The Fear of Public Speaking - How to Overcome It

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Public speaking is an activity, which can help you to improve your speaking and communication skills greatly. It increases your confidence and self-esteem.

However, does just the thought of actually getting up in front of a group of unfamiliar people send terror down your spine? If so, the following tips will help you deal with your fear of public speaking:

Just do it

Although public speaking might seem particularly scary, it’s just like any other activity you might be unfamiliar with, which could make you feel anxious. In order to ultimately get over public speaking phobia, you need to do it.

Sign up to a local public speaking group and take the first step.

Continue making baby steps

The great thing about joining a public speaking group is you don’t have to speak the first time you attend a class – unless you want to. If you feel it’s too much for you, then just sit and observe other speakers getting up to speak and get comfortable with the whole set up.

Next week or month (depending on the frequency of the classes), be a little braver and get up and say a few words.

Prepare well

A great way to deal with the fear of public speaking is to prepare well. When you’ve decided on the topic of your speech, write out the script in full, and then rewrite it again in note form. After this, rehearse your speech, again and again until you begin to feel confident.

By knowing the content of your speech well, you’re setting yourself up for a successful delivery of it.

Visualise yourself

Not only can you help yourself by saying your speech out loud through rehearsing, you can also take this further by vividly visualising yourself giving your speech in just the way you want to.

See yourself giving a successful speech on the screen of your mind, and you will send out the right messages to your body to act out your visualisation for real when you give your speech.

Imagine you’re speaking to friends

A huge factor which can put you off public speaking is worry about what the audience will think. You think they might judge you or that you will make a mistake and look stupid.

The reality is that no one will really judge you, and making a mistake doesn’t mean you’re stupid. It means you’re human. Nevertheless, you can still be concerned about others.

One technique you can use to deal with this is to imagine the audience you’re going to be speaking to are friends. Even if you’ve never spoken with any of them, still assume they’re friends.

By assuming their friends, you’re helping yourself to feel more comfortable.

Welcome the nerves

Before you give a speech, you will feel nervous. You’re not alone. Everyone does. Even the most seasoned public speaker will feel some butterflies in his/her stomach before giving a speech.

Nerves are not a sign that you should not speak. Nerves are a sign that you that you have the opportunity to make your speech fresh and slightly spontaneous. Such qualities will only enhance your delivery.

My friends, it’s over to you:

• What other approaches and techniques can we use to overcome the fear of public speaking?
• Please share your valuable views, experiences and thoughts in the comments box below.
• Please also share this post on your favourite social networks. Thank you.

24 Comments
  1. Hiten, I can appreciate this post because I went from the journey of being nervous about public speaking to becoming a lawyer and having to speak in front of juries, judges and crowds. The two most important things i learned was to take it in small steps and build up your confidence over time. The second step and the secret to public speaking was simply practice – over and over and over 🙂

    I didn’t quite achieve both on my own and joined my local Toastmasters club in college and stayed on for about 3-4 years. there’s no better place to learn and these Toastmaster clubs are all over the world. It’s a mini lab where you can take some steps and start from small speeches and go to bigger ones. The series of exercises asks you to work on your voice, hand gestures, presence and content. Going to my first meeting was my first small step. Participating was my next one. Giving speeches regularly was my next one.

    Just like a lot of things in life, I learned that public speaking got better when I did more of it. So, I spoke at my own club in college, participated in local competitions and then continued speaking when I got to law school.I’m no expert public speaker but probably 100x better than when I started:) Practice helps you confront the nerves you discuss too. The more comfortable you are at calming your nerves, the better your speech will be.

    1. Hi Vishnu,

      Many thanks for sharing your experiences of public speaking. Indeed, when you were in law, I can imagine you must have had to bring a lot of persuasion into what you said, and really keep your nerve when speaking in front of juries and judges. It sounds fascinating.

      You’re experiences with public speaking are a great example of how one can develop competence in this skill. As you say, baby steps and regular practice really are the ways to go.

      In the UK we have the Association of Speakers, which is our equivalent to Toastmasters. I just love public speaking groups. There are usually so supportive and non-judgemental. They give people the opportunity to develop confidence in a safe environment. As you explained, such clubs also break down public speaking into various types of skills (use of voices, gestures, use of notes etc.) which one can develop.

      Many thanks for leaving such a wonderful comment, Vishnu. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday and have a great week ahead!

  2. Hi Hiten,

    Ah…this one seems so apt for me because it reminds me of my time, years back 🙂

    Yes, the fear of public speaking is something I suffered from when I was in school, and even though we had many classes based on it and our teachers would make us role play and come up with many solutions, it just didn’t work till I went to college.

    I think what made a difference there was that when you see your friends and others around you sail in the same boat, you know you aren’t alone. Yes, being well prepared was one main thing, and also speaking as if we are speaking to a friend – this is one thing that worked for me. Yes, I’d practice speaking in-front of the mirror also at times because that helps to build your confidence, while at other times it was speaking in-front of family members – so anything that makes you feel good about the way you speak removes such fears.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead 🙂

    1. Hi Harleena,

      Many thanks for sharing your experiences of public speaking. I think it’s interesting how you had classes based around it when we were school. I hope there have more emphasis on it in schools in the UK compared to when I was a pupil.

      What you said about knowing when friends are in the same boat really can help to make one feel more comfortable about public speaking. This is similar to people at public speaking groups. Every person at the club was once in the same boat as a beginner turning up for her/his first class.

      Many thanks for sharing some great additional ways to deal with the fear of public speaking; namely through speaking in front of a mirror and also practicing in front of family members.

      Have a great rest of the week, Harleena! 🙂

  3. Preparing well is essential, Hiten. There can be a point were we over-prepare though. Over-preparation can lead to a more formal presentation, losing some of the natural way we speak and present. We just need to find the right balance in being comfortable with the material, our deliver, and our audience. Great advice offered here. Thank you! Jon

    1. Hi Jon,

      I just loved what you wrote about over-preparing and how it can lose the natural way we speak. This is so true.

      When one does what you said and finds the right balance, there is an edge and spontaneity in the speech which does wonders for its impact on the audience.

      Many thanks for adding more value to the post, Jon and have a great week!

  4. Hiten,

    This post is great. Although, I have MADE myself become a fairly confident person, public speaking is still one thing I am a bit uncomfortable with.

    Through my main site and my ebooks I end up doing about 1 podcast a week or so. Everyone I do makes the next one that easier. It is all about those baby-steps you talked about.

    Few people are BORN supremely confident, those that want to be confident and at ease with public speaking need to get out there and speak in public. It is hard as hell at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

    I am still not crazy about public speaking -but getting better each time.

    Great advice in your article. From experience I think ALL your tips will really help anyone struggling.

    -SJ

    1. Hi SJ,

      Many thanks for your great comment and sharing your experiences of this area. The small steps you’re taking with your podcast and the way your confidence is increasing sounds great.

      You’re spot on about there being few people who are born supremely confident. Confidence can fluctuate and anyone can increase their confidence. Public speaking is one way to do this.

      As you said, with public speaking, one really does need to do it and it gets easier with practice.

      Many thanks for adding so much more value to this post, SJ!

  5. Fabulous post. Fear of public speaking is one of the greatest fear of all in my opinion. I also had this but not sure how I got over it. No matter how many times I rehearsed, I found I was nervous. But one day, I said to myself that I don’t care any more. I like the idea of visualisation, its a great technique of NLP and a powerful one. Thanks for pointing this out.

    1. Hi Shalu,

      Many thanks for sharing your experiences with public speaking and how you got over the fear of doing so.

      Indeed, visualisation is a great technique one can use in preparation for public speaking.

      Thanks for leaving your wonderful comment, Shalu!

  6. Hi Hiten,

    Thanks for another post with very practical advice. I especially appreciate your take on accepting the nerves that come with speaking in public. As an educator, I have to speak in front of people every day. I was extremely nervous when I started my career more than 15 years ago, and I always used the old trick of acting like I was confident. It worked so well for me, because I really do believe that when you start off acting, you see that you really can do it. And then authentic confidence develops from that realization.

    1. Hi CJ,

      I’m so glad you liked the post and many thanks for sharing your experiences of speaking in public. It is wonderful how you used to trick yourself into acting confident and how this worked for you. I’ve also had very good success with this approach and highly recommend it to anyone wishing to increase their self-confidence.

      As you experienced, when you acted confident, it gave you evidence that you could do it. I never actually thought of it as evidence before. However, in an interesting way it could be considered to be so.

      Many thanks for adding so much more value to this post, CJ and hope you’re having a great week!

  7. I don’t enjoy public speaking, but I have overcome the ability to talk to strangers and to a lesser extent, in a public place (not to people, but within earshot of people).

    The few methods I have used to do this is to speak on the phone more, especially somewhere like the train or the bus where you know people will be listening. Also in quiet places like at the bank or post office when people are quietly behind you. Striking up a conversation with the teller is a great way to boost your confidence.

    Above all, I think breathing is the most important skill to master. Something that we all take for granted but is key to a clear and confident voice and tone. If your breathing technique is spot on, then it doesn’t matter what chaos is happening inside your own skin, your listeners will think that you know what you’re talking about.

    1. Hi Jamie,

      It’s wonderful that you have developed the ability to talk to strangers. This is such an important skill to have when it comes to gaining confidence in communicating with others in general.

      I really liked the techniques you used; namely speaking to people on the phone when around others and in quiet places. By speaking up in such situations, we hear our own voices loud and our confidence in speaking up increases.

      What you wrote about proper breathing and how it is key to a clear and confident voice is so true. It’s reminded me to spend more time being conscious of my own breathing when I speak.

      Many thanks for sharing some great tips and advice, Jamie! Hope you’re having a good week.

  8. Public speaking is definitely a tough one. It can be pretty intimidating.

    But I’ve done a few things in the past to combat the fear.

    The first thing is preparation like you said.

    The second thing is to acknowledge that no one wants you to fail and that everyone is rooting for you.

    The third thing is to always go first if possible. I really hate having to sit there and wait my turn to speak. That’s when the nerves get really bad. If I have the option of going first, I will always take it.

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Many thanks for sharing the great techniques you’ve used to overcome the fear of public speaking.

      The point you made about others rooting for us when we get up to speak is so true. This is a great thing to understand and remind ourselves of. It can help take off a lot pressure, as can the other approach you shared; namely volunteering to speak first.

      Many thanks for leaving such a wonderful comment, Kevin and have a great weekend.

  9. Hi Hiten,

    So glad I met you via Harleena. Public speaking is something that most of us have never encountered. But it is important weather you are speaking to a small group of people or a large one.

    Yes, Practice makes perfect! I know so many people in the marketing industry that have admitted that they do get nervous…even sick to their stomach, no matter how many times they have to speak in public. I guess it just goes with it!

    I myself had to do a lot of public speaking in the past. I was prepared with notes and was shaking before I got on stage. But once I got there, I paid no attention to my notes and just spoke and spoke and spoke….Guess I’m a born blabber mouth he he he.

    -Donna

  10. Hi Donna,

    It was great to connect with you over at Harleena’s blog.

    Many thanks for sharing your views and experiences with public speaking. Indeed, as you said, public speaking can really help a person to communicate to both small groups and large groups. It is a wonderful way to increase self-confidence.

    I loved the story you shared about having notes prepared for your speech, but then not using them. This is brilliant!

    Many thanks for commenting, Donna!

  11. Hello Hiten,

    Great and valuable advice. When it comes to public speaking I know the only way to overcome the fear and get better is through action (Public speaking). The more we do it the easier it becomes. Thank you for this fantastic post!

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