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Overcome The Fear Of Public Speaking

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

“Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don’t want.” —Esther Hicks

In my youth, I would rather miss a day at school than have to get up to speak in front of the class. It is ironic that I now teach people how to overcome this fear and go on to become confident speakers. I know you want practical advice so am going to do my best to give you some pointers here.

If can do it, so can you. I know many people who have overcome this fear but they have had certain things in common: They had the desire. They had the willingness and they had the determination. They also took action. Consider joining a speaking club (Captivating Speakers Gym is an option) and learning the skills. If you can afford a coach, hire one. I know what a difference I’ve made in my students’ lives.

Here’s a start:

  1. Determine the cause of your fear. Is it a fear of judgment? Do you think that people will think you’re stupid? Are you afraid you will go blank and not know the answer? Determining the cause is a good place to start. Remember that EVERYONE fears judgment. They just handle it in different ways. If you think about it, it is such an irrational fear. You cannot control how others think about you. You can only control how you think about yourself. Start thinking more positively about yourself.

  2. Act in contradiction to how you feel. The central nervous system doesn’t know the difference between something imagined and something real. Act confident and soon you will feel confident. Begin practicing this. Stand up straight, put your shoulders back, and hold your head high. Project your voice and speak confidently. So often, when people are fearful, they try to make themselves smaller and hunch over, clutch their own hands, and then mumble. Do the opposite. Open your body, use gestures, eye contact, and smile.

  3. Be Prepared. I teach my clients how to have a “pocket full of strategy” for times like this. A joke is a good way to break the tension. You can prepare these in advance. Example: “My IQ test result came back. It was negative!” I remember a Toastmaster standing up to say, “The brain is a marvelous thing. It starts working in the womb and doesn’t stop until….you get called on to speak!” It garnered a good laugh and that broke the tension.

  4. Stall for time. If you’re asked a question, stall for time. Say something like, “Please repeat the question.” If it is not disrespectful (i.e. not in class), you could say, “Please repeat the question but in English this time!” Another way is to say, “Good question and I would like to give it some thought” (or) “I don’t have an answer for you. I just went blank!” It’s amazing how honesty pays off and it makes you more relatable. Think of creative ways to deal with uncomfortable situations and you’ll be amazed at how much more manageable that fear will be.

  5. Tell yourself that you’re excited rather than nervous. The sensations are the same.

  6. Listen to empowering music. This always helps me. I will visualize myself the way I wish to be while listening to powerful music that inspires me. Keep this up as a practice. It is amazing how it works.

  7. Imagine your audience (classmates) as toddlers. I remember the advice that you should imagine your audience nude but I would never be able to speak if I thought about my audience naked. I find it much easier to speak to an audience of toddlers (in my mind’s eye) and it helps me to have some fun and not take myself so seriously. After all, we are all kids inside.

Hope this has helped you a bit. I have written a book called, “What Are You Saying?” which is available on Amazon that goes much deeper into the cause of the fear and how to overcome it.

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