Managing Public Speaking Anxiety: 5 Ways to Prepare for Your Next Presentation

A young professional is preparing for a presentation.

Do you start to feel anxious when someone mentions the word “presentation,” or when you’re asked to “share something with the group?” You’re not alone.

Glossophobia, otherwise known as the fear of public speaking, is a recognized phobia that is experienced by approximately 25% of the population. While speaking in front of people can’t always be avoided, there are things you can do to help yourself feel more comfortable, including taking the time to prepare.

Proper preparation is key to helping you feel less stressed, more comfortable and more confident going into your presentation.

Here are five ways to prepare for your next presentation.

1. Learn instead of memorizing.

Feeling like you have to memorize your entire speech word for word can be one of the most stressful parts of presenting. Don’t feel like you need to memorize every word or say it the same way every time. Instead, try to focus on learning the information and remembering the major points. 

Challenge yourself to remember as much information as you can, but don’t feel like you have to recite it exactly like you rehearsed. Practice going with the flow and being more conversational. This will ultimately help you feel less stressed and less like you need to be perfect. 

2. Use speaking aids.

As you begin learning your information and main points, use speaking aids to help refresh your memory. Use note cards, a typed overview and a PowerPoint presentation to help you remember your points and keep you on track. Prepare these well in advance along with the body of your presentation. Having materials to reference while you speak will help you feel more comfortable as you prepare your content and help you present more confidently.

3. Practice beforehand.

Preparing for a presentation is a process. First, start by practicing your presentation. Try reciting it out loud using your slides and note cards by yourself or even with friends and family present. Don’t focus too much on trying to say everything perfectly, instead, work on getting familiar with the content and presenting the information out loud. 

4. Ask for feedback.

It can be easy to become overwhelmed with the preparation or feel like you’re writing in circles. Don’t be afraid to ask for input from your friends, classmates or professor. 

Run through the areas you’re struggling with and ask for feedback on what you can do better. Share any worries you may have about presenting and talk through your worst-case scenarios if you can. Having someone else come alongside you and give their thoughts is a great way to take a step back from your work and see it with fresh eyes, helping alleviate some of your stress.

5. Pace yourself.

As you prepare for your presentation, you may start to feel overwhelmed thinking about what could go wrong or worrying that you haven’t done enough. Give yourself time in the days and hours before your speech to take a break and work on other things. Spend time with friends, do something you enjoy and be sure to get enough rest. By letting your mind relax and taking time away from your presentation, you can be more rested and prepared. 

As you prepare for your presentation, try not to worry about what could go wrong. Do what you can to feel confident and comfortable with the material. Then, when the time comes to present, trust the fact that you did the work and start confidently. And remember, no one else saw you practice or has ever heard you recite your lines before, so if it doesn’t go exactly like you rehearsed it, that’s okay – let it become a conversation about the material you know so well. 

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