, have a conversation with the audience. When presenters tend to read from visual aids or cards, they are disengaged from the audience. Remember that your speech is not about you, it is about the audience. You are giving them something, a message. Engage them with a conversation. This approach will be and feel more natural. More importantly, it will help you reduce anxiety.Public Speaking is something we all have to do at some point. The more we do it, the easier it will be for you. Remember that it won't be perfect every time, but with practice you will become much better. The goal is not to get rid of the anxiety, but to learn to control it.

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