I could feel my face getting hotter and hotter as I stood ready to present my project in front of my SDSU (San Diego State University) advertising class. My sweat glands were in overdrive. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had broken out into a nervous rash all across my chest. Somehow I stumbled through that presentation and I knew at that moment that if I was going to choose a career in front of the camera, with hundreds of thousands of people watching, I had to find a way to cope with my fear of public speaking. Note I said the word “cope” not “overcome..”
Roughly 40 million people in the US, aged 18 or older suffer from different forms of social anxiety.
Glossophobia or speech anxiety, is the fear of public speaking. This condition has the potential to significantly affect your personal and professional relationships, as well as your overall quality of life. Research shows social anxiety disorder symptoms begin appearing around age 13 during our stressful teen years.
Now, more than a decade later reporting and anchoring the news on a daily basis, I know a few tricks.
1. Have confidence (Or at least fake it)
A study of students conducted conducted at Washington State University found that those who visualized themselves giving an effective speech reported less anxiety overall than those who didn’t. Everyday, before I step in front of that camera, I see myself giving the best live shot of my life. The story could be big or small, doesn’t matter. I tell myself it’s going to be so good, that the news director will look up from his desk to the TV mounted on his opposite wall and think to himself, “Wow! I’m sure glad I hired that Jasmine Viel.” I see myself nailing every word, hand gesture and smile from the beginning of my “performance” to the very end when I toss back to the anchors in the studio.
My first news director at a small TV station in the Arizona desert told me to go stand in front of a mirror and read something I wrote out loud over and over again until it sounded natural. I did that over and over again no matter how awkward it felt.
It’s my little secret that I still get nervous every time I go on air, but I turn those nerves into excitement to be able to let my audience know what I have to say. In an experiment at Harvard University, test subjects were asked to say “I am excited” or “I am calm” before giving a short speech. The ones who said they were excited scored better overall in terms of the length, quality and performance of their speaking efforts. Or as one of my co-anchors so eloquently told me once “just f!&k!n’ do it!” It’s turned into my mantra to pump me up.
When you’re nervous, your heart rate accelerates and so does your breathing, but getting it under control can eliminate some of your anxiety. There have been times when interviews come in at the last minute, facts are changing and producers are yelling in my ear, but I have to be calm and composed when that camera light goes on. It does no good to be rattled. I don’t want those nervous rashes making a comeback!
4. Less is more
Keep it simple. Don’t keep talking when your speech should be over. Wrap it up and end your moment on a high note.
I think my advertising teacher at SDSU would be pretty proud.