7 Tips to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking


man holding pen and paper feeling anxious

The fear of public speaking is as ubiquitous as it is paralysing for many people in the workplace today.

Are you one of the millions of people who feel nervous or uncomfortable about public speaking?

Mindful Presenter has spent over a decade helping professionals all over the world to manage and overcome their fear of public speaking.

There are no ‘magic wands’ or ‘silver bullets’ which will instantly remove the fear of public speaking. It takes mindfulness, practice and effort to work your way through the challenge.

If you struggle with a fear of public speaking you are in good company. It affects millions of people globally and has been around for so long it has its own name. ‘Glossophobia’ is the medical term for the fear of public speaking. Please don’t let the fact that it has its own medical term worry you. There is a great deal you can do to manage, control and even overcome the challenge.

Follow these 7 tips to begin your journey of building confidence as a public speaker.

Tip 1 – Refocus

 “There are two types of speakers: Those who get nervous and those who are liars.” Mark Twain

You weren’t handpicked by the Universe to feel the fear of public speaking during your time here on earth.

It’s a global and densely populated club; you are not alone.

Penned in the 1930s, the Serenity Prayer offers some helpful wisdom. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The fear of public speaking is something you can change. It does, however, take a litte courage.

Start by recognising the fact that the fear of public speaking is:

– One of the most common challenges in the workpalce today.

– Not personal. There is nothing wrong with you.

– Fixable

– A pathway to growth

Tip 2 – Reframe

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Dr Wayne Dyer 

This of course is a significant human challenge which extends itself far beyond the fear of public speaking. You can read much more about this in one of Wayne Dyer’s first books, ‘Your Erroneous Zones.’

Our perceptions can have a profound affect on the way we experience every aspect of life; public speaking included.

I like the  way  Linda Humphreys, PhD put’s it as quoted in the article, ‘How Your Perception Is Your Reality, According to Psychologists’.

“Perception molds, shapes, and influences our experience of our personal reality. Perception is merely a lens or mindset from which we view people, events, and things.”

My audience – Perception A

– My audience are predators and I am their prey

– They are judges who are waiting to challenge and criticize me.

– Some of them will probably know more than me anyway.

My audience Perception B

– They are just like me and want me to do well.

-My audience are son’s, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers.

– Everyone is on my side and can’t wait to hear me speak.

Is it possible that they are simply looking for you to help make their lives better, easier or happier in some way?

Tip 3 – Revisit

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Do you truly enjoy being presented to?

Most people don’t; they prefer to be connected with.

It may be time to revisit your purpose. Is your role to present to an audience or connect with them?

What’s the difference?

Presenting is often seen as sharing knowledge, data, an update or idea to a group. This may be in a meeting, team briefing or perhaps conference.

Connecting is  how you set about presenting. In a previous article I wrote ‘ The A to Z of Mindful Presenting: C – Connecting’  I suggested that ‘Whatever your position or role is, everyone wants to feel connected to you and your message. They don’t just wasn’t the data. They want a dialogue. Your audience want a conversation that they can relate too in a way that connects with them emotionally as well as intellectually.’

The best way to revisit your purpose is to:

Stop – focusing on how you can impress your audience.

Start – thinking about how you can make them feel something emotionally as well as intellectually.

Tip 4 – Refresh

In his article, ‘No Freaking Speaking’, Matt Abrahams suggests:

We are really mean to ourselves. There are things we do to ourselves that we could never imagine doing to others. Nowhere is this more evident than prior to giving a presentation. The negative self-talk we invoke and the fear stories we tell ourselves set us up for failure.’

To overcome the fear of public speaking we have to completely refresh the way we speak to ourselves.

Negative self talk can do considerable harm.  In her article ‘The Toxic Effects of Negative Self-Talk’, author Elizabeth Scott, PhD shares some very helpful tips.

Three of my favourite self-talk ideas in  Kathryn Drury Wagner’s  ’20 Affirmations for Public Speaking with Ease’ are:

– ‘I am grateful for this opportunity to connect with others’

– ‘Today, I’m making a difference by being brave’

– ‘I am more and more comfortable speaking in front of others’

Just speak nicely to yourself.

Tip 5 – Remember 

What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are.” –Anthony Robbins

You have come a very long way so far.

Do you remember:

– Learning to ride your first bicycle

– Passing an exam at school

– Your first kiss

– Being offered your very first job

– Being promoted

– Falling in love

I’m certain that your list of personal achievements no matter how seemingly small is much wider.

The next time the fear of public speaking begins to raise its sinister head, just remember how far you’ve come.

Tip 6 – Rethink

“A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering.” Byron Katie

When you feel the fear of public speaking ask yourself what’s going through your mind.

If you don’t like what you find, ask yourself the following 4 questions.

– Is it true?

–  Can you absolutely know it’s true?

– How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought?

– Who would you be without the thought?

Contrary to popular belief, we do have control over our thoughts.

When these thoughts creep in:

‘I’ll never be a good public speaker’

‘I know I’ll freeze and make a fool of myself’

‘There is no way I’ll remember what to say’

‘I bet the audience won’t like me’

‘I’ll be a complete nervous wreck speaking in public’

‘ I know someone will ask me a question I can’t answer’

Challenge each of these thoughts with the 4 questions.

Tip 7 – Recharge

In our quest to overcome the fear of public speaking we each have a priceless gift. It’s called the vagus nerve. Here is an extract from a previous article I wrote; ‘Public Speaking Doesn’t Have to Feel So Stressful’

‘We’ve all heard of ‘fight or flight’. It’s a primitive yet critical function of our sympathetic nervous system. When we feel under threat our body reacts in an instant to either fight off the threat or run away from it. Unfortunately, the feeling of vulnerability when speaking to people in public can represent a significant conscious and subconscious threat. This is where the vagus nerve can come to our swift rescue. As a key part of our parasympathetic nervous system it’s the nerve that calms you down.’

One of the best ways to stimulate the vagus nerve to calm us down is to breathe properly. When you feel the fear of public speaking, take a few moments to recharge.

If you’d like to learn a little more about breathing exercises watch the following video:

If you need help overcoming your fear of public speaking:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

Image courtesy of: www.canva.com

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