I’m nervous or anxious about speaking in front of people.

It is normal, even for very experienced people, to experience some level of nervousness or anxiety before or during a spoken presentation in front of an audience. Feeling nervous or anxious produces stress hormones (such as adrenaline in the short term, or cortisol in the long term). These can be useful, by making us feel alert and energetic. However, there can be some negative consequences, such as sweating, shaking, racing heart, a dry mouth, feeling light-headed or finding it hard to concentrate.

To reduce the negative effects, try some of these strategies:

  • Avoid stimulants such as coffee or energy drinks.
  • Do some vigorous physical exercise within a day or so beforehand, to lower the levels of stress hormones.
  • Use positive self-talk (e.g. “I’ve done the preparation and I know the topic – it will be okay”).
  • Visualise the presentation being successful.
  • Focus on the friendly faces in the audience.
  • Take some water with you, in case your mouth gets dry, and so you have an excuse to take a little break for a sip of water.
  • Wear your favourite clothes.
  • Practice your talk beforehand with a friend.
  • Attend a practice workshop on presentations (see the Learning Centre workshop link on this page).
  • Join a public speaking club such as Toastmasters.
  • Make your notes very simple and easy to read, with keywords instead of sentences.

You can also learn a range of more advanced techniques for overcoming anxiety or nervousness from workshops or consultations with the student counsellors or international student counsellors (see the link on this page).

For more on this topic, see the links on the right...