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Public Speaking Anxiety Management

Are you looking for help with managing your public speaking anxiety? If so, then you've come to the right place!

How can I manage my public speaking anxiety?

There are 3 different types of public speaking anxiety management strategies. You may experience anxiety because you don't know how to deliver a speech. If that's the case, then learning how to organize, develop, and present your ideas will help you manage your PSA. If you experience a lot of physical anxiety symptoms, like nausea, shaking hands, or a racing heartbeat, then learning relaxation techniques will help you manage your PSA. Finally, if your mind races and you catch yourself thinking things like, "I can't do this, I'll never be able to speak in front of an audience, I won't remember what I want to say, or if I make a mistake, everyone will laugh at me," then learning how to think more rationally and positively will help you manage your PSA.

Mental Techniques



You've probably seen Olympic skiers, skaters, and snowboarders mentally rehearsing their sport just prior to a competition. The tv camera catches them with their eyes closed, enacting the moves required for their particular event. This technique, also called visualization, can be used by anyone to "program" his or her brain and body for success. For our purposes, think of it as watching a movie of yourself successfully delivering a speech. You relax and take the time to imagine as many sensory details as possible of yourself confidently delivering a specific speech from the very beginning to taking your seat at the very end. This technique creates a positive, self-fulfilling prophecy because, in a sense, it conditions your mind and body for success. Who want to be conditioned for success? If it's good enough for an Olympian, just think what it might be able to do for you!

Read More:

Sports Visualisation: How to Imagine Your Way to Success


Flying High While Still on the Ground to see an Olympian practice visualization


Public Speaking Visualization (Written Directions)

Cognitive Restructuring & Positive Self-Talk

If you've convinced yourself that you're the worst public speaker ever, that no one will be interested in what you have to say, that you'll just die if you have to give a speech...STOP! Would you say any of those things to any other person on the face of the earth? Of course not. So stop saying them to yourself. This technique teaches you to change the way you think about public speaking (that's the cognitive restructuring part) and replace all of that negativity with positive, coping messages instead. Have you ever considered how irrational being afraid of public speaking actually is? Being afraid of poisonous spiders makes sense; they can be deadly. Being afraid of public speaking, however, doesn't make a bit of sense. Public speaking is not deadly! It's not even dangerous! The bad news is your fear is irrational; the good news is you can change the way you think about public speaking, which can change the way your body responds to it.

Read More:

Interview with a Vampire: How Fear Holds You Back from Giving an Inspirational Speech

Self-Talk: What You Say to Yourself Determines Your Experience


Begin by acknowledging that being afraid of public speaking is an irrational fear. Next, make a list of the specific public speaking fears you have. Here are two examples:

1. No one is as afraid of public speaking as I am.

2. I won't be able to remember what I want to say when everyone is looking at me.

Next, replace those negative thoughts with positive self-talk. For example:

1. No one is as afraid of public speaking as I am. Most people are nervous about public speaking. A little anxiety is actually a good thing because it will motivate me to prepare in advance and practice so I can deliver a really good speech.

2. I won't be able to remember what I want to say when everyone is looking at me. If I forget something, all I need to do is look at my notes to remind myself where I am. I will have practiced beforehand so a quick glance will help me find my place. A brief pause is no big deal.

For cognitive restructuring and positive self-talk to be effective at reducing your public speaking anxiety, develop your coping statements and use them every time you catch yourself saying something negative about your upcoming speech. Think of it this way: If visualization is your success movie, then this strategy is the sound track that goes along with it! Play that sound track over and over until you know the "song" by heart and can sing it in your sleep!

Skills Development

If your biggest concern about public speaking is that you’re not sure how to go about doing it, then skill development will likely be the best step you can take to lessen your anxiety. As a Murray State University student, you can register for one of the classes described below. If you're not a student, you could join the local Toastmasters club. By taking a class or getting involved in Toastmasters, you will learn how to select a topic, organize and support your ideas, open and close your speech, and deliver it with an engaging style and confidence. Typically, the more public speaking experience you gain, the easier the process will become for you!

COM161: Introduction to Public Speaking

Course Description: Organization and presentation of ideas through participation in frequent speech activities. Students present speeches to inform, solve problems, and persuade. Communication needs of the individual students are considered and guidance is given by the instructor. Multiple sections are available each semester. 3 credit hours.

COM361: Career Presentations

Course Description: A study of presentation techniques within business and professional contexts. Presentations made to staff, clients, and constituents, as well as conference and keynote addresses, will be studied and practiced. Students will create and deliver presentations tailored to their individual career objectives. Prerequisite: COM 161. 3 credit hours.

Toastmasters International - Murray, Kentucky chapter

This worldwide nonprofit organization promotes public speaking skills and leadership development. Murray Toastmasters meet every Monday from 7-8 p.m. on the Murray State campus in 2203 Alexander Hall. Guests are always welcome! 

Relaxation Techniques

Deep Breathing

Spending a few minutes focusing on your breathing and slowing it down can help calm your body. Practicing this technique can help you learn how to quickly trigger a more relaxed state when you begin to feel anxious about giving a speech.

Read More:
Calm Breathing from the Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia


Guided Deep Breathing Exercise

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation encourages you to quietly focus on your breathing and become more aware of your bodily sensations as they are occurring without labeling or evaluating them. Practicing this technique helps you focus on the present and can help decrease stress associated with public speaking.

Progressive Muscular Relaxation & Systematic Desensitization

This technique teaches you how to relax each of the major muscle groups in your body and then associate those feelings of relaxation with images associated with public speaking.

Power Posing

Harvard researchers have discovered that simply striking a "power pose" (think Wonder Woman or Superman) for 2 minutes is enough to actually change your body chemistry so you feel more confident and less anxious. After 2 minutes of holding a power pose (standing or seated), your testosterone level increases and your cortisol level decreases. This fascinating research suggests you can trick yourself into feeling more confident simply by standing in a more confident posture. Give it a try...what do you have to lose...besides a few dozen butterflies? Be sure to hold the pose for 2 full minutes prior to each time you practice your speeches.

Read More:

The Benefit of Power Posing Before a High-Stakes Social Evaluation


Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are (21:02)