How to Combat Presentation Anxiety

Tips for Speaking Without Fear

By: Veronica Pistek

A workshop was held on CSI campus addressing the fear of public speaking that impacts many students each semester.

This informative and inspirational event aimed to ease the minds of students that suffer presentation anxiety, while providing helpful tips to challenge your negative thoughts.

The workshop, led by graduate student Jose Desiderio, began with a powerpoint style presentation.

As Jose proudly presented his ideas, he quickly ditched the formality of a workshop and transformed his speech into a motivational self-talk.

To begin, presentation anxiety was defined as the fear of performance due to past experiences. This includes all of those worst-case scenario moments that you may have encountered and struggled to combat.

Though speaking in front of a crowd is never comforting, almost everyone battles with a certain kind of anxiety before giving a presentation.

For each person, the fear varies; one may be terrified of judgement by others, while others struggle with their own personal insecurities.

Despite the internal turmoil that floods our minds, the workshop leader explained how our body has a fight or flight response.

This is the biological element that produces the adrenaline to help motivate us to perform our best in front of any size audience.

The anxiety of presenting is a key factor in producing the different ways of becoming nervous in front of a crowd.

Becoming consciously aware of the way that you show your anxiety is the beginning to the road of gaining confidence.

Specifically, one might shake, stutter, sweat, or sway from side to side. Each antic that one might catch themselves acting out is important in order to understand how they project their inner fear.

Once one understands how and why they become nervous, they should begin having a motivational-self talk.

Challenging the negative thoughts that cross your mind is not an easy process, but once it is done you will feel significantly more self-assured.  

This motivational talk should include acceptance. For instance, if you begin to stutter in front of your classmates, do not freak out—accept your quirk and move forward.

Even more important, the speaker stressed the need to verbally instill positive thoughts before a presentation.

By telling yourself simple things such as “I can do well,” “I will try my hardest,” and even “If I feel comfortable, I will get a good grade” you will boost your confidence and reduce the negativity before even walking into the room.

As the workshop continued, Jose provided helpful tips and techniques for students that may have innate difficulty standing in front of an audience.

He insightfully suggested to always be prepared. If you prepare your content and rehearse it, you will feel less likely to forget rather than piecing something together last minute.

Moreover, watching videos of famous and notable public speakers also enhances your ability to perform well. For instance, watching Barack Obama and the way he captivates an audience will subconsciously improve your oratorical skills.

Most importantly, if you act confident, you will begin to feel it. The speaker suggested to fake it until you make it, which will help you be a better speaker overall.

As the workshop came to a conclusion, Jose also noted that CSI has counseling for students who might need help with improving their personal presentation anxiety.

If you are a student that battles with the fear of performing in front of a crowd, you can stop in the counseling center for advice.

Overall, the need for sufficient public speaking skills never goes away. Whether you are facing a group interview, a career proposal, a speech at a family event, or the speech you have to give in your political science class—presenting yourself in front of others is scary, but it is a skill that you can improve upon through the preceding tips.

Once the powerpoint came to an end, students and several supporters from CSI’s ASAP Program that attended, finished taking notes that they will present to their students in future workshops.

“I am still learning to be a good speaker. I’ve made progress, but I wanted information to provide our students with in order for them to challenge themselves,” one ASAP supporter stated.

Another CSI student expressed how he also never felt confident with presenting in front of an audience.

“I have struggled with speaking in front of a crowd since I was little. It hasn’t gotten easier when I got to college. I feel a little more confident after this workshop that I am capable of improving. I want people to know that they aren’t helpless.”

As the attendees filed out of the conference room, Jose reminded the crowd that if you don’t challenge yourself, you will never overcome your battles.

Thus, every student, future-employee, or leader has the opportunity to make progress and become less anxious when presenting, once they motivate themselves to do so.

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