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24 Quick Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

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Read Time: 15 mins
This post is part of a series called Fundamentals of Public Speaking (101) Introduction Guide.
How to Get Better At Public Speaking (Improve With Practice)
What Is Public Speaking? & Why Is It Important? (Definition + Tips)

You've just been asked to give a public presentation. Maybe it's for work. Maybe it's for school. But no matter where the assignment came from, one thing is certain: you've got to overcome your fear of public speaking and you've got to overcome it fast.

Fear of public speakingFear of public speakingFear of public speaking
If your upcoming presentation has got a you a bit nervous, that's perfectly normal.  (Source: Envato Elements)

First, if you suffer from public speaking anxiety, know that you're not the only one. Statistics show that most adults have a fear of speaking in public. So, if your upcoming presentation has got a you a bit nervous, that's perfectly normal. 

Also, you should know that many famous people also have suffered from a fear of public speaking. Julia Roberts, for example, is an Academy Award winning actress who's given many successful performances. Roberts reportedly once had a public speaking anxiety due to a stuttering problem as a child. But Roberts overcame that public speaking fear. 

If Julia Roberts could overcome the fear of public speaking, so can you, but it may take a bit of work on your part. Your public speaking anxiety doesn't have to limit your opportunities. 

In this article, I've listed 24 different tips to help you conquer your fear of public speaking. Everybody's different, though. Not every tip is necessarily going to work for every person. The best way to use the list is to pick out the tips that you think most likely to work for you and try those first. (Be honest, don't just pick the ones you think will be the easiest to do.) Then, you can move on to try other public speaking anxiety tips.

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Before we get into our tips on how to overcome the fear of public speaking, I've got a great resource to share with you. Learn everything you need to know to create a great presentation.

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Now, let's learn how to overcome the fear of public speaking.

How to Get Over Your Fear of Public Speaking

Are you ready to tackle your fear of public speaking? Choose one or several of these public speaking anxiety tips:

1. Try Shorter Speeches First

As with anything else, overcoming your fear of public speaking is a process. As part of the process, it's a good idea to begin small. If you were learning math for the first time, you wouldn't jump immediately to the most advanced class. Instead, you'd begin with an introductory course that started you out with the basics. Then, you'd be given some short, simpler exercises to practice with.

Well, public speaking is no different. If you're not used to speaking publicly, your first public speech shouldn't be a long one. Instead, try a shorter speech that'll get you used to speaking in public. A one to three-minute speech is a great length for beginners. Try an introductory speech, for example such as one where you are introducing another speaker, a performance, a movie, or something else. You won't be expected to talk for long—and you won't be the main attraction.

2. Choose a Familiar Location

You'll be more comfortable giving your speech in a familiar location. If you're giving a business presentation, choose your own company's facilities if you can rather than going to a client company. With a familiar location you've already got an idea of what the facility is like. You know how many people can be seated in the room. You've got an idea of whether the room is hot or cold and what the lighting is like. These factors can make public speaking less stressful. But if you can't give your presentation at a familiar location, don't worry. Do try to check out the location in advance if you can to reduce your anxiety.

3. Know Your Topic Well

The better you know that topic that you'll be speaking on, the less likely you are to be caught by surprise when an audience member brings up an unexpected question. You're also less likely to forget what you're going to say and find yourself grasping for words if you're well-versed in your subject matter. So, learn as much you can about your topic matter before giving your speech.

4. Choose a Topic You're Passionate About

Many speakers find that their nerves vanish when they're talking about something they care deeply about. Their passion for their topic overrides any fear of public speaking that they'd otherwise have. This could be true for you as well. If you've got a topic you're passionate about and need to write a motivational speech, use the tips in this helpful tutorial to get ready:

5. Organize Your Material

You may be nervous about giving your presentation, but sometimes there's a good reason for those nerves. For example, if you haven't planned your presentation and you're not quite sure what you're going to say, then you have a good reason to be nervous.

Don't leave the success of your presentation to chance. Plan it carefully. Start by writing a good, well-organized speech. Next, make sure that your presentation looks professional. If you've never written a speech before or if your speech writing skills are rusty, this tutorial can help:

6. Make Good Use of Tools and Templates

As I just mentioned, how your presentation looks affects how you feel about it. If you know your presentation looks good, you're likely to be more confident when you give it. The best way to make sure that your presentation looks good is to make good use of your presentation software. One way to do that is to take advantage of professionally designed presentation templates, such as those available through Envato Elements or GraphicRiver. You can also learn more about your presentation tool by studying our Google Slides tutorials, PowerPoint tutorials, or Keynote tutorials.

7. Practice Your Speech—a Lot

If you've been following any of my public speaking tutorials, you know that I emphasize practicing your speaking to improve your skills. There's a good reason for that. In general, practice works. Practice helps you to feel prepared and also serves the added purpose of helping you to get familiar with your material. So, if your fear of public speaking has got you anxious about giving your next speech, work in some practice sessions before you speak. For some tips on how to make the most of your practice sessions, take a look at this tutorial:

Don't overdo practice, though. For example, don't stay up late into the night the day before your speech practicing. Your rest is important too.

8. Use Props and Extras

If you're afraid of public speaking, one way to handle it is to make sure that your presentation doesn't require you to speak much. Do this by incorporating engaging props and other extras into your presentation. Here's a list of props and other extras that can help you to reduce your actual speaking time:

  • An engaging video
  • Another speaker
  • A question and answer panel
  • An audience activity

If you choose to give this type of speech, you'll be acting more like a facilitator than a speaker. The key is to use high-quality extras and tie it all together neatly for your listeners.

9. Use Positive Self-Talk

If you tend to be hard on yourself, you could be adding to your own public speaking anxiety by thinking of everything that could possibly go wrong during your speech. If this is you, make a conscious effort to change your thought patterns.

One way to start attack negative thinking is by realizing that most of the bad things that you're imagining are unlikely to happen. Next, realize that even if something does go wrong it's likely to be something minor that no one will notice. Finally, picture yourself having completed your speech successfully. You can even imagine your colleagues, friends, or family members congratulating you. If you find yourself slipping back into negative self-talk, tell yourself firmly "I'll do well with this speech." Repeat this phrase as often as needed.

10. Lead a Discussion

In some ways, leading a discussion is easier than giving a speech. In other ways, it may be a bit harder since you've got to manage others and keep them on track. But, like using props and other extras, leading a discussion reduces the amount of actual speaking you've got to do. If it's the actual speaking that has you worried, knowing that you don't have to do a lot of talking yourself can reduce your public speaking anxiety.

11. Your Speech Mistakes Aren't Obvious to Others

You may imagine that every single audience member picked up on that awkward pause, missed point, or other minor mistake. The truth is that your listeners probably didn't even notice. They're especially unlikely to notice if you project an air of confidence while giving your speechEven if your audience does notice the mistake, they probably don't mind a few mistakes if the majority of your speech goes well. Besides, even experienced speakers make mistakes. So, if you find yourself stumbling during your presentation, don't stress over it. 

12. Darken the Room

If the idea of giving your speech in front of a live audience has you spooked, you can ask that the room be darkened so that you can't see anyone while you speak. That way you won't be put off by your listeners' facial expressions during your presentation. If you can't see your audience, you're less likely to be intimidated by them. This tip works well if your presentation room has separate lighting for the stage area (where the speakers are).

13. Have a Great Lead-In

The better your speech starts, the better it'll go. Plus, as a speaker, you can often tell if your opening is well-received. Knowing that your audience is receptive early in your talk can bolster your confidence. And, if you can engage your audience at the beginning of your speech odds are better that you'll hold their attention throughout it. So, invest some extra time into finding just the right lead-in for your speech.

14. Remember to Breathe

Surprisingly, one of the biggest obstacles to giving a speech successfully is not breathing properly. It's easy to speed up your speech and forget to breathe if you're a bit nervous. (I know about this struggle first-hand.) Sadly, not breathing properly while you're giving a public speech can create a vicious cycle. Not only does not breathing properly make you uncomfortable, it affects the way your voice sounds to your listeners and makes you sound less confident. So, work strategic pauses into your speech that give you a change to catch your breath.

15. Watch Others Give Speeches

If you're new to public speaking or especially fearful of speaking in public it can help to listen to others give speeches. You can learn from the techniques that other speakers use, and you can also reassure yourself by noticing that even experienced speakers aren't perfect and make mistakes. Ted Talks online is one popular source of speeches that you could listen to prepare yourself for giving a presentation. I've compiled some of my favorite Ted Talks in this article:

16. Write Down Positives About Yourself Before You Speak

Maybe one reason you've got a public speaking fear is that you don't feel qualified to give a presentation. But if you've been asked to speak publicly there's a reason. You're likely more qualified than you realize. You can reassure yourself and fight your public speaking fear by listing some of the positives about yourself before you give your speech. Start by finishing off this sentence, "I'm qualified to give this speech because..." Possible answers might include:

  • I'm qualified to give this speech because I've worked in this field for X years.
  • I'm qualified to give this speech because I've studied this topic by doing X & Y.
  • I'm qualified to give this speech because I've got firsthand experience of how this affects people.
  • And so on...

17. Get to Know Your Audience Members Before Speaking

If it's the idea of getting up and talking in front of a bunch of strangers that's making you nervous about giving a public presentation, try this tip on how to get over your fear of public speaking. Arrive at the speaking venue early and mingle with members of your audience by striking up casual conversations. As you get to know a few members of your audience, they cease to be strangers. In particular, take note of those people who seem friendly. Keep those people in mind as you give your speech.

18. Be Fair to Yourself

If you've got a fear of speaking in public, there's a possibility it's because you're a perfectionist. As a perfectionist, you're probably way too hard on yourself and you may be tempted to think there's no way your speech will be good enough. In fact, some studies such as this one mentioned by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology have found a link between perfectionism and burnout. If this is you, don't judge yourself so harshly (and don't quit). Instead, use one of the other public speaking anxiety tips to keep yourself from giving up. 

19. Be Truthful

Lying makes most people nervous. And the nervousness can contribute to your public speaking anxiety. So, if you're not sure of some of the information in your presentation, limit your presentation to only those facts that you are certain about. If you must include something that you're not sure about (such as when a boss makes you include it) admit that you're uncertain about the information or that you need to study it more. You'll feel better about giving a speech when you're confident the material you present is correct.

20. Smile

Most people don't realize it, but smiling can have a positive effect on your attitude. As this article from Psychology Today explains, the positive effects of smiling start in your body when your brain releases neurotransmitters that help you feel good. Smiling can also reduce stress and help you to seem more confident. Plus, you'll seem friendlier when you smile, which will make others more receptive to your message.

21. Exercise Before Speaking

Exercise is a well-established method of reducing stress and anxiety. So, if you've got a fear of speaking in public don't skip your daily workout on the day of your speech if you can help it. The exercise will help calm your nerves and get you in the right mindset for your speech. Aerobic exercise is thought to provide some of the best stress relief, so even something as simple as taking a brisk walk can help.

22. Use a Power Pose

A recent technique for improving confidence in public situations is the power pose, advocated by social psychologist Amy Cuddy. The idea behind the power pose is that your body language can affect your confidence level. By appearing confident, such as when you stand up straight with your hands on your hips, you'll begin to feel more confident. Does it work? The idea of the power pose has been hotly debated recently and the jury's still out on the final answer—but in the meantime paying attention to your body language and posture as you speak couldn't hurt.

23. Get Speech Training

If you've got the resources, extra training in public speaking can help you to feel more confident in your speaking abilities. The right coach can help you target and overcome any bad speaking habits you might have. Plus, working with a speech professional will provide you with extra practice.

24. Join a Speaking Group

If you don't have the resources to hire a speaking coach, joining a group dedicated to improving your public speaking skills can offer many of the same benefits. And you'll also benefit from networking with others who've got an interest in improving their public speaking skills. One popular public speaking group is Toastmasters International, which can be found in 141 countries worldwide.

Download Our Free PDF eBook on Making Great Presentations

We've got the perfect complement to this tutorial, that'll help you take your presentation know-how further. Learn how to write, design, and deliver great presentations. 

Download The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations for FREE with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business Newsletter. Get your ideas formed into a powerful presentation that'll move your audience.

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Start to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking Today

We've just shared over 20 public speaking anxiety tips to help you overcome your fear of public speaking. Hopefully you've found one or more tips that'll work for you. Good luck on your upcoming presentation!

Let's make this article a great resource for others. If you've got a tip that helped you overcome your public speaking fear and it's not already listed in the article, why not share it in the comments below?

Editorial Note: This content was originally published in June of 2018. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.

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