Conquer those public speaking jitters

Even the bravest of souls is likely to tremble at the thought of delivering a speech. In fact, most mental health professionals agree that standing up before an audience is the most common social phobia.

The ability to speak effectively is a valuable skill, and in many cases it can enhance your professional development. Read on for some pointers on how to face the public speaking jitters like a pro.

Remember that nervousness is energy

You can channel it into a positive force by showing enthusiasm, intensifying your eye contact and using strong body language.

Try physical exercise

Just before you speak, concentrate on the parts of your body that feel the most tense. Deliberately tighten them as much as you can, then relax them completely. Make funny faces. Puff up your cheeks, then let the air escape. Or open your mouth and your eyes wide, and then close them tightly.

Use your imagination

Picture something soothing that brings back pleasant memories. Since water is calming, you might imagine that you're sailing or walking on the beach.

Use positive self-talk

Say to yourself, "I'm ready. I know what I'm talking about. This is a great opportunity to help my career." Above all, don't tell yourself (or anyone else) how nervous you are, as this can make matters worse.

Try a test run

Visualize yourself smoothly delivering the speech from start to finish. If you see yourself as confident and successful in the test run, it will help you to reenact that success during the real thing.

Of course, there's no substitute for careful preparation, so be sure you've done your homework. Also remember practice makes perfect. The more speaking engagements you accept, the more comfortable you'll become.