You know the feeling - sweaty palms, dry mouth, butterflies in your belly. You are not alone. According to a study published by the Institute for Mental Health in March 2012, about 75% of us suffer from speech anxiety. Speaking anxiety is defined by a speaker's level of fear or unease with speaking to a group of people. Even though speaking anxiety is a common and natural reaction to delivering a presentation, here are 5 ways to reduce this anxiety and enable you to become a more confident speaker:

1. Breathe. One of the easiest ways to relax is through deep breathing. When confronted with anxiety, most people breathe short, shallow breaths that can heighten anxiety. This short breathing exercise can be done just minutes before you take the stage. Slowly inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, and then slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 4. Repeat the process two or three times. Your pulse should feel slower, you will reduce your tension, and you will feel more relaxed. If you feel faint or light-headed, stop. Avoid hyperventilating.

2. Visualize. Many professional and amateur athletes engage in visualization to overcome performance anxiety, and it can work for speakers, too. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes, and imagine your speaking event. Mentally rehearse your presentation from start to finish as a success. In Daniel Goleman's book, Social Intelligence, he states, "Simulating the act is, in the brain, the same as performing it."

3. Practice. Members of the National Speakers Association were surveyed on their top tips for successful speakers. Overwhelmingly, the top tip from the professional speakers was practice! Practice out loud, not just in your head. Rehearse your presentation as if you were delivering to your live audience. The more you practice, the more confident you will be in your delivery.

4. Bounce on a Stability Ball. This may be somewhat unconventional, and it may not be logistically possible for every speaking engagement, but research has shown that just 15 minutes of tiny bounces on a stability ball decreases anxiety, increases calmness, and stimulates the speech and language centers of your brain enabling you to be more articulate. Many hotels now have the stability balls in their fitness rooms, so it is possible to use one when travelling to speak. Don't bounce more than 15 minutes; over bouncing can cause disorganization!

5. Meet Your Audience. Arrive early to your venue to set up your equipment (if you have to set up), and spend the time before your presentation meeting the individuals in your audience. Meeting with audience members before your presentation enable you to focus on their needs, and when you begin your presentation, you will find that you are speaking to friends instead of strangers.

It may take a few trials to find the anxiety-reducing techniques that work for you, however, reducing your speech anxiety allows you to be more poised and polished when presenting. And you may find yourself in the coveted 25%!

Author's Bio: 

Sonja Stetzler, MA, RD is a communications and public speaking coach who works with business and healthcare professionals to improve their presentation skills so that they can grow their business or advance in their careers. For FREE tips on improving your presence on the platform, visit www.effectiveconnecting.com