Conquering the Fear of Public Speaking

Sweaty palms. Upset stomach. Lightheadedness. Short breaths. Fast heartbeats. These might sound like symptoms of the flu. But if you have a fear of public speaking, you may know the feeling.

A Common Condition

First, know that you are not alone. Fear of speaking in public is very common. It includes fear of:

  • Embarrassment
  • Failure
  • Rejection

However, a bit of fear can actually help you be a better speaker. You can use it to push yourself to success!

Ways to Overcome Your Fear

You can overcome your fear of public speaking. Try these tips:

  • Organize your thoughts. Prepare your speech. Create short notes to bring with you.
  • Keep it simple. Limit yourself to 2 to 3 main points. Use your own stories to show your message.
  • Practice, practice, practice. You do not need to memorize your speech word-for-word. Instead become familiar with your subject. You want to be able to explain it, not simply recite it. It is also helpful to rehearse it out loud. Use a timer can help you judge the length and pace of your speech.
  • Think about your delivery. To be more interesting, vary your:
    • Rate of speech—how fast and slow you talk
    • Voice tone—how happy, friendly, relaxed, serious, excited you sound
    • Volume—the softness or loudness of your voice
    • Energy levels
    • Gestures—such as using your hands, or moving around when you speak
  • Arrive early. On the day of your presentation, arrive early. Get to know your audience and the surroundings. Talk to people for a few minutes. This helps you set a friendly tone even before your speech.
  • Focus on the information and the audience. Remember that it is okay to be nervous. You do not need to be perfect. Do not focus on your performance. Focus on your information and audience.
  • Do not dwell on your mistake. If you make a mistake, do not dwell on it. It is okay to pause for a few seconds. It can seem natural to the audience. If the mistake is larger, admit it and move on. Try handling it with humor. This can help you and the audience to relax.

RESOURCES:

The National Speakers Association
http://www.nsaspeaker.org
Toastmasters International
https://www.toastmasters.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Management Centre
https://cmcoutperform.com
Canadian Institute for Knowledge Development
https://cikd.ca

References:

Public speaking tips. Toastmasters International website. Available at: https://www.toastmasters.org/resources/public-speaking-tips. Accessed June 24, 2021.
Social anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/social-anxiety-disorder. Accessed June 24, 2021.
Speech anxiety. University of Pittsburg website. Available at: https://www.comm.pitt.edu/speech-anxiety. Accessed June 24, 2021.
30 ways to manage speaking anxiety. University of Iowa website. Available at: https://counseling.uiowa.edu/self-help/30-ways-to-manage-speaking-anxiety/. Accessed June 24, 2021.
Last reviewed June 24, 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/24/2021

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