Tips to help you overcome a fear of speaking publicly

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Feeling anxious when presented with a public-facing situation, such as delivering a speech, is a common experience for many. Over time, these feelings of anxiousness can develop into a fear of speaking publicly, which then hinders your ability to deliver a speech to the best of your ability. The positive thing about this is that you're able to overcome this fear if you know how to with a series of structured approaches. In this article, we explain some of the most useful tips and techniques that can help you to overcome a fear of speaking publicly.

Why overcome a fear of speaking publicly?

You might assume that it's too difficult to overcome a fear of speaking publicly and believe that it's something that you resign yourself to living with. The reality is, that if it's minor or moderate, learning to overcome your public speaking fear is not only easy but also incredibly beneficial. Overcoming a fear of speaking publicly has a number of advantages, including the following:

  • Better confidence: Overcoming your fear of public speech allows you to have higher levels of confidence in your ability to perform well. This translates into your speech in that you express bolder body language and can deliver words with more power and expressiveness which results in higher levels of audience engagement.

  • Better audience engagement: Tackling your fear of speaking publicly is beneficial on more levels than one. It also proves advantageous for your audience, who can enjoy a speech that you confidently deliver with higher levels of audience engagement.

  • Better speech quality: Besting your fear of public speaking ultimately results in an improved ability to deliver speeches. This results in your speeches being of better quality, which boosts your confidence for the next one and starts a powerful cycle of positive reinforcement.

Related: How to improve public speaking skills to communicate effectively

Tips to help you boost your confidence in public speaking

Overcoming a public speaking phobia is relatively easy if you prepare to do so before the occasion and follow a few key pointers to improve your confidence speaking in front of other people. There are several tips that you can implement to improve your approach, and help you to view public speeches in a positive light. Here are some of the most common tips for boosting your confidence in public speaking, both in the workplace and in your personal life:

Prepare your speech beforehand

One of the best ways to reduce a phobia of public speech is to prepare what you're going to say beforehand. This includes conducting all of the necessary research and organising your speech into sections that are easy to read. You may also wish to write out your speech onto flashcards that split up what you want to say into smaller chunks.

Rehearse your speech often

Rehearsing your speech often is one of the best ways to familiarise yourself with the contents of that speech. This reduces your nerves about speaking aloud because you're already well versed with the content. While rehearsing your speech, you can also practise things such as intonation and expressiveness.

Related: How to start a presentation and keep the audience interested

Consider multimedia assistance

Adding a multimedia element to your speech has several benefits. For one, it helps to reduce the emphasis on you, and any pressure you may feel. Adding multimedia such as a video or slideshow is also beneficial for your audience, as it's engaging and visual alongside being auditory.

Plan your outfit in advance

Don't understate the power of an outfit. Dressing well in clean clothes that complement your appearance is empowering and can help you to feel more confident. Knowing that you look good can decrease your fear of public speaking as you're less worried about your audience judging you.

Related: How to build confidence at work

Do something to calm your nerves

Doing a calming activity before the start of your speech helps you to feel grounded and therefore be less worried about speaking in public. There are many activities you can do to calm your nerves. Some of the most popular activities include meditation, going to the gym or completing some breathing exercises.

Familiarise yourself with the location

Sometimes, a fear of speaking publicly arises from a fear of being in the unknown. An easy way to combat this is to visit the location of your speech beforehand, be that a lecture hall or in a meeting room. By familiarising yourself with the location, it feels less daunting to stand there and deliver a speech.

Related: How to end a presentation effectively: a step-by-step guide

Techniques to help you overcome a fear of speaking publicly

Alongside following the tips on how to boost your public speaking confidence, there are also a number of other techniques that you can employ. These techniques may end up helping you during your speech if you feel nerves beginning to rise. Here are some of the most successful techniques to combat your public speaking phobia:

Engage the audience

Engaging the audience is a useful way to lighten any negative feelings that you have, such as nervousness. Consider the speech as more of a conversation between yourself and the audience. This not only allows you to relax but also helps your audience to better absorb the content of your speech.

Take it slow

If you're feeling nervous during a speech, it's easy to want to speak as quickly as possible to get it over with. Slowing down your speech can actually help to quash any nerves. This is because, if you speak slower, your body might relax more as you don't trigger your fight or flight response. Speaking slower is also beneficial for your audience.

Complete breathing exercises

There are many breathing exercises that you can discreetly do whilst speaking or waiting to speak. One of the most popular breathing exercises is the 4-2-4 exercise. This is where you breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 2 seconds and then breathe out through your mouth for 4 seconds.

Related: How to take your presentation skills to the next level

Retain your positivity

One of the easiest techniques to employ when you're feeling fearful of a public speech is to try and remain positive. Having a positive approach to the speech helps to settle your nerves. If you feel self-doubt begin to creep in, try to counter it with a positive thought instead.

Embrace any mistakes

Whilst it can be easy to feel put off by any mistakes you make, embracing them is an easy technique to help you feel more confident. If you mispronounce a word, simply correct yourself and move on. Even though it may seem like a big deal to you, it's likely that your audience might focus on the topic you're discussing instead.

Release any tension

During a speech, you may be building up tension and not even realise it. If you notice yourself feeling tense, try and relax your muscles, such as in your shoulders. This allows you to relax on a subconscious level, which results in you feeling less nervous about delivering your speech.

Darken the room

If you darken the room you deliver your speech in, you may end up overcoming your fear of public speaking. This is because you're less likely to see the faces of your audience, which means you're less concerned with their judgements of you. The result of this is that you can focus on your speech alone.

What does a fear of public speaking feel like?

If you fear public speaking but are unsure what you consider to be normal nerves by most people, then there are some telltale, regularly experienced signs that you can look out for. These signs span both physical and mental symptoms. Here are some of the most common manifestations of a fear of speaking publicly:

  • dizziness

  • panicky feeling

  • heart palpitations

  • lightheadedness

  • clamminess

  • shortness of breath

If you notice any of these symptoms before a speech, it's likely that you have a fear of public speaking. Whilst experiencing a fear of public speaking on an intense level may require medical attention such as attending therapy, the tips mentioned in this article can help you to alleviate mild to moderate fearfulness.

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