New ways for college students to overcome public speaking anxiety

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downloadAn Article by contributor Christopher Austin.

If you’re feeling anxiety, discomfort, and fear when having to speak in front of other people, you’re not alone. Public speaking is one of the most dreadful activities students face these days, but between interviews, presentations, meetings and events, it is a vital skill to have in the professional world. We’re all supposed to entice and engage at some point, so we’re talking about an activity that can be pleasant and even interesting. Students must learn to overcome anxiety levels and improve the delivery of their speech in order to make an audience eager to know more.

Even though it’s natural to feel anxious, it often gets in the way of one’s verbal and non-verbal delivery, and can make a presentation less efficient and less interesting. There are lots of ways college students can use to overcome their fear of speaking in public. The first step is controlling their nerves and putting their emotions to good use.

Communication anxiety among college students is common

Communication apprehension, also known as CA, is better described as the fear of speaking in front of an audience (regardless of the number of people). Communication apprehension basically refers to having speaking issues when put in an unpleasant situation, like on a stage or in front of others. Many students deal with this condition throughout college, and the reasons are numerous.

Many students don’t like to speak in public because they don’t want to be criticized. They fear that the audience won’t be interested in what they have to say, and don’t want to judged if they made a mistake while on stage. Lack of experience, anxiety and nervousness, all get in the way of an effective speech. But you can do something about it! Communication apprehension is a form of anxiety that produces cognitive, behavioral, and physiological reactions in students faced with real-life presentation. Their heart feels like popping out of their chests; they can’t breathe, their palms are all sweaty, and skin flushes. All these symptoms occur because of the natural chemical processes happening inside the human body.

Combating public speaking anxiety

The innate psychological reaction happening when anxiety kicks in can’t be stopped. And yet, we do possess the ability to control it. Studies performed on public speaking anxiety have shown that anxiety can be kept under control following three different tactics: cognitive restructuring, systematic desensitization, and skills training.

  • Systematic desensitization

    Our anxiety levels can be kept under control if we’re exposed to anxious situations more often. Our bodies get used to the sensation and we learn to cope with our emotions a lot better. Systematic desensitization can easily come from real or imagined exposure to scenarios that induce anxiety. Having daily presentations in front of the class will eventually put an end to our fear of getting up and starting to speak in public.

  • Cognitive restructuring

    Altering the way people think about something. Restructuring the way we handle public speaking anxiety is the key to overcoming it. For instance, those that fear holding a presentation in front of an audience may also have a fear of heights, death, financial failure or snakes. It is irrational for a student to associate these fears with public speaking though. Their biggest fear is that they’ll get a negative evaluation. But then again, a negative review or comment doesn’t kill you; on the contrary, it makes you stronger and it some ways, it might even motivate you to work harder.

  • Skills training

    The key to mastering the best public speech is practice. There’s great potential in everyone, especially in enthusiastic students eager to learn more. If you’re a competitive type of person who aims high in college, then you can overcome your stage fright as well. All you have to do is train. Take a risk and be willing to make mistakes; learn from them and appreciate the constructive criticism. It will strengthen you and it will someday make you the best public speaker.

Speaking in front of teachers and peers when in college might seem like the most embarrassing thing to do. But then again, your colleagues might go through the same emotions as you at that very same moment. Remember, by honing your communication skills, you’re setting yourself up for success in your career. Don’t let your emotions take over, and focus on the speech. Keep your cool and everything should go by the book.

By Christopher Austin and!

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