As an associate professor in Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Joann Baney helps leaders to build their public speaking and professional communication skills. Joann Baney has also presented coursework in communications and speaking in the University’s executive MBA program as well as within its Graduate School of Public Health and speech department.
To be effective as a public speaker, one must be able to present himself or herself with confidence. Doing so may prove extremely difficult for the 75 percent of adults who struggle with a fear of public speaking, but a number of specific techniques can reduce both the outward manifestations of anxiety and the inward processes that cause it.
Experts suggest that all journeys toward improvement begin a growth mindset. If the speaker does not believe that he or she can become more confident, that negative belief will become self-fulfilling. The speaker can then carry this positive mindset into a more specific realm and set what psychologists term approach goals, which include objectives such as “I want to make these two points” or “I want to make sure that my audience understands,” rather than “I want to stop feeling nervous.”
A speaker can also draw his or her focus away from inner experiences of anxiety by concentrating instead on feeling the emotions that he or she wishes to convey. By turning the mind to the pride, disappointment, excitement, or sadness that the speech conveys, the speaker replaces nerves rather than trying to suppress them.
Emotional engagement may become easier if the speaker engages visually with the audience. In looking at listeners who are nodding or smiling, the speaker begins to feel reassured and more comfortable on stage. If nerves do make their way into the experience, the speaker can acknowledge them with slow breathing and turn attention back to the content of the speech itself, which is the purpose of taking the stage in the first place.