Five Keys to Overcoming Presentation Anxiety in the Workplace

Public speaking anxiety, formally known as Glossophobia, is one of the most common phobias in the world, affecting up to 75% of the population. Whether in a meeting in front of a small team or a presentation in front of hundreds of people, we have all encountered stage fright at some point in our lives. This form of social anxiety can be incapacitating, sparking potentially dangerous symptoms like shallow breathing and increased blood pressure.

So, what causes fear of public speaking? It’s usually rooted in a number of genetic and environmental factors, often stemming from a fear that the audience is critical and waiting for any opportunity to pounce on your failures. That is rarely the case. Most times, an audience wants nothing more than to see you succeed. Think of it this way – how many times have you gone to see a live performance, whether stand-up comedy or concert, and wanted the performer to fail?

Experiencing anxiety before a speech is normal. Even the most confident of speakers can feel anxiety before or during a presentation, though you’d never be able to tell. So, how do they shut out the nerves? The best presenters find ways to shift focus from themselves towards the purpose of their presentation. If that sounds easier said than done, that’s because it is. Overcoming public speaking anxiety takes practice and commitment.

Public Speaking Anxiety – Symptoms to Watch For

Learning to spot the signs of presentation anxiety can be difficult. That’s because different people experience public speaking anxiety differently. However, some of the most common symptoms of Glossophobia include:

  • Shortness of breath 
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Unusual perspiration
  • Quivering voice

Learning to spot the signs of presentation anxiety can be difficult. That’s because different people experience public speaking anxiety differently. However, some of the most common symptoms of Glossophobia include:

Five Tips for Calming Your Presentation Anxiety

Are you feeling pressure before your next workplace presentation? We’ve got five calming tips for speaking to a group.

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

Whether it’s exams at school or learning new programs at work, practice has always been a great way to grasp a subject. Turns out, it’s also one of the best ways to overcome presentation anxiety as well. The University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Communication recommends rehearsing a speech 7-10 times before the main event. During your practice, honing in and focusing on your main points can ensure you stay on track, even if your nerves get the best of you. Other tips for your presentation practice sessions include:

  • Delivering your speech in front of a mirror – to nail body language and eye contact
  • Presenting in front of friends or family who you are comfortable with
  • Recording your presentation by video or audio to get a sense of whether things look and sound as you had planned

2. Organize Your Presentation

Nowadays, presentations don’t solely involve an individual standing in front of a group of people, talking away. Especially in the workplace, visual tools such as PowerPoint presentations or videos are critical to keeping colleagues and clients engaged. Ensuring you have the right visuals or other props, and knowing how to use them before presenting will help you feel more confident.

3. Take up Meditation

If you’re looking for ways on how to deal with presentation anxiety, consider meditation. In the weeks or days leading up to your big meeting or presentation, take a few moments to relax and practice mindfulness. Though there are many free apps and guides available, like on YouTube, so you can easily undertake your very own meditation session.

Sit still, close your eyes, and move awareness from other sounds and feelings in the room to your breathing. Inhale slowly and let out deep exhales. Try holding your inhale for a count of five and doing the same with your exhales for added complexity.

More: Try these free 10-minute mindfulness meditation sessions from Calm

4. Eye Contact is Key

Before a presentation, one of the most daunting thoughts might be having to look directly at the faces of your audience. Nervous presenters tend to scan the room, never making eye contact with anyone specific. This practice doesn’t help to improve public speaking anxiety and can damage your rapport with the audience.

Instead, try to make eye contact with one or more people in the room. Although it can be uncomfortable at first, making eye contact with individuals can create personal connections between presenter and guest. This practice can ultimately promote relaxation and reduce anxiety when presenting.

5. No Caffeine or Alcohol!

We get it – public speaking can be nerve-wracking. To compensate, some people might consider an alcoholic beverage or a cup of coffee to help quell their nerves before going on stage. However, it is important to remember that alcohol and caffeine intensify anxiety, rather than reduce it. Caffeine increases heart rate and perspiration, while alcohol can cause slurred speech and raises the chances that you might forget some of your planned remarks. Instead, consider bringing a bottle or cup of water with you. Anxiety can result in a dry mouth and quenching your thirst in those moments can prevent further unease.

Event Day: Last-Minute Preparations

The big day has arrived. It’s time to speak in front of your audience. What other things can you do to overcome presentation anxiety?

  • Exercise prior to your speech – physical activity can help to reduce nervous energy
  • Wear comfortable clothing – wear loose-fit clothing, and consider an undershirt or light jacket if you think you might sweat
  • Accept your fear – use your nervous energy to enhance your speech delivery. Act confident and do your best to avoid projecting your anxiety

Remember, even the most talented public speakers experience anxiety. Consider implementing some of the tips presented here to overcome presentation anxiety in the workplace, or anywhere else it may present itself. We’re rooting for you!