Overcoming Speech Anxiety
“Hey, Karyn, wait up! I need your help!”
“Sure, Darryl–what’s going on?” “
Well, I think you know that I was elected as the treasurer for my fraternity, right?”
“Yeah, congratulations. That means you have an unlimited supply of money now, right? Got a few bucks I can borrow?”
“I wish. I’m more of a glorified bookkeeper. But I need your help. I’m supposed to give a report in front of everyone in the fraternity– including a few alumni–on the money we’ve raised so far this semester. I’m petrified. I didn’t realize the treasurer would have to speak in public! That’ll teach me to run for office, huh?” “What can I do to help you out?”
“Well, aren’t you taking a public speaking class this semester? Have you learned any tips to help me with my nervousness? I’m desperate, and I’ll take any help I can get at this stage.”
“Sure, there are a couple of things you can do. First, you have to realize that it’s normal to be nervous. You’d probably be surprised to find that even the people who don’t seem nervous have a little flutter inside when they speak. And usually people listening to you don’t even see it.”
“Really? I doubt that Todd, our chapter president, has ever been nervous in his entire life! That guy is unreal!”
“You’d be surprised how many people have stage fright. That’s the first helpful thing I can tell you; just about everyone feels some level of nervousness–even famous speakers! But if you can learn to channel that nervousness you feel, the jitters can work to your advantage. You’ll come across as excited and enthusiastic. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing, would it?”
“I guess not. I never thought about it that way. Being nervous is a good thing? You’re saying people won’t even realize I’m nervous? What else can I do?”
“Well, probably one of the biggest things you can do is to prepare. Make sure you do the work before you speak–spend some time thinking about what you want to say, do some research if necessary. Oh, and be sure to practice your speech a few times before you give it to the fraternity. You’ll be a lot more relaxed than someone who just wings it, without planning first. Just knowing that you’re prepared will give you confidence. Better yet–you’ll come across to your audience as super prepared, too.”
“That makes a lot of sense, Karyn.” “Good, glad I could help. Now I’ve got to run or I’ll be late for my next class. Good luck!” “Wait! Now I need you to help me decide what to say! Karyn, come back! What am I going to wear? Call me!”
Most students report feeling anxious about speaking in public. You’re not alone! Studies have shown that the fear of public speaking ranks higher than the fear of death! Wow! That statement alone probably intensifies your anxiety. But you need not fear that anxiety will ruin your presentation. You can actually make it work for you. In this module, we’ll discuss how speech anxiety might manifest itself in your presentations and how normal your anxiety is in relation to other speakers. You’ll also hear some tips for reducing your speech apprehension.
In this module, we will also focus on the origins of public speaking and trace how it has evolved from ancient Greece to the twenty-first century. You might be surprised to learn how relevant public speaking remains despite its ancient beginnings. We’ll look at how speech continues to impact all areas of everyday life, from your career to your social life.
Finally, we’ll outline the components that comprise the speech communication process and identify some of the first basic terms you’ll read about as you begin the journey to becoming a better public speaker. As you start to understand and use the terms and concepts common to public speaking, you’ll soon find that you too can “speak the language.”
Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:
Hopefully, any fear that you’re anticipating as you prepare to speak has been minimized. Just knowing that you are not alone should be comforting; it is a rare individual who doesn’t feel at least a bit of speech apprehension. If you haven’t already, take the self-assessment above. Your score will help you better define your initial level of anxiety. Then keep in mind that the more you practice a new skill, the more confident you will become.
The speech communication process involves many components, but it’s really not that complicated. There are certainly quite a few new terms and concepts, but learning these is your initiation into a brand new world; you’re joining thousands of others who have also taken these first steps to becoming better public speakers. Now that you know some of the basic vocabulary, you share a language common to all public speakers.