Communication apprehension is a term which refers to anxiety or fear that is connected to anticipated or real communication with other people. This is a condition that is especially common among public speakers. When someone is experiencing communication apprehension, they are likely to exhibit physical symptoms such as clammy hands, faster heartbeat, sweating, nausea, ‘stomach butterflies’, dizziness, rapid breathing, and shaking. They might also experience a ‘dry mouth’ sensation or a quivering voice.
It is normal to have some nervousness about public speaking. However, to be an effective public speaker, you need to find a way of managing your fears. Here are some tips to help ease your communication apprehension:
1. Think positively
Communication apprehension starts in the mind before it manifests physically. Therefore, learning how to think positively is one of the best ways of dealing with it. First, you need to have a positive attitude towards public speaking. Instead of seeing it as an obligation to be feared, think of it as an exciting opportunity to share your thoughts.
In addition, you need to engage in positive self-talk. Instead of saying ‘My audience will not be interested in my presentation’, say ‘The lives of my audience will be changed through my presentation’.
2. Organize your ideas clearly
As a speaker, you need to be very familiar with the main points of your presentation. One of the best ways of doing this is by creating an outline which will allow you to move from one point to another without getting lost. However, avoid the temptation of trying to memorize a speech.
People can tell if you are reciting a memorized speech word-for-word, and are likely to get bored quickly. In addition, trying to remember all the details of your speech can be very difficult. Therefore, it would be more advisable to work with a simple outline.
3. Practice in an environment similar to the actual venue
Practicing your speech quietly in your head is not enough. To lower your nervousness, it would be advisable to practice in a setting similar to where you will deliver the actual speech. Stand on your feet and practice out loud. Continue all the way to the end of the speech and then take time to correct your mistakes.
Two tools that could come in very handy are a mirror and a clock. The clock will help you time your speech and ensure you stick to the time guidelines. The mirror will allow you to check your body language and facial expressions.
4. Engage your audience
Many public speakers experience communication apprehension because of the perception they have in mind about their audience. In many cases, this perception is more threatening than the reality. Therefore, you need to find a way of engaging your audience. When starting your speech, you could say something that will elicit a response from the audience. For instance, you share a funny story or ask a question. When your audience responds by laughing, answering questions or nodding, it directs attention from you to the audience. Such responses will boost your confidence and lower your level of anxiety.
5. Manage your physical reactions
There are several things you can do to manage the physiological effects of anxiety. Before beginning your speech, pause for a moment, look at the audience and smile. When someone smiles back, it will help alleviate your fears. You should also learn how to pause and breathe in the course of your speech. Walking around the room during the presentation is another great way of channeling your energies. It would also be advisable to have some vocal warm ups before speaking. This will get your voice ready to speak. In addition, you could carry out some exercises which can help relax your shoulder and neck muscles.
What other techniques do you use to reduce your fear of public speaking? Share them with us in the comments section below.