Anxiety Peaks

anxiety photoIn public speaking, students often describe two peak moments of anxiety: one at the beginning of the speech and another at the end. Anxiety generally begins from the moment someone recognizes the impending “doom” of having to deliver the speech, which may be different for each person. Some might start experiencing this the night before a presentation, especially if this person already has high levels of social anxiety. Others might not feel this anxiety hit until the moment they turn to face their audience. On average, most people begin to feel this major peak of anxiety about 60 seconds before the speech begins. This peak tops out around 60 seconds into the delivery of the speech, where it quickly subsides. This two-minute window mirrors other situations involving the body experiencing a sudden burst of adrenaline. As a result, speakers need to know their introductions almost better than any point made throughout the rest of the speech. That way, they can still communicate effectively with their audience while they cope with and redirect nervous energy as it heightens. Taking this into account, devote extra time practicing the introduction above all other parts of the speech, yet avoid memorization. Learn the introduction so well that delivering it smoothly and conversationally takes no effort.

The second peak of anxiety often feels considerably more positive in tone, and it occurs about 60 seconds before the speech ends. This peak happens as soon as speakers recognize their time in the spotlight will end soon. This usually results in novice speakers rushing through the last part of their speech, which can result in them forgetting to mention elements of their conclusion. To counteract this anxiety wave, practice the conclusions just as extensively as the introduction.

Note to Self

Take your time and ensure that you are prepared to close your speech just as powerfully as you opened it in the introduction and supported it while delivering the main speaking points.


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Messages that Matter: Public Speaking in the Information Age - Third Edition Copyright © 2023 by North Idaho College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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