top of page

How to Beat Anxiety about Public Speaking

Updated: Sep 14, 2023


An anxious person in front of an audience

We all get nervous when speaking in public. Add on speaking about something you feel attached to (your work). Add on speaking in a different language…


Well, you don’t need me to explain what’s so scary about presenting your work in English! But I can help you find ways to deal with it.


Francis Bacon described creative people as both “occasionally crazier, yet adamantly saner” than the general population. And in fact, a recent research study from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence found that creative types suffer from high levels of anxiety—but they also have extraordinary abilities to respond to challenges.


So, remember that you are not alone in feeling anxious, and that you’ve got some powerful creative skills on your side!


Here are 9 tips to help you access your inner resources and respond to the nervousness and fear of talking about your creative work.



9 Tips to Beat Anxiety


1. Think about what scares you.


Fear is a big emotion. But if you break it down into smaller pieces, it starts to get more manageable.


Make a list of specific things that make you feel anxious or afraid—the audience won’t like me, I’ll forget everything I wanted to say, no one will be able to hear or understand me…


Then, make a list of ways you can respond to each fear. For example, practice with a friend who encourages you, write down the most important words and ideas to say, imagine you are speaking to someone in the back of the room so you’ll speak more loudly and clearly.


2. Breathe.


Practice breathing deeply and slowly, yoga style. Breathe deeply when you practice, before you start speaking, and while you’re talking.


To calm down, try Ujjayi breath—breathe in and out slowly through your nose and make a sound like you are snoring. To get some positive energy, try Lion’s breath—stick out your tongue and breath out loudly through your mouth.


3. Warm up your body.


Take a walk outside, stretch your arms, or squeeze the muscles in your legs if you are sitting down.


Getting some exercise or moving around before a big talk or important interview reduces tension and gets rid of nervous energy.


4. Practice speaking.


Practicing your speech before a presentation or an interview helps you feel more confident about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. But practice also helps with everyday speaking.


Talk to a language partner in person or online, talk to yourself, talk to the TV, talk to your dog! The important thing is to say the words out loud (even if you feel a little crazy!).


5. Practice writing.


Surprise! Writing is one of the best ways to improve your accuracy and confidence when speaking.


Like speaking, writing is an active skill and it requires many of the same skills and techniques. In addition, writing gives you time to think carefully about the words you want to use and to notice your mistakes.


Write down the answers to common questions about your artwork and practice saying them out loud. The next time you speak about your work, you'll be prepared with useful vocabulary and phrases.

6. Visualize success.


Imagine yourself speaking comfortably and having fun. Be specific with your mental image—your outfit, the things around you, the lighting... These images are powerful and can train your brain to relax.


7. Get enough sleep and eat right.


Speaking English involves your whole body, not only your mouth! Just like athletes prepare before a big game, it is important to be rested and have the energy to perform in English.


8. Research the setting.


If you know where you are going to talk, try to get details about the setting or location.


Will you be speaking in person or online? Will you be sitting at a table, standing up? Where will the audience be around you? Is someone going to introduce you or will you need to introduce yourself? If you’re speaking on a panel with other people, find out about the order, etc.


9. Be kind to yourself.


Reduce the pressure. Remember that everyone is nervous about speaking in public. And no one is perfect—even people who talk for a living, like TV reporters and politicians, make mistakes.


Just like in art, mistakes are essential to language learning. (A lot of traditional artists around the world put mistakes in their work on purpose, to show their humanity and let energy flow in the work).


Try to be the best speaker you can be at this moment. Think of your mistakes as a way to improve for the next time.

 

Nervousness about speaking in English takes time to get used to. It might not disappear completely, but you can learn to get those feelings out of your way.


And just like Francis Bacon’s “crazy/sane” artist, there are two sides to this story. With time and practice, nervous energy can become excitement that will give you a boost when you need it.


Download my free smART Learning Toolkit to find resources to help you practice and build your confidence in English.




References


Corbett, R. (2020, May 4). Artists are more anxious and depressed than those in other professions-but they are also better at coping with challenges, a new study says. Artnet News. Retrieved July 29, 2022, from https://news.artnet.com/art-world/artists-psychology-yale-study-1848138


Ivcevic, Z., Grossman, E., & Ranjan, A. (2022). Patterns of psychological vulnerabilities and resources in artists and nonartists. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 16(1), 3–15. https://doi.org/10.1037/aca0000309



Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page