Nervous About Speaking in Public? Reframe Your Stress

Man suffers from fear of public speaking. Frightened speaker standing near microphone is afraid of giving presentations to audience. Person with phobia of public speaking isolated on white background

Many beginning Toastmasters must overcome their fear of public speaking. In order to overcome this obstacle, speakers can re-think or reframe their mindset by considering the positive benefits of stress.

Stress is Natural; Relax!

One helpful way to deal with stress is to consider its effects as natural and useful. While it is natural to think of stress as bad, stressful feelings may simply mean that your body is reacting to arduous or demanding conditions. Knowing that you can cope with stressful feelings can help you avoid feelings of panic.

“… current advice for anxious people focuses on learning to ‘relax’ … deep, even breathing and similar tips,” says Jeremy Jamieson, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. Methods of calming yourself and re-thinking about stress can be a good strategy prior to your first speech.

A Study of the Fear of Public Speaking

In one study called the Trier Social Stress Test, two groups of adults were given the task of presenting a five-minute speech about their strengths and weaknesses with only three minutes to prepare. The first group was given information about the advantages of stress and were also asked to read summaries of three psychology studies that showed the benefits of stress. The second group received no information.

During their speeches, judges provided negative nonverbal feedback such as shaking their heads in disapproval, tapping their clipboards and staring stone-faced ahead. The first group, prepared with information about the benefits of stress, performed much better than the second group based on their physiological responses such as blood flow. In addition, the authors of the study theorized that the speaker’s short-term stress responses were shaped by how they interpreted physical cues.

Summary

Re-framing your reactions to a stressful situation as natural responses and learning methods of relaxing can help you get past your fears of public speaking.

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Author: Lock Lyon

Lock Lyon has been a Toastmaster for over 10 years, and is a prolific author and blogger specializing in information technology issues. In 2021, Lock was designated an Information Champion by IBM Corporation. He currently spends his time writing and speaking from his home in central Michigan.

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