Managing stress during oral presentations: Scientifically proven strategies and practical advice

managing stress during oral presentations

In today’s society, the ability to effectively communicate orally is essential, whether for a classroom presentation, a public speech, or an intervention in a meeting.

However, for many, speaking in front of an audience can be a significant source of stress. Sweaty hands, trembling voice, racing heart…

Do these symptoms sound familiar?

If so, you’re not alone. Fortunately, science now offers us a wide range of tools for better understanding and managing stress.

In this article on managing stress during oral presentations, you’ll find proven methods backed up by research, as well as practical advice on how to make every speaking engagement a success.

Read on and discover how to turn nervousness into confidence.

1 – Prepare yourself in advance and familiarize yourself with the topic

Public speaking is an adventure that many of us approach with a certain amount of trepidation.

Whether you are presenting a project at the office, sharing an idea at a conference or even telling a story in front of friends, the pressure to do well can be overwhelming.

But have you ever considered the impact of solid preparation on your self-confidence?

A study by Nash & al. (2015) called “If first-year students are afraid of public speaking assessments what can teachers do to alleviate such anxiety?” highlighted the critical importance of familiarizing yourself with your subject and preparing thoroughly.

The results speak for themselves: those who took the time to prepare themselves drastically reduced their anxiety.

Less fear, less hesitation, more clarity of mind.

This means that every minute spent preparing can turn stage fright into confidence.

So, before your very next speech, immerse yourself in your subject, rehearse several times, and remember that preparation is the key to transforming stress into positive energy.

Because when it comes down to it, every speech is an opportunity to shine, and with the right tools in your hand, success is just around the corner.

Actionable tip

Before speaking in public, take the time to familiarize yourself with the subject of your speech.

This can include reading relevant material, taking notes, creating a detailed plan, and rehearsing your speech out loud.

The more prepared you are, the less likely you are to feel anxious on the day of your speech.

2 – Use relaxation techniques

Every time we go on stage or prepare to speak in front of a group, there’s that familiar feeling: heart racing, hands trembling slightly.

It’s stage fright, that anxiety that can sometimes overwhelm us. But just imagine if you had the tools at your fingertips to transform that anxiety into a quiet, confident force.

A fascinating study by Dincer & al. (2022) offers just such a perspective.

Breath therapy and emotional freedom techniques (EFT) were put to the test, and the results are nothing short of revolutionary.

These Turkish nursing students, faced with the pressure of speaking, discovered a new serenity thanks to these methods.

Imagine being able to channel your energy, focus your mind, and speak with confidence, all thanks to a few breathing and EFT techniques.

The power to overcome anxiety is within you, sometimes all it takes is the right tools and techniques to unleash it.

So, the next time you’re called upon to speak, remember this study, breathe deeply, and know that you have it in you to succeed.

Actionable tip

Before speaking in public, try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing.

Take a few minutes to sit comfortably, close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing.

Inhale deeply through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth.

Repeat several times until you feel a sense of calm.

This simple technique can help reduce anxiety and prepare you mentally before going on stage.

3 – Use Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Public speaking is an art, a delicate dance between speaker and audience.

But for many, this dance is accompanied by a melody of anxiety and doubt.

Fortunately, dedicated researchers like Robing & al. (2022) have plunged into the depths of this anxiety to find solutions.

Their study, “Exploring Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Techniques for Reducing Public Speaking Anxiety: A Study of Practitioner Approaches during Training”, is a beacon of hope for all those seeking to master their stage fright.

NLP, with its varied techniques, offers a panoply of tools for confronting and taming this fear.

Visualization, in particular, is highlighted as a powerful method.

It doesn’t just create a mental image of success, but builds a bridge between imagination and reality, enabling the speaker to truly experience success even before going on stage.

It’s this positive anticipation, this sense of accomplishment before the act, that can transform the perception of public speaking from a dreaded ordeal to an exciting opportunity.

Actionable tip

Anchoring is an NLP technique that associates a physical sensation with a positive emotional state.

To use this technique:

  • Find a moment of calm: Sit comfortably and breathe deeply.
  • Recall a moment of success: Think of a time when you felt particularly confident, happy, or successful. Relive the moment in your mind, visualizing all the details.
  • Create an anchor: While you’re reliving this positive moment, create a small, discreet gesture, such as pinching your earlobe or touching the back of your hand. Repeat this gesture several times while feeling the positive emotion.
  • Use anchoring before you speak: Before you go on stage or begin your speech, repeat the anchoring gesture. This should help you evoke the associated positive feelings and boost your confidence.

By practicing this technique regularly, you can reinforce the association between the gesture and the positive emotion, which can help you manage your anxiety before public speaking.

4 – Use your body language

The art of public speaking is not limited to the words we speak.

Indeed, our bodies also speak, and sometimes even louder than our words. A fascinating study by Rao (2017), entitled “Tools and techniques to boost the eloquence of your body language in public speaking”, explored the impact and importance of body language when we speak.

This research underlined that simply mastering your body language can not only capture the audience’s attention but also win their trust and heart.

In other words, good body language can make you an accomplished speaker.

What’s more, this study has highlighted valuable tools that can be adapted to a variety of contexts, from large corporations to small community meetings.

Ultimately, the message is clear: to truly touch and inspire your audience, it’s essential to pay attention to how your body communicates.

Actionable tip

When preparing for a speaking engagement, don’t overlook the importance of your stage presence.

Here are a few steps to help you:

  • Posture: Stand tall and confident. Good posture conveys confidence and credibility.
  • Eye contact: Establish a bond with your audience by looking them in the eye. This creates a connection and shows you’re engaged.
  • Gestures: Use your hands to emphasize key points, but avoid unnecessary or nervous movements.
  • Facial expression: Your face can convey a multitude of emotions. Make sure it reflects enthusiasm and passion for your subject.
  • Feedback: After your speech, ask for feedback. This will help you identify areas for improvement in future presentations.

By incorporating these elements into your delivery, you’ll not only be heard but also felt and remembered by your audience.

5 – Interact and actively listen to your audience

As we prepare to speak in public, our attention is often captivated by the content of our speech, the right words to choose, and the tone to adopt.

However, the magic of successful communication doesn’t just lie in what we say, but also in how we interact with our audience.

True communication is a two-way ballet, where every mouvement, every gesture counts.

Imagine yourself on stage, delivering your message with passion.

But beyond your words, it is your ability to perceive, feel, and respond to the silent reactions of your audience that will make all the difference.

A fascinating study by Bavelas & al. (2002), entitled “Listener responses as a collaborative process: The role of gaze”, takes us to the heart of this dynamic.

It reveals that the audience’s non-verbal cues, such as eye contact or head nods, are valuable indicators of their engagement and understanding.

These subtle interactions, often overlooked, are in fact cornerstones of successful communication.

As a speaker, it’s vital to know how to read these signals.

They can guide you, telling you when to expand on a point, when to go back on an idea, or when to inject more energy into your speech.

At the end of the day, listening actively to your audience creates an invisible but powerful bond, transforming a simple speech into an authentic and memorable exchange.

Actionable tip

Next time you speak, try a more interactive approach:

  • Ask open-ended questions: This encourages the audience to think and engage with the topic.
  • Use strategic pauses: This gives the audience time to digest the information and formulate questions or comments.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal reactions: If you notice confused expressions or concerned looks, take a moment to clarify or expand on the point in question.
  • Encourage feedback: At the end of your speech, open a question-and-answer session to allow the audience to share their thoughts or ask questions.

By adopting an interactive approach, you turn your speech into a rewarding conversation, reinforcing the impact and memorability of your intervention.

Conclusion on how to manage speaking stress

Public speaking is much more than a simple exchange of information.

It’s a delicate dance between speaker and audience, an opportunity to share, inspire and connect.

Each tip presented in this article is a step towards mastering this art.

From meticulous preparation to active listening to your audience, every detail counts.

Science has given us invaluable tools to transform our stage fright into confidence, and our nervousness into passion.

So, the next time you’re called upon to speak, remember these tips, take a deep breath, and know you have everything you need to shine.

Because beyond words, it’s your passion, authenticity, and commitment that will leave an indelible imprint on the minds of your audience.

To learn more about how to improve your communication or how to improve your public speaking, write to us now via our contact form.

Read this article in other languages

Français Comment gérer son stress à l’oral : stratégies scientifiquement prouvées et conseils pratiques
ItalianoCome superare la paura di parlare in pubblico : strategie scientificamente provate e consigli pratici

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