Science Says—Five Ways to Prepare for Public Speaking

December 4, 2015
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Public speaking is the #1 fear in America according to the Wall Street Journal.  If you have an upcoming public speaking opportunity, follow these five tips to thwart anxiety and instead, deliver a speech your audience won’t forget—and one you’ll be proud to have given. 

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Practice until you’re comfortable in front of a crowd.  Dale Carnegie said, “Practice makes permanent.”  Presenting in front of your family, friends and/or colleagues gives you an opportunity to identify and resolve any stumbling blocks in your speech.  It also helps to reinforce the information and flow which will help you feel more confident when you formally deliver your speech.  According to Stanford neuroscientist Philippe Goldin, “Exposure is hands down the most successful way to deal with phobias, anxiety disorders, and everyday fears of any sort.”

Memorize a few powerful mantras.  Reciting affirmations is a surefire way to conjure up the confidence required to deliver a killer presentation.  Dale Carnegie said, “Only the prepared speaker deserves to be confident,” and before every public speaking engagement, I repeat this statement and follow it with, “I am prepared, powerful and ready to wow this audience.”  As discussed in a Psychology Today article, repeating positive affirmations over time reinforces a chemical pathway in the brain, making the connection between two neurons stronger, and therefore more likely to conduct the same message again.  Repeating positive affirmations, therefore, actually helps to boost your self-esteem.

Take your vitamin Zzzzzzzz.  Don’t underestimate the power of sleep, especially the night before your speech.  If you plan to cram by staying up late practicing the night before, you may actually increase your stress levels.  Furthermore, a Huffington Post article revealed that one extra hour of sleep per night improve a person’s competitive edge and memory.  To ensure you retain all of the information you have prepared and wake up refreshed, get plenty of sleep.

Don’t eat a heavy meal within three hours before bedtime.  Some studies have concluded that eating a big meal within two to three hours of bedtime can be detrimental to your path to a dreamy destination because food is processed differently at various times throughout the day.  On the other hand, a hungry tummy can prevent you from falling—and sometimes staying, asleep.  Eat a light dinner and a protein-rich snack before bed help ensure a solid night of sleep so you wake up ready to rock your public speaking opportunity.

Squash stress and worry with the law of averages.  On the morning of your speech, if you’ve practiced, slept well and eaten lightly the night before, but you are still worried you may fail, remember this advice from Dale Carnegie—“Use the law of averages to outlaw your worries.  Ask yourself, ‘What are the odds against this thing happening at all?’”  Recite the mantras you memorized, take a deep breath and approach your audience with confidence.  You will no doubt succeed in delivering a stellar speech!

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