Standing in front of a room full of people and speaking up is nerve wracking for most of us, and very few of us, if we are honest, can claim to be naturally comfortable with so much attention. But when you combine public speaking with social anxiety, this situation can seem like an impassable mountain and trigger overwhelming stress.
You’re not Alone …
Excessive sweating, inability to concentrate, dizziness, stuttering, are but a few symptoms of social anxiety and fear of public speaking, and if it sounds all too familiar, take comfort in the fact that you are in good company: many movie stars, whose career is about being the center of attention on and off screen, have admitted struggling with public speaking. Harrison Ford, the picture of self-assurance, calls it ‘a bag of terror and anxiety’!
These intense words are by no means an exaggeration for people suffering from social phobia. For them, the prospect of having to address a crowd is indeed nothing less than terrifying. However, no matter how seriously you are affected, it is possible to gradually overcome social anxiety and public speaking. If you suffer from symptoms of social anxiety, then here are some social anxiety public speaking tips that I hope you find helpful.
Public Speaking Tips for Social Anxiety Sufferers
1. You will have probably heard that picturing everybody in the room naked will help you feel more comfortable… If it works for you, great, but most people will surely find it more embarrassing and distracting than anything else! So for those of us who’d rather people kept their clothes on, here are a few tips: Be prepared. Rehearse your speech, be familiar with the information you are presenting, make sure you know how to operate whichever device you will be using. If possible, visit the room where you will be speaking. This will give you a greater feeling of control and will help you concentrate on calming yourself.
2. Don’t let your anxiety overwhelm you before you are due to speak. Distract yourself by going for a walk, or doing something that has nothing to do with your presentation. Social anxiety will trigger various physiological responses, and by working on your breathing, you will keep them under control.
3. An anonymous crowd will often be interpreted as hostile for those suffering from social anxiety whereas individuals are less intimidating. If you know anybody in the audience, look at them from time to time, or select a few ‘strangers’ who look friendly, and the crowd will become a collection of well-meaning people.
Obviously, these tips only scratch the surface, and to become comfortable with public speaking, you will need to challenge the negative thoughts that feed your social anxiety, be it fear of failure or of inadequacy. With relaxation exercises and replacing your harmful thoughts with balanced views of yourself, you will learn to cope with this stressful situation.
However, it is important to remember that it will require patience. Don’t put pressure on yourself and take one step at a time. Start small, and as you build your confidence, work your way up to harder challenges.