“Visualization, in many ways, is nothing more complicated than involving your imagination in goal-setting. It’s not hocus-pocus or magic. When you use your imagination to enhance goal-setting you get fired-up, excited. This enthusiasm equips you with more mental energy to put into the task.” — Gail Dusa, president of the National Council of Self-Esteem.
One helpful way to better manage communication anxiety is through visualization, systemically imagining yourself being successful and practicing your task in your mind. This technique is popular among professional athletes because it helps lower their anxiety and improves on their overall performance. While public speaking does not demand quite as much physical exertion as sports, the reference to professional athletes was used to show how anxiety, under any context, can all be met through similar methods.
The best way to harness visualization is to prepare a script in your head detailing the success you realistically see yourself in from as early as you wake up in the morning to the conclusion of your speech. Plan this script as realistic as possible (for example, do not demand from your performance a standing ovation every single time). Do not forget to incorporate potential obstacles and how you overcome them in your visualization. A sample script is provided at the end.
Before running the script in your mind, try as often as possible to incorporate breathing exercises to relax you. You can also employ visualization as you wait to give your speech.
Three important points to keep in mind:
- Develop the Habit of Positive Self-Talk: Don’t just use visualization solely to get ready for speech! Incorporate as much of this into your daily life as possible.
- Refocus Negative Mental Pictures Into Positive Ones: Pinpoint areas of improvement you want to see yourself improve on and state how you plan to achieve them as realistically as possible.
- Don’t Compare Yourself to Others: There will always be people better than you and there will always be people worst than you. While it is fine to admire others for how well they’re doing, in addition to borrowing techniques they used well for your own use, remember that, in the end, it’s a new YOU you’re constructing — not someone else!
You see yourself get up in the morning — feeling energetic, confident, and simply, excited to meet whatever challenges come your way today. You change into one of your best outfits, one you like the way you look in and already makes you feel good simply by being in it. Afterwards, you make apply your way to the mirror to observe your demeanor and appearance. You feel prepared to present today; you’ve done adequate research on the topic already.
You now see yourself in the room you will be presenting in. You’ve exchanged enough small talk with some of the audience members there to know that they are genuinely friendly and welcoming people. As time draw nears for you to stand before them, you feel confidence surging within you and the ability to convey a persuasive message to them.
You watch yourself give your speech in front of the audience. You look polished and professional. You’re doing very well. The audience is following the flow of your speech and some are even smiling and nodding along with your points. Your speech goes as well as you’ve practiced, from introduction to end. The major points you make are clear and examples you’ve prepared in support of them are relevant to your audience. Everything looks and feels very natural to both you and the audience.
You watch yourself end the speech with a smile. All the little areas you worked hard to improve on came together in the end. Not only were you confident in demeanor and relevant in topic, you were also original in the the content you covered and how you delivered it. Some members of the audience tell you how good of a job you did and in the midst of it all, you feel a sense of well-being. You congratulate yourself on a job well done.