“How can I feel less nervous about public speaking for presentations or talking in class?”

—A. J., University of New Brunswick

I have been speaking in public for over 30 years (I started very young!) and I still get a little nervous. In fact, just a few days ago, I was anxious about speaking in front of someone I wanted to impress. I know I am not alone because most people get nervous when they speak in front of others. We think we are going to be judged by our audience.

These tips helped me through my latest speaking engagement:

Recognize that the audience is your ally

The key to feeling more comfortable is to think of your audience as people who want to hear what you have to say.

Believe that you have something important to say

If you think that what you have to say is worth your audience’s time, you will feel more confident and almost compelled to share it.

Believe that you have a unique perspective to share

This will make your audience even more interested in what you have to say. Think about your angle and what you bring to understanding the topic.

Practice, practice, practice

There is no substitute for calming nerves like deliberate practice. If you know what you are going to say, when you are going to make certain points, and how long you have to speak, then you are well on your way to calming your nerves. I am talking about standing up in front of a mirror (or a trusted friend) and going through the whole speech multiple times.

Get feedback from others

Getting constructive feedback from someone who is there to help (and not just stroke your ego) can go a long way in being prepared and calming your nerves.

Finally, embrace a little nervousness. It can often be your friend in that it keeps you focused and on task!