This is a guest post by Ryan Rivera, Publisher and Founder of Calm Clinic
Find information and articles on anxiety at www.calmclinic.com
Public speaking anxiety tends to be self-sustaining. There's a tendency for speakers to focus too much on their mistakes, paying attention to every "um," pause, stumbled word or unsatisfied looking audience member and then dwelling on these mistakes until it affects not only their happiness but also their anxiety about the next presentation.
For those who want to cure their public speaking anxiety, this is a serious problem. This type of mindset is going to create a constant cycle of anxiety and will reinforce your fears every time you get up in front of an audience to speak.
CHANGING YOUR MINDSET
Ideally you need to focus on the positives. You need to be able to come away from your presentation not worrying about the mistakes you made, no matter how badly you feel you did. You need to find a way to accentuate every area in which you thrived and keep those successes in mind for your next presentation.
This is easier said than done.
That's why you need to develop a strategy for dealing with your own emotions after a presentation. One recommended strategy is to create what can best be described as a "positive thought journal" – a place where you write down positive thoughts related to the presentation you just gave.
After your presentation is over and your mind is worrying about what you did and did not do, take out the journal and do your best to make a list of only the most successful parts of your presentation. Make it a goal to try to come up with a very high number – at least 10 different items and preferably closer to 20 or more. There should be no negativity on this list and no personal passive aggressiveness ("I did a great job at saying 'um' a lot").
In a way, this activity is meant to work much in the same way as positive affirmations. In some circles this is known as Cognitive Restructuring. To many this sounds like pseudo-science but this task is actually a form of brain training. Your mind is looking for positive aspects of your presentation so that it can fill out the list rather than obsessing over the negative qualities.
LOOKING AT THE BRIGHT SIDE
There is no such thing as a truly terrible presentation. Even if you walk on stage, start crying and find that your entire outfit has magically disappeared leaving you standing in front of a large audience in your birthday suit in tears, you can still come up with at least five things you did correctly that you can carry over to the next presentation (for example, successfully making eye contact with the crowd as they gasped in shock).
Focusing on the positives isn't likely to be a true cure for anxiety but it's a good start and an important part of learning to handle your presentations with more positivity. After every one of your presentations, take out your journal and start itemizing as many specific positive qualities from your presentation as you can. The more intentionally you follow this practice, the more likely your public speaking anxiety will dissipate and eventually disappear.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera struggled intensely with his public speaking anxiety and tried multiple strategies to help him become a better public speaker. He writes about anxiety and relaxation at www.calmclinic.com.
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