Whether you are making a speech at your cousin's wedding or giving a presentation in your history class, being nervous about speaking to a crowd is normal. People who are comfortable public speakers have learned to manage anxiety and project confidence -- both of which you can do too. Instead of worrying about what might go wrong, think about how you can prepare to be successful.
If you suffer from anxiety and nervousness when speaking to a crowd, consider using relaxation exercises to help manage those feelings, suggests Steven D. Cohen, professor of communications at the University of Baltimore, in the video "3 Tips for Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking." Visualize successfully completing your speech from start to finish -- complete with applause at the end. Use the "t-repeater" breathing exercise developed by Cohen, in which you inhale deeply and then repeat the "t" sound as you exhale. Use relaxation exercises right before you speak to help quell feelings of fear.
Use Your Power
Make a powerful statement with your voice, advises seasoned public speaker Oprah Winfrey in the article "How to Talk to a Crowd." Do this by taking deep breaths from your abdomen as you talk and speaking from your gut, suggests Winfrey. Increase the volume of your voice if you normally speak quietly. Be comfortable having a powerful voice and talking with clarity and conviction -- your audience will be more receptive when you deliver your message from a position of strength.
Introduction and Conclusion
The introduction and conclusion of a story or speech are the most important elements, advise both Cohen and Winfrey. Try to boil down the point of what you want to say into a single sentence, suggests Winfrey, and then make that the focus of your talk. Start with a provocative opener such as a touching story that illustrates your main point, and end with a strong conclusion that gives your listeners something to think about. Confident public speakers make what they say interesting in a way that others can relate to and understand.
Reap the Benefits
Rather than focus on the negative aspects of talking in front of a group, think about the potential benefits, suggest psychologists Leslie Sokol and Marci G. Fox, as cited in the "Redbook" article, "How to Shake Even the Worst Case of Nerves." List as many of these advantages as you can think of to build your confidence. For example, if you are are speaking in front of a book club, some benefits might include sharing your knowledge, becoming a more confident speaker and receiving feedback from others about your ideas.
Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.