You don't need to suffer from full-blown glossophobia to experience some apprehension about public speaking. The stress you feel can impact your sleep the night before and hurt your performance. But how can you beat pre-speech anxiety?

Joseph Grenny, a bestselling author and keynote speaker, writes in Harvard Business Review about his best practices for beating the pre-speech jitters. In the last 30 years, Grenny has delivered more than 3,000 speeches. Until he got used to giving speeches, he says, he would be restless the night before and deal with intense stress and anxiety.

Over the years, Grenny developed useful tools to deal with his fear and stress. "My former panic and dread were replaced with a sense of exhilaration and gratitude," he writes. Below, find out the best ways you can harness your anxiety and deliver a great speech.

Think about your motive

Your motive for giving the speech should not be selfish. Instead, you should think about what a speech is all about--to serve the listeners. Whether the speech is to inform others, inspire them, or, say, kick off a wedding, you should be thinking about how it will benefit the audience. Once Grenny realized he had the wrong motive, he turned it around. "I no longer cared if I did it perfectly--I only hoped I would do it well enough that they would be blessed by the experience. My stress subsides when my motive is to bless rather than impress," he writes.

Don't obsess over perfection

You should rehearse your speech, but be careful not to obsess over it. If you start down the road of perfectionism, you're going to stress yourself out. "I provoke more stress in myself when my preparation moves past the point of diminishing returns. When it's an obsession, not preparation, it's time to simply disconnect and engage in some distracting activity," Grenny writes. "If I am giving a new presentation I will practice it three times: Once when I finish preparing it, again the day before, and finally a few hours before I go 'on.'"

Involve the audience

No one likes a two-hour monologue. Grenny says "involvement activities" can capture the audience's attention while you invite them "to think with you, feel with you, help you, or try something with you." Don't waste their time with something hokey, though--make sure it is relevant to the topic and "makes them feel smart and respected." Grenny suggests you could share data with the audience members and ask them to help think it through, show a video that can help them feel a specific emotion, give someone a quote to read and ask them to help break down its relevance, or have them try to a new skill that you're teaching them in a safe environment.

Be aware of your own hangups

Over time, you'll be able to pinpoint what drives your stress. Here's a hint: it's not the speech. "There's nothing intrinsically stressful about a presentation. The stress is usually self-induced--often because it triggers some trauma you carry from a painful life experience that your mind conjures a connection to," Grenny writes. After a couple of speeches are under your belt, focus on your "primary generators of anxiety," he says. 

Remember to breathe

If your nerves are acting up, you may feel like you can't catch your breath before a speech. Grenny mentions the work of psychologist Amy Cuddy, who found that you can lower the amount of stress hormones running through your blood by breathing deeply while in a power pose--head and torso erect, chest out--over and over. "As I've learned to get out of my own head, ground myself in more intrinsic sources of worth, connect to my deeper motives for sharing, and just breathe, the experience of standing in front of an audience is no longer a curse, but a blessing to me," he writes.

Published on: Sep 1, 2015