Your note cards are slipping out of your sweaty fingers, your heart pounds and your classmates' faces swim in front of your blurry eyes. Giving a speech in a college class can create fear and anxiety, but successfully handling the stress is half the battle. Knowing how to reduce anxiety for college speeches can help you gain confidence in front of an audience and overcome your fear of public speaking.
Practicing your speech will normalize the process of speaking and make it feel more natural. One way to practice is to desensitize yourself to your fear by gradually moving through different types of audiences. For example, you might start out giving your speech alone in a room and then present it to a roommate or friend. Eventually, you can graduate to three or four people or a larger group. By the time you give the speech, a crowded class will be less intimidating, and the material itself will be familiar and well rehearsed.
Practicing deep breathing and muscle-relaxation techniques prior to your presentation can help reduce tension and anxiety. For example, inhaling, holding the breath in your lungs and then slowly exhaling calms your brain and lowers your blood pressure. Progressive muscle relaxation, such as tensing and releasing your feet, legs, stomach muscles and hands, can also provide relief. If you suffer from severe performance anxiety, you might consider talking to a doctor about taking beta-blockers -- pills that block the release of extra adrenaline -- in addition to practicing relaxation techniques.
Learning to have control over negative thoughts can also help you feel more confident. Thoughts such as, "I will pass out," "Everyone will laugh at me" and "I will mess up" reinforce your anxiety and may cause your fear of making mistakes to actually come true. Replacing these thoughts with positive ones such as "I will be calm and relaxed" and "I will clearly explain my ideas" will reassure you of your capabilities. If you easily become overwhelmed with negative thoughts, you might try putting a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it when anxious thoughts cross your mind.
One way to control anxiety about speech class is to stop thinking about yourself and turn your attention to what your classmates might be experiencing. Chances are that they are just as nervous as you are, if not more so. Use this common experience as reinforcement that your feelings are normal and that you are just as capable of overcoming them as everyone else. If you have friends in the class, you might ask them to listen to your speeches and then focus on their faces as you give your actual presentation.
Channel Nervous Energy
If you still feel nervous after doing relaxation exercises, practicing thought control and frequently rehearsing your speech, you can take the remaining anxiety and channel it into positive energy for the presentation. Listening to your favorite up-tempo music while walking briskly to class can help you mentally prepare yourself. If you find yourself getting nervous during the speech itself, you can redirect your attention by reminding yourself of the importance of your message or create anticipation in the audience by taking brief pauses.
Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.