12 Ways to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

July 20, 2023
Posted in Questions
July 20, 2023 Terkel

12 Ways to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

Public speaking can be a daunting task, but there are practical ways to overcome the fear. We’ve gathered thirteen insightful tips from professionals, including CEOs and community managers, to help you conquer this common fear. From joining Toastmasters for consistent practice to projecting confidence and using pauses effectively, these tips offer a comprehensive guide to mastering public speaking.

  • Join Toastmasters for Consistent Practice
  • Talk to Yourself First
  • Partner with a Trusted Reviewer
  • Embrace Imperfections in Public Speaking
  • Overcome Fear with Preparation
  • Start Small, Gradually Increase Exposure
  • Speak with Your Eyes Closed
  • Use Visualization to Reduce Anxiety
  • Combine Exposure, Preparation, and Visualization
  • Recruit Supportive Friends
  • Try Systematic Desensitization
  • Project Confidence, Use Pauses Effectively

Join Toastmasters for Consistent Practice

Overcoming public speaking fear is achievable through consistent practice. Join groups like Toastmasters to routinely rehearse speeches. Consistent practice allows you to gain feedback and build confidence.

Regular exposure to public speaking situations helps in mastering the skill. As you become more comfortable, anxiety reduces, leading to effective public speaking. The fear dissipates, replaced by confidence and proficiency.

Rita BerryRita Berry
Therapist/Life Coach/Author

Talk to Yourself First

During my Ph.D. studies, I was a speaker at dozens of national and international conferences. At the beginning of the academic journey, I felt sick at the thought of public speaking. Luckily, being my own audience first (before the actual presentation) helped me overcome this fear.

Talking to yourself is a simple yet effective method to combat presentation-related stress, improve fluency, and boost self-confidence. You can focus on your thoughts and ideas without the added pressure of a real audience. It may feel awkward at the beginning, but—trust me—it works.

Listening to your presentation is a chance to implement changes beforehand. Maybe something doesn’t sound well or is hard to pronounce? Does it take too much or too little time? You can also practice using appropriate pauses, modulation, and gestures to enhance your speaking style. The more confident you feel about your presentation, the easier it is to reduce stress.

Agata SzczepanekAgata Szczepanek
Community Manager, MyPerfectResume

Partner with a Trusted Reviewer

The best way to overcome public speaking fear is to practice. Begin by having a trusted person review your presentation. Choose someone who can stay objective. It helps to pick someone similar to your intended audience. Their feedback can be invaluable.

This approach uses the exposure therapy principle. You face your fear by doing exactly what scares you: speaking in front of someone. It’s starting small, with an audience of one. Their positive feedback can help you visualize just talking to them when it’s showtime. It’s a strategy that has been found effective. Start small, grow confidence, and expand from there. You’ll soon find public speaking isn’t as daunting as it seemed.

Amar GhoseAmar Ghose
CEO, ZenMaid

Embrace Imperfections in Public Speaking

Realizing you’re human—and that humans aren’t perfect—can help ease the fear of public speaking. Since no one is perfect, and even experienced speakers make mistakes, give yourself some grace.

Embrace the idea that imperfections are a natural part of the speaking process. Focus on delivering your message effectively rather than striving for perfection. Accept that making minor errors or experiencing nerves is normal and doesn’t diminish your value as a speaker.

Kelli AndersonKelli Anderson
Career Coach, Resume Seed

Overcome Fear with Preparation

One of the most practical ways to overcome the fear of public speaking is to practice. I used to think that planning what I would speak about would make for a less worthy speech. But what I’ve learned over the years is, the better prepared you are, the better the delivery.

So, get out there and practice beforehand. Practice on families, on friends, and on anyone who will listen. It doesn’t matter if your speech varies slightly each time. Practicing will give you the confidence to get out there and adapt every single time.

John MooneyJohn Mooney
President, IML

Start Small, Gradually Increase Exposure

Start small and gradually increase your exposure. Practice is key. Begin by speaking in front of smaller, supportive audiences like friends, family, or colleagues. This allows you to gain experience and build your confidence.

As you become more comfortable, gradually challenge yourself by speaking in front of larger audiences. The idea is to take small steps and you’ll be able to develop the necessary skills and confidence to tackle public speaking with ease. Remember, practice makes perfect.

Shaun ConnellShaun Connell
Founder and CEO, U.S. Dictionary

Speak with Your Eyes Closed

To overcome your fear of public speaking, practice with your eyes closed. This can be a key incremental step between practicing by yourself and in front of other, trusted, people. Oftentimes, even public speaking in front of people you know well can be daunting. Close your eyes so you can be comfortable with their presence, but you can avoid feeling intimidated by seeing their reactions in real time.

Adam ShlomiAdam Shlomi
Founder, SoFlo Tutors

Use Visualization to Reduce Anxiety

Visualization is a fantastic technique that helps people conquer their fear of public speaking. It involves using your imagination to create vivid mental pictures of successful speaking situations, which can reduce anxiety and boost confidence.

To use visualization, here’s what you can do:

  • Find a quiet and comfortable spot. Settle down in a peaceful place where you can relax and concentrate without any disturbances.
  • Create a mental image. Picture yourself in a specific speaking scenario where you feel confident and booming. It could be delivering a presentation to an engaged audience, receiving applause and positive feedback.
  • Repeat and reinforce. Practice regularly, preferably daily. The more you repeat the process, the more familiar and at ease you become with it.

Visualization works by training your mind to respond positively to public speaking. It helps rewire any negative associations or fears linked to speaking in front of others.

Peter BrylaPeter Bryla
Community Manager, ResumeLab

Combine Exposure, Preparation, and Visualization

One practical way to overcome the fear of public speaking is through gradual exposure and practice. Start by speaking in smaller, more comfortable settings, such as presenting to friends or family members.

As you gain confidence, gradually increase the audience size or join public speaking groups where you can practice in a supportive environment. Another effective approach is to prepare thoroughly. Familiarize yourself with the topic, create a well-structured presentation, and practice it multiple times. Visualize yourself delivering the speech successfully and receiving positive feedback.

Additionally, focus on deep breathing and relaxation techniques before and during your speech to manage anxiety. Remember that even experienced speakers get nervous, but with practice and persistence, you can gradually conquer your fear and become a more confident public speaker.

Trey FerroTrey Ferro
CEO, Spot Pet Insurance

Recruit Supportive Friends

One of the best ways to become more confident in public speaking is to practice in front of an audience. Ideally, this audience will be a few supportive friends.

The main thing is to take it seriously. Run your presentation or give your speech the way you will when you give it for real. Don’t expect it to be amazing. The goal isn’t to become a charismatic speaker. The goal is to get more comfortable. If possible, try to give the same talk again to a different group of friends.

A lot of the fear of public speaking is just fear. It isn’t grounded in reality. Demonstrating to yourself that you can do it in comfortable situations should give you the confidence you need when the situation becomes more public.

Temmo KinoshitaTemmo Kinoshita
Co-Founder, Lindenwood Marketing

Try Systematic Desensitization

One practical way to overcome the fear of public speaking is through systematic desensitization. Systematic desensitization is a method that involves gradually exposing yourself to situations that involve speaking in front of others to reduce your anxiety. Instead of diving into a big speaking event immediately, start with more minor, less intimidating situations, like speaking up in small group discussions.

Take it step-by-step, setting achievable goals for each stage, such as giving short presentations to a small audience and gradually increasing the size and duration of your speeches. By practicing regularly, seeking feedback, and visualizing success, you can slowly build confidence and overcome your fear of public speaking.

Dennis ConsorteDennis Consorte
Digital Marketing and Leadership Consultant for Startups, Snackable Solutions

Project Confidence, Use Pauses Effectively

Before beginning, take a deep breath and, if possible, a sip of water. The secret to becoming an effective public speaker is to come across as confident. Your audience will share your confidence if you feel confident. Maintain eye contact, and if this throws you off, try glancing at people’s foreheads rather than their eyes.

Also, don’t be afraid to pause within a sentence to gather your thoughts. If utilized properly, pausing can help you stress specific points, which can be successful. Look at well-known public speakers and observe their techniques. Former President Obama, for example, uses plenty of pauses while speaking. However, try not to pause too often.

Samantha HawrylackSamantha Hawrylack
Founder, How To FIRE LLC

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