Getting Comfortable with Public Speaking

Photo: Theo Stroomer

If you Google “most common fears,” public speaking ranks among the top five. This fear prevents many people from achieving their potential. But there are many benefits of public speaking – it’s a great way to share your ideas and perspective and build self-confidence. Great speakers developed their ability to speak in public over time, and developing this skill takes practice – which means starting with a willingness to try, and try again, and view every opportunity to speak in front of others as a chance to improve.

Four Tips for Conquering Your Fear

  • Embrace the Nerves. It is helpful to acknowledge that we get nervous because we care deeply about the audience and our message. Although the rapid heartbeat and sweaty palms may make it feel like you’re headed for disaster, studies show that performance actually peaks under moderate stress levels that activate your body and keep you alert.
  • Get Personal. Finding common ground with your listeners is key to any good speech – we’re all united by the same human desires and fears. Don’t be afraid to go there.
  • Let Your Style Shine. Being in front of an audience can feel vulnerable and exposed, the audience picks up on this and if you communicate a genuine message effectively, you will gain their trust.
  • Learn to Love Feedback. If you goof up or fall flat, don’t look at this a setback – try to understand why you didn’t do as well as you wanted to. Immediate and specific constructive criticism – delivered with care – has been proven to be a powerful influencer for learning and achievement.

Places to Practice and People to Help You

The real key to getting over the fear of public speaking is to practice, practice, practice.Luckily our UW campus has opportunities to do so and people to help you.

  • The Public Speaking Center at the University of Washington is committed to providing students, staff, and the public with advice, guidance, and techniques for success in the field of public speaking and oral communication. Visit the center for help with speech generation and writing, successful delivery techniques, anxiety reduction, or simply for an unbiased opinion from a trained speech tutor or Department of Communication Teaching Assistant.
  • The annual Undergraduate Research Symposium is a chance for undergraduates to present what they have learned through their research experiences to a larger audience. To help participants prepare, the Undergraduate Research Program (URP) conducts symposium abstract writing, poster design and PowerPoint presentation workshops.

So speak up, and speak often.

About the Husky Experience Toolkit

The Husky Experience Toolkit is designed to help you make the most of your time at UW, wherever you are in your university career. The articles address four interconnected dimensions of the Husky Experience: Know Yourself, Know the World, Make Your Way, and Weave it Together.