A 3 Steps to Overcoming Speech Anxiety

Just in case you had the wrong idea…I’m talking about career performance.

For example, I had a 45 minute presentation to give at a three-day client appreciation event. The meeting planner told me his entire job was on the line if I didn’t completely “blow them away”. Yet he couldn’t tell me anything about the audience’s background or interest in my topic, and would not let me do any audience research. All he knew was that the attendees would be jet lagged and hung over.

I usually have some healthy nervousness before a presentation, but for this one I was downright anxious because it seemed like a recipe for disaster. Mental rehearsal saved the day.

Mental rehearsal for any kind of performance is an excellent way to: 

  • stay calm
  • improve your confidence
  • increase the likelihood you will reach your goal
  • support your ability to negotiate challenges

It is useful when something important to you is on the line such as your reputation, a relationship, or your entire career. For example, job interviews, presentations, artistic performances, athletic performances, sales calls, difficult conversations, managerial projects and teaching.  In fact, hundreds of research studies have now proven that a combination of “imagined practice” and actual practice often results in better performances than with just actual practice.

There are 3 basic steps to mentally rehearsing, which are…

  1. Make a list of concerns starting with the words “What if…” (e.g. I don’t get the sale, I mess up, etc.)
  2. Make a list of turnarounds on the concerns also starting with the words “What if…” (e.g. I do get the sale, I perform brilliantly, etc.)
  3. Script out your performance before, during and after imagining each of your turnaround situations happening. Use the present tense and the five senses as this takes a mental snapshot.

Here’s a short example

It is before I am on stage. I am feeling focused, confident, prepared and grateful to be there. I am enjoying connecting personally with several of the attendees and learning who’s in the audience and how I can solve their problems with my topic. I can see that people are laughing and happy to be there. I smell coffee brewing. I am invited on stage by the MC and I hear applause. I search for friendly faces and can see many. I hear myself tell an opening story while I connect with different people in the audience. I see that I am saying exactly the words many people need to hear to improve their lives. I hear lots of laughter. I see engaged faces. I am at my best. I hear thunderous applause at the end. It’s after my presentation and the meeting planner is telling me he is thrilled about it all.      

Read it over several times before your performance imagining yourself there in the moment. Once you actually get to your performance it will be like doing it for the fifth time instead of the first time.


For more resources on how to be a great speaker and communicator click here: https://courses.carlarieger.com/