Part of the solution is about adopting the right perspective, but it can also involve taking advantage of techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing, physical exercise and meditation.
Adopting the right perspective
The following points are worth bearing in mind when public speaking:
1. Everyone experiences the fear to start off with but it lessens with practice.
2. A degree of nervousness is natural, and useful, as it prepares you for action.
3. You may feel nervous but the audience is usually unaware.
4. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you have a negative experience – even the best speakers were beginners at one point.
5. Most people have a strong fear of speaking in public but don’t learn to manage it. However, you are learning to manage it – after all, you’re reading this blog post, right?
Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing, is the practice of expanding your diaphragm as you breathe, so that your stomach exercises and falls, instead of your chest. When you feel anxious you are more likely to take shallow breaths which contributes to symptoms of anxiety.
Put a hand on your stomach so you can feel its rise and fall. Breath in slowly through your nose and then exhale slowly through your mouth, ensuring that your breathing is through your stomach and not your chest.
Alternate between tensed and relaxed muscles to help induce full-body relaxation. Use diaphragmatic breathing and tense up muscles in a part of the body and hold to the count of three, then release slowly. Focus on jaw and face; neck and shoulders; hands; arms; buttocks; legs; and feet.
Alternatively, go for a walk beforehand or shake the tension out from your hands and legs. If you are doing this while being watched try wiggling your toes where no-one can see them.
Meditation can be an effective approach as it involves concentration and breathing, both of which are good relaxation techniques in themselves. There are thousands of meditations to choose from.
Try this one: focus on nothingness or if that is too difficult, imagine a circle. When any thought enters your mind/your circle, push it away. Keep doing that until no more thoughts come to your mind. Stay focused on the nothingness/circle and the sense of your own breathing.
These are just a few of my tips for helping deal with public speaking fears. Please do let me know if there are any tips which have worked for you which I’ve not included.
For public speaking rehearsal see: Which way works best for you?