Speech Anxiety

This resource was prepared by the Business Communications Lab at the Sam M. Walton College of Business
View All ResourcesOral Communications Resources

You are not alone. The fear of public speaking is a very common one; it can often leave your palms sweaty, your voice shaky, and your knees ready to buckle. Speech anxiety can be present for a variety of reasons, but one thing is certain: a lack of confidence is noticeable. Thankfully, there are many ways to combat the fear of public speaking (1) know your audience, (2) master your content, and (3) practice.

A little nervousness is normal. Embrace your nerves and be intentional about navigating it. Review our oral communication resources and the tips below to learn strategies for effective public speaking.

Before the speech

  • Prepare early. The earlier you begin the process of researching, organizing, and writing your speech or presentation, the more familiar you will be with your content.
  • Set realistic expectations. Know your content, but do not memorize it. Perfect recitation is unrealistic and will prevent flexibility. Instead, remember the main points, arguments, and evidence, and speak to your audience conversationally.
  • Think positively. Your preparation, practice, and attitude give you the best possible advantage. Positivity can be the difference between nervousness and enthusiasm.
  • Practice. Find a friend or colleague to listen to your presentation and ask for feedback. Practice will increase the quality of your presentation, as well as your confidence. Think of practicing like a rehearsal –you should perform as if your audience is present. This will allow you to correct mistakes
  • Explore the space. If possible, practice in the space where you are speaking. Envision your audience and practice as if they were there.
  • Use your resources. The Business Communication Lab is here to assist you with all of your communication needs. Schedule an appointment with one of our tutors. Our tutors can listen to your presentations and offer valuable feedback or they can assist you in the development process if you are still building your content.

During the speech

  • Start loud and strong. The very first sentence of your introduction sets the tone for the rest of the presentation. Begin with enthusiasm, confidence, and volume.
  • Breathe deeply and slowly. Slowing your breathing will lower your heart rate and prevent you from speeding through your presentation. Take your time.
  • Channel nervous energy into movement. While it can be tempting to freeze in one place while delivering a speech, walking and gesturing will help you use your adrenaline to engage with your audience. It will also help you to appear more confident.
  • Focus on friendly faces. While speaking, find audience members who are nodding or smiling, and make frequent eye contact. This will both engage your audience and reduce nervousness.
  • Do not take yourself too seriously. Even professional speakers make mistakes during presentations, and it does not have to distract from your speech. If you do make a mistake, simply correct your error and move on. Try to be as conversational as possible while remaining appropriate to the situation.

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