Career advice

Don’t let fear of public speaking be a barrier to new opportunities

Making a presentation can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Health coach Mandy Day-Calder offers advice on how to stay calm and focused when addressing an audience. 
speak

Making a presentation can be daunting but it doesnt have to be overwhelming. Health coach Mandy Day-Calder offers advice on how to stay calm and focused when addressing an audience

Some years ago, while working on a busy haematology ward, I succeeded in an application for a specialist post in the voluntary sector.

Some of my more senior colleagues were put off applying as the job specification required 'excellent presentation skills, and I had great empathy for these skilled nurses whose fear of public speaking acted as a barrier to new opportunities.

Scary prospect

The ability to address an audience is an essential skill in 21st century workplaces, especially the NHS, where nurses at all levels are expected to show leadership qualities. Yet for many nurses

...

Making a presentation can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Health coach Mandy Day-Calder offers advice on how to stay calm and focused when addressing an audience

speak
The ability to address an audience is an essential skill in modern workplaces.
 Picture: iStock

Some years ago, while working on a busy haematology ward, I succeeded in an application for a specialist post in the voluntary sector.

Some of my more senior colleagues were put off applying as the job specification required 'excellent presentation skills’, and I had great empathy for these skilled nurses whose fear of public speaking acted as a barrier to new opportunities.

Scary prospect

The ability to address an audience is an essential skill in 21st century workplaces, especially the NHS, where nurses at all levels are expected to show leadership qualities. Yet for many nurses the thought of public speaking is a scary prospect.

You may not be expected to give a formal presentation while on duty but most shifts will involve some aspect of speaking to groups, such as handing over to colleagues, giving advice to a group of relatives or teaching students.

What helps

If you fear public speaking, rest assured you are not alone and this does not make you a bad nurse. The following tips will help allay your fears and build your confidence when addressing others:

  • The physical sensations you experience, including feeling sick and a racing heartbeat, are often accompanied by irrational thoughts, such as ‘I’m going to faint,’ or ‘everyone will laugh at me’. You may even feel you are having a panic attack. Recognise what is happening and have well-rehearsed strategies to relax your body and calm your mind.
  • Give yourself credit. Reflect on how many times you effectively communicate with colleagues and patients during a shift. What helps you feel confident and what doesn’t? What do you need to do more of?
  • Be brave. When you have to speak in front of small groups, such as during ward rounds or in handovers, ask colleagues for constructive feedback. Rather than letting criticism feed your fears, see it as a way of overcoming them.
  • Visualise success. Imagine how you would feel if you had just nailed a presentation, standing tall with your chest expanded. If anxiety starts to build up, try to trick your brain by consciously adopting this tall and confident stance.

The AWARE method of beating anxiety

If you feel anxiety is getting too much, the AWARE method can help:

  • Accept it. Fighting it will not take away the anxiety.
  • Watch your anxiety. What changes are you noticing in your body, your thoughts and your perception?
  • Act normal. Breath normally and act as if you feel confident and calm. This too will pass and your anxiety will fade away.
  • Repeat the three steps above until your anxiety reduces to an acceptable level.
  • Expect the best. Invest your time and energy in what can help you as opposed to worrying about what might happen.

Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and life/health coach 

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs