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Speech Anxiety

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Student should

  • Have sufficient preparation
  • Breathe. Slowly.
  • Channel nervous energy (similar physical traits for nervousness and excitement)

OCT should

  • Prioritize critique (don’t overwhelm the student with too many points)
  • Affirmation (be their cheerleader!)
  • Share personal anecdotes about nervousness

Reminders for students who are especially nervous

  • Speech anxiety is normal.  It means you care about your presentation and your success.
  • Speech anxiety has to do with our natural response to being outnumbered.  As speakers, we experience the fight-or-flight instinct. It is powerful to have the audience's energy focused on you.  The trick is to send the audience energy back in the form of the talk.  It's important to be present and connect with the audience.
  • Remember, the audience wants the speaker to succeed.  The audience is not looking for flaws.
  • The speaker's job is to behave as the host.  The speaker guides the audience through the content of the talk.  If the speaker focuses on completing the job of hosting/guiding through the material, it will distract from nerves.
  • A speaker may always feel the butterflies in his/her stomach, but it is about training them to fly in formation.
  • Nervous energy (increased heart rate, sweating, breathing more quickly) is similar to excited energy.  Try to channel nerves into excitement about the topic.
  • Audiences appreciate speakers who are real.  The presentation does not have to be absolutely perfect -- if it was, it might sound robotic.

Printable Handout on Overcoming Speech Anxiety