Picture this scenario: You're on stage, oozing with confidence (or at least you thought you were), wearing your best smile. The organizer tells you to start your presentation. You open your mouth but all you hear is a shaky voice. And your hands begin to tremble, too.
Ladies and gentlemen, that's glossophobia for you. It's the fear of public speaking taking a hold over you.
If you thought you were the only one experiencing that, don't worry. You're not the only one with that fear. Psycom reports that as much as 75 percent of people have glossophobia. In other words, you're the majority.
That doesn't mean, however, that you should just let it stay that way. If you want to be a good public speaker, you need to put a stop to the shaking voice and hands and, ultimately, overcome your fear. In this article, we’ll look at how you can put a stop to that shaking in particular.
Why Does My Voice Tremble When I Speak?
The thing about voice trembling and shaky hands are that it's not really you that's doing it. It's your body's natural response to stress and anxiety. When the body senses your stress, the sympathetic nervous system which controls your fight-or-flight responses is activated. The body, as a result, releases adrenaline into the body. Once the adrenaline is released, it works directly with the muscular cells to speed up the contraction of fibers, according to Science Focus. The result? You shake uncontrollably and your voice starts to tremble.
The adrenaline shuts off your salivary glands, too, therefore leading to a dry throat and a loss of voice.
In other words, it’s the stress and anxiety that prompt the body to act the way it does. So, if you want to remove the voice trembling and the hand shaking, you need to remove the stress and anxiety. You need to make sure the body doesn’t equate public speaking with stress and anxiety in the first place.
How To Stop Voice And Hands From Shaking: 6 Tips
There are ways you can ensure the body doesn’t see public speaking as a threat so it doesn’t trigger its natural response to threat. Here are some of those ways:
1. Do deep breathing exercises
Short panicky breaths are associated with the sympathetic system, deep breaths are associated with the parasympathetic system, which controls the body’s rest-and-relax response. If you do deep breathing exercises, then, you can convince your body it doesn’t need the fight-or-flight response at the moment because you’re not in any danger or in any stress-related activity.
Simple Amazing Training has sample tips on how you can do these deep breathing exercises. Follow these steps:
- Breathe in through your nose for four seconds.
- Hold your breath for another four seconds.
- Breathe out using your mouth for four seconds.
Repeat the process several times. You might be surprised about how quickly the voice shaking and the hand shaking go away.
2. Warm up your face
We know the shaky voice is somehow caused by the muscle tension in the face due to the released adrenaline. It follows, then, that you can address that shaking voice if you ease the tension of your facial muscles.
One way you can ease that facial muscle tension is to massage your face and do some vocal exercises. Dr. Rick Iskandar recommends two facial massages: the trigger point and the myofascial release with traction. The first exercise involves pressing the zygoma in the face. The zygoma is the bone that defines the lateral and anterior parts of the face and it is typically the most tense bone in the masseter muscle, a mastication muscle.
The other exercise, the myofascial release, basically involves stretching the face with upward and downward movements of your hand or knuckle.
So, how do you release facial tension with some vocal exercises? Communication expert Mary Daphne recommends two exercises for this. In the first exercise, you just exaggerate saying the word “cheese” several times. In the second exercise, you exaggerate saying the letter “e” and then the letter “o.”
Watch the first part of this nice video from Mary Daphne so you can see how you can implement those exercises:
For more information on this subtopic, feel free to read, "The 8 Best Warm Up Activities For Public Speaking"
3. Make theatrical gestures
There’s another way you can stop your hands from shaking: Use grand hand gestures. If you follow this tip, you’ll increase your confidence, too. The body releases chemicals associated with confidence when you make those big movements.
You shouldn’t make the grand hand gesture, of course, just because you feel like it. If you don’t have a reason for moving your hand upwards and downwards or from left to right and you do it anyway, your audience will only find it strange and might just get distracted from your speech. The result is you don’t convey your message effectively.
In essence, your hand gestures should complement your speech and should be naturally interwoven into your entire presentation. So, if you have the word “universe” in your script, for instance, you can make a huge circular gesture in front of your audience. Besides, if you do it this way, your audience might not even notice your hands are shaking in the first place.
For more information of this topic, please check out the article "Why Using Gestures in Public Speaking is Important?"
4. Clench your muscles
Clenching your fists and then releasing them can help you stop those hands from shaking temporarily. Although some communication experts recommend doing this on stage, I personally think it will just distract your audience. Just think about it. You’re just standing there and the hands on your sides suddenly turn into fists. That jerky movement on its own will catch your audience’s attention.
So, my personal recommendation is that you do this exercise right before your presentation. You can clench your fists and release them as many times as you want.
But what happens when your hands start shaking on stage again? I suggest clenching other muscles, like your legs, for instance, instead. Clenching other parts of your body can help distract your brain from specific problem areas. Just make sure when you do the clenching, it doesn’t show your audience as much either.
5. Exert some physical activity
Here’s one tip you can follow to stop both your voice and your hands from shaking. As mentioned in my previous article, when you exert some physical activity right before your presentation, you can convince yourself to focus on the exercise, and not on the upcoming event.
When you change your focus, you don’t give yourself undue pressure that the body can sense to trigger the fight-or-flight response that in turn causes your voice to tremble and your hands to shake. You just enjoy your exercise and the benefits that come with it.
Of course, you have to make sure that your physical activities won’t be so strenuous that you end up too tired to give your speech. A short walk in the nearby park, for instance, or jumping jacks (not too many of them) may do the trick. Give yourself time to freshen up, too. You wouldn’t want to show up in front of your audience all sweaty. That’s why I also recommend bringing a different set of clothes for your exercise.
Instead of obsessing over what you need to do for your speech or entertaining possible presentation outcomes, socialize with the people who are already in the venue. These are typically the event organizers who need to be there before the actual audience shows up.
How can socializing help stop the voice trembling and the hand shaking? Well, simple. Socialization can keep you distracted from your presentation, thereby removing that stress and anxiety that triggers the fight-or-flight response (the voice trembling and the hand shaking) you feel when thinking about it in the first place.
You don’t need to know the people to socialize with them. You can just approach them and make small talk. Comment about the weather or the venue, whatever comes to mind. The longer you talk to them, the easier it is to forget that you’re actually about to do something that’s of the utmost importance.
How To Stop Your Hands and Voice From Shaking When Public Speaking: Final Verdict
Glossophobia is a condition that affects more than half of the population. If you’re part of that population, don’t worry.
There are tips you can follow to stop your hands and your voice from shaking in particular. You learned six tips from this article.
Do deep breathing exercises that can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system associated with the rest-and-relax response, warm up your face to ease the muscle tension, and make big gestures to boost your confidence as well. You can also clench your muscles to get the brain to focus on those muscles instead, and not on the fight-or-flight response. Finally, exert some physical activity and socialize to get your mind off of the presentation which gives you stress.
Implement your chosen tips and you’ll be well on your way to being that great speaker with the perfect composure on stage.
For more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, please check the articles Online Resources for Public Speaking and Where Can I Learn Public Speaking. If you would like to leverage the best presentation software for your next big speaking engagement please read the article 'Best Presentation Technology tools'.