In a recent survey from the Wall Street Journal, public speaking was ranked the #1 fear among people. This was even higher than being hit by a car, meaning that, people would rather be run over than have to give a speech! And while of course choosing serious physical injury over giving a presentation in an exaggeration, the fear of speaking in front of others is real. For ESL students, this fear increases even more as there is pressure to not only convey our ideas to another person, but to do so it in a foreign language. We can consider public speaking as a task we need for school, work or even in our own ESL classroom. How can we work against this anxiety to allow our self the confidence to share our ideas in front of peers, bosses or even our own teachers?
As a yoga instructor as well as a language teacher I am well aware of the issues involved with dealing with anxiety. Many of the tools I learned on my yoga mat can be applied in real life situations, particularly with public speaking. So let me share a few of my favorite ways to ease the tension.
1) Breathe! Taking long, slow, deep breaths sends a signal to your nervous system to relax. It stops you from reacting in the 'fight or flight' mode and lets you handle the situation in the present with a calm, clear head. Before the presentation, class, or your turn to speak, take a breath and give yourself a moment to remind yourself you can do this!
2) Don't expect yourself to be perfect. Even the most experienced of public speakers will make mistakes. The difference is these people don't let the mistakes weigh their speeches down, they move ahead without worrying about the mistake, which is often soon forgotten, if even recognized, by the audience.
3) Let go of the outcome and don't let the experience define your self worth. Be proud of yourself for attempting the speech in the first place. And know that whatever happens onstage, in class or at the presentation, it does not define how smart or capable you are.
Of course, working with your English teacher before any presentation can help reduce some anxiety. Focusing on grammar points you need, vocabulary that would be useful and practicing in class will help to set you up for success. So talk with a Verbling teacher today who can help you up on the right track to improve your English and your confidence when it comes to sharing ideas in a public setting!