How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

Five Parts:Speaking HelpFacing your fearsBeing preparedRelaxingWorking with the audience

Did you know that public speaking is the number one fear in North America? The second greatest fear is death! If you have the fear of public speaking, you are not alone. You must first recognize what "fear" is. Fear is the anticipation of pain. Is your fear real or imagined?

Speaking Help

Sample Speaking Exercises

Sample Orators

Sample High School Treasurer Speech

Part 1
Facing your fears

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    Realize the source of your fear. In a nutshell, it is not knowing what will happen when you are in front of people, giving your speech or presentation. Your fear is not that you don't know your topic. It is that you don't know what will happen when you step to the podium or table.
    • The fear of being judged, making a mistake, not measuring up, getting hurt either mentally or physically can get in the way of a good performance (speech, seminar, sales presentation, etc). Remember that people in the audience really want you to succeed. Nobody is standing there hoping you'll be boring or bad. If you are coming from an authentic place, and you cover the material with clarity, you've won 3/4 of your inner battle with fear.
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    Face down your fears. If you feel your knees turning to jelly out of fear, remind yourself that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Almost certainly, whatever it is that you're frightened of won't happen. If there is a real worry, for example you've forgotten an important prop, do something about it and then stop worrying. Remember, you can always rationalize yourself out of fear.

Part 2
Being prepared

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    Prepare. Make sure you know the material that you're going to cover. Make a detailed outline, and break it into basic points to memorize. Include subpoints and the title of speech. Here is an idea to help you build a speech that flows well:
    • Associate each part of the outline into a "room" in your house. Your first point is your entry room. The second point is your hallway/kitchen/living room (as you step through your house in your imagination), etc.
    • Associate each sub point with pictures on the wall. Have the pictures demonstrate something that will help you remember your point. The more ridiculous, the better the speech will stick (as long as you don't get distracted).
    • The morning of the presentation, walk through "the house" in your mind to "decode" the memorization technique.
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    Practice. Find business organizations, networks and clubs in your area (such as Toastmasters) that can afford you the opportunity to practice. Remember to choose topics that you are already an expert on. Speaking on a topic that you are not familiar with will increase your stress, and impede on your performance.
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    Buy some recording software, and record everything on your laptop. Review it to see where you can improve. Have speaking pros attend your live presentation to give you feedback. Allow yourself the opportunity to learn more every time you go out.

Part 3

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    Breathe deeply. Practicing a breathing exercise before you go on will relax your body and mind. Here's one that you can do anywhere, even in the wings. Stand still and feel the ground beneath your feet. Close your eyes and imagine yourself suspended from the ceiling by a thin thread. Just listen to your breathing and tell yourself there is no rush. Slow your breathing until you can count to 6 seconds of in-breath and 6 seconds of out-breath. You'll now go on in a totally relaxed and confident mood.
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    Relax. Relaxing is the art of letting go. There are many ways to let go. You can imagine you're made of rubber . Or you can sit in front of a mirror and make a horse's laugh with your lips. Why not lie on the ground and pretend you're floating? Or, just collapse on the ground like a limp doll. Letting go un-tenses the body and makes you more at ease and relaxed.
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    Make use of the wall push. The wall push was a technique used by Yul Brynner, star of the musical "The King and I". This is what you do:
    • Stand about 18" away from a wall and place your palms flat on it.
    • Push against the wall. As you push, your abdominal muscles will contract. As you breathe out, hiss and contract the muscles below your rib cage as if you were rowing a boat against the current.
    • Do this a few times, and you'll banish all feelings of stage-fright.
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    Be aware that adrenaline sends the blood rushing to the fight/flight centres of your brain at the base of the skull. Place your hand on your forehead and press gently on the bony points. This will bring the blood to the parts of the brain that need it to present your speech best.

Part 4
Working with the audience

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    Learn how to enroll and engage your audience. If you haven't yet taken a professional development course on public speaking, consider finding a public speaking training course appropriate for your needs. Learning the art of public speaking can enhance your results in a boardroom, in a sales presentation, and even accelerate your climb up the corporate ladder. It is a must-skill for any executive and/or business owner.
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    Recognize that people can't see your nervousness. When you're walking out onto the stage toward the podium, no one knows you're nervous. Your stomach could be in knots and you feel like you're going to be sick, but you really aren't showing nervous behavior. Sometimes, with public speaking, you think that people may notice you're nervous. This makes you even more nervous. There are only a few subtle cues that show a person is nervous and they're so small, that the ordinary person wouldn't put more than 1 second into them. Don't worry so much. People don't see that extreme nervous beast inside you.
    • Bluff. Stand tall, with shoulders back and chest out. Smile. Even though you don’t feel happy or confident, do it anyway. You will look confident and your body will fool your brain into thinking it is confident.
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    Do not overthink the audience's reactions. When you are on stage or speaking in public, calm your mind. Remember that even if you see people looking at you like they think you are weird, ignore it. What they think doesn't matter. If there really is something that you know you are doing wrong, fix it as quick as possible.
    • Yawning, bored expressions and similar negative facial expressions will always appear in an audience. Chances are some of those people will be bored whatever the occasion; some of those people are difficult to please; some of those people are tired; some of those people are distracted. None of these reasons reflect on you.


  • Remember, you don't look as nervous as you feel.
  • If you think the people you're talking to will judge you too much, think that they're not themselves. Think that they're your siblings or friends. People who respect you and won't judge you if you make a mistake.
  • Only you know what you are supposed to say or do so it's okay to change things during the presentation. (It's okay not to be word-for-word as your wrote it.)
  • Remember, even the top professionals learn something new every single time they go out!
  • Try low lighting. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation. Display it on the projector, and turn off the lights in the room. By doing this, you will have an enormous advantage because nobody will be looking at you and the projector will draw all of the attention from you. This will give you a sense of relief like you wouldn't believe, making your presentation completely stress free. This method does not cure the fear of public speaking but it does help you avoid the anxiety throughout the speech.
  • Tell yourself, "One is admired when looked upon by others."
  • Remember that when you are asked to speak, if you are coming from a place of service, you can't go wrong. Remember, it's not about you. It's about them - your audience. You are not the star, they are.
  • If you go to school, volunteer to read the text when the class is reading textbooks.
  • You should ask a few friends to listen to you do it in front of them so you know what it's like to talk in a crowd. When you've got your first speech over, your next one will be much better as you can improve on the first, and you'll know what to expect.
  • Pretend that nobody is watching you and that you are in your room alone purely practising.
  • Smile and try to make some jokes to cover your nervousness. The audience will laugh (but in a good way, of course!) and think that you're really funny. Don't try to be humorous in serious situations such a funeral or an important meeting though, or you might get into big trouble!
  • Pretend you are the only person in the room and try not to make eye contact with anyone.
  • Imagine that they are someone who would appreciate a lot.


  • Don't give a wrong or uninformed answer. Defer to a later time and ask "is it okay if I get back to you on that on the break. I want to make sure I cover the subject well, and get you the right answer".
  • If you don't know the answer to a question, ask the audience if anyone knows the answer to the question (you don't have to admit you don't know just ask the audience).
  • Avoid death by PowerPoint; overuse of slides during a talk will put your audience to sleep.
  • Avoid standing behind podiums, tables or any physical barrier between you and your audience.
  • Don't take anything personally.

Things You'll Need

  • Flip chart
  • Flip chart paper
  • Markers
  • Promotional material
  • Microphone
  • Music stand or lectern (to hold your notes)

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Public Speaking