1. Focus on the goal of sharing information:
One of the most effective ways to reduce pre-presentation anxiety is to focus on the central goal of sharing information with the audience. Before a presentation it is easy for a speaker to get wrapped up in self-centered thoughts such as: “I wonder if the audience will notice my voice shaking,” or, “What will the audience think if they notice I am nervous?” These thoughts have a tendency to grow, increasing anxiety if not redirected into positive energy.
Focusing on the primary goal of sharing information can reduce anxiety by switching the focus from self-centered thoughts to the task at hand – sharing information. From a new perspective of service, the speaker frames thoughts from the audience-centered question, “What can I do for them?” rather than the self-centered question, “What will they think of me?” This is not only a great way to approach the audience, but also a great way to deflate and eliminate anxiety producing thoughts.
2.Enter with the right energy:
“Take responsibility for the energy you bring into a room.”
Walking into a room with the right body language is one of the best ways to channel anxious energy into confidence. Entering the room, the speaker can “flip” anxiety that might have built up while waiting to take the stage and direct it outwardly through movement designed to project confident, enthusiastic, and professional energy.
Specific techniques include:
- Before entering the room/stepping on stage, prepare the mind with a positive thought such as: “This is going to be great!”
- Start with the head held high and shoulders back
- Maintain an open posture to the audience
- Walk with a brisk, energetic step when entering the room
- Pause to make eye contact with the audience from a warm, open posture before beginning to speak
3. Speak through a smile:
Pre-speech anxiety can cause jaw and neck muscles to tighten, which can result in a speaker’s voice sounding weak. Smiling is one of the best ways for a speaker to both trigger relaxation of the facial muscles, as well as increase the level of confidence displayed.
Smiling also helps a speaker to connect with the audience by increasing the warmth of the speaker’s delivery. This positively affects both the audience’s perception of the speaker and increases attention placed on the content of the speech.
4. Start with strength:
The first sentence out of a speaker’s mouth both serves to capture the attention of the audience (or not), and also sets the tone of the presentation. Opening with a confident and strong vocal volume not only captures the audience’s attention, but is also a great way to channel pre-speech anxiety into confidence.
This principle is most effective in combination with the techniques described above, where a speaker has already walked into the room with open body posture, an enthusiastic, brisk step, and a smile. From this position the speaker is physically ready to project their voice with confidence and channel anxiety into a strong vocal command of the room.
Focusing on vocal strength can also be used at any time during a presentation if the speaker feels anxiety beginning to grow, as an effective way to channel energy outward.
5. Stay connected through eye contact:
One of the best ways for a speaker to stay focused on the main goal of sharing information during a speech and not allow negative, anxious thoughts to start creeping in is to stay connected with the audience through eye contact.
Maintaining appropriate eye contact will not only help to channel energy into the speaker’s message, enhancing impact, but will also help the speaker maintain an external focus on audience members preventing self-centered thoughts from creeping in.