6 Public Speaking Tips for People with Psoriasis

Whether it’s a work presentation, a speech, or a wedding toast, public speaking can be nerve-racking. It’s normal to feel anxious when speaking in front of a group of people, with or without visible plaques. But psoriasis can add an extra level of worry to an already stressful situation. In fact, in survey data published in the journal PLoS One, 89 percent of people with psoriasis reported self-consciousness. If you’re not feeling completely confident in your appearance or your public-speaking skills, you’re not alone. The good news is that there are some things you can do to boost your confidence and deliver an impressive speech.

1. Prepare Your Material

If you’ve been asked to speak in front of a crowd, it’s because people believe you have worthy information to convey. Whether the subject of your presentation is quarterly earnings or how happy you are for the newlywed couple, you likely know the subject matter well, and your talk should rely heavily on content.

Start by making a list of the most important information you want your audience to come away with. Then, think like a writer and organize that information into a compelling narrative. Your speech should have an overarching idea and a series of examples supporting that idea. Choose a way to organize those examples, such as time (chronological order) or importance (ascending or descending). You’ll always feel more confident when you’ve properly planned and prepped.

2. Address Your Anxieties Head On

If you’re among the 77 percent of the population who dread public speaking, then it may help to delve into the details of your anxiety. What, specifically, are you worried about?

“My first strategy for people who are anxious about public speaking takes place during the preparation phase,” says Allison Shapira, CEO of Global Public Speaking, a public-speaking firm in Washington, D.C., and the author of Speak with Impact: How to Command the Room and Influence Others.

“When preparing their speech, they can talk through what is making them anxious—out loud—followed by ways they could mitigate those risks,” Shapira says. For instance, you’re worried about your mind going blank in the middle of a presentation, perhaps you could write up bullet points in large font and bring those bullets with you to the presentation. Or, if the talk is virtual, have those bullet points visible on the screen.

“Talking through your anxiety and devising solutions will give you a greater feeling of control,” says Shapira.

3. Address Your Psoriasis

Let’s face it: Public speaking can be stressful, and your stress could cause or exacerbate a flare-up. To manage your stress while you’re prepping your speech, try acknowledging your psoriasis-related anxieties out loud. Then make a list of ways you might handle the problem.

For example, if you’re worried that your audience will be distracted by the plaques on your hands, you might want to address the issue in your speech, if appropriate for the situation.

“When you have a visible disability such as psoriasis, you have two options,” says Shapira. “You can choose not to mention it and instead focus on your main message, or you can address it head on in a matter-of-fact way. Choose whichever option makes you feel the most confident.”

If you decide to mention your psoriasis, Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Sonoma County, California, advises you do it briefly and directly.

“If you have a very noticeable outbreak, simply call brief attention to it by saying something like: ‘I’ve got an outbreak of psoriasis right now; don’t worry…it’s not contagious!’” Manly advises. “This type of comment actually reduces stress and anxiety very quickly. By calling out the obvious in advance, you’ve taken a great deal of worry and fear out of the equation.”

4. Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you’ve prepared your material, it’s time to practice your presentation. Practice is the key to public-speaking confidence. According to Kit Pang, founder of BostonSpeaks, a public-speaking coaching company in Massachusetts, it all comes down to repetition.

“There’s no way around it: You need to know your talk inside and out,” Pang says. “Proper preparation diminishes fear.”

He likens public speaking to sports, noting how athletes perform the same drills over and over. But unlike sports, he says, “We don’t do public speaking enough or practice it in the right way. If you want to learn how to ride a bike, you keep getting on it, even after you fall a few times.”

He suggests practicing your presentation out loud for anyone who will listen: colleagues, friends, even the family dog. Accept feedback, even if it hurts. Pang reminds his clients not to forget their harshest critic, themselves.

“Record yourself reading your speech aloud,” he says. “Then spend extra time on the trouble spots.”

5. Do a Dress Rehearsal

There is a reason theater actors do dress rehearsals—familiarity with all elements of the final performance can really ease the nerves. The same can be said of public-speaking events.

Ask if you can get access to the venue the day before your speech. Familiarize yourself with any tech components like laptops, projectors, microphones, or anything else you may need. Do a run-through of your speech using any presentation slides or note cards that you plan to bring on the day of. Get yourself acquainted with the environment: Where will you put your notes, your water bottle, or your posters? Make adjustments as necessary.

As far as wardrobe goes, Manly suggests, “Wear clothing that makes you feel comfortable and at ease.” Stick to simple pieces that you have worn before and feel good wearing.

“If the audience sees you as relaxed and confident, then they can relax and enjoy your message,” says Shapira.

6. Stroke Your Confidence

After you’ve prepared, practiced, and rehearsed, find a way to relax. Do a little deep breathing, go for a run, or meditate to get into a positive mindset. Remind yourself that you’re as ready as you’ll ever be, and that you can do this.

Shapira tells her clients to conduct a little mental exercise before the big event.

“One day before the presentation,” she says, “sit in a comfortable place and close your eyes. Imagine the presentation from start to finish, including the warm round of applause you’ll hear as you finish. Imagine the presentation going well. When you open your eyes, you’ll feel like you’ve already given the speech successfully, which will increase your confidence.”