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Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Fake it till you make it: 15 useful strategies to help you overcome your fear of public speaking


Closeup of a microphone

If you are scared of public speaking, you are definitely not the only one. There are millions struggling with the fear of public speaking. It's natural to be afraid when we are performing in a group environment, no matter how big or small the group is. No one is ever born with great confidence to perform without anxiety in front of other people

We found ourselves around people quite often, especially in our academic and professional lives. At the end of the day, we can try our best to avoid having to speak in front of others, it's impossible to avoid public speaking completely.

I'm not a stranger to this type of performance anxiety myself.  I've had to experience numerous class presentations during my time at University. I used to despise them. When I heard any mention of presenting in front of my peers, I felt awful. My heart kept racing, sweat dripped from my palms, I trembled like a leaf as a spoke.

Luckily, over the years went I became accustomed to speaking in public. It did not happen overnight, but I think that for the most part, I've managed to conquer my fear of public speaking. The skills that I have learned have definitely helped me in different situations, for instance, job interviews.

I thought I will share my experience and knowledge to help those who are struggling with public speaking anxiety.





What are the causes of public speaking anxiety? 


Threat to your status 


One of the main causes of public speaking anxiety is actually related to threats that could damage your status. If you think about it, your personal status and sense of achievement often depend on how you perform in front of others.

For example, when we are students our presentation grades are based on our performance. When we are professionals, we need to prove ourselves in front of others to achieve business success and impress powerful stakeholders.

We have a lot of our shoulders, there is a lot of responsibility to appear perfect. Failing in front of other people can have detrimental effects on the way other people view our abilities.

This pressure to always succeed is what leads to public speaking anxiety. Some people are more affected by this more than others, it basically depends on how much you care about your status and how you define your self-worth.

Fear of judgment 


During our distant past, when we were scouring the earth as hunters and gatherers, our survival depended on being accepted by others. Being accepted into the group also dictated our relationships. 

We had to be seen contributing members of the group, after all, it was a survival of the fittest out there. It is not a surprise that we have developed this fear of judgment

We are worried about what other people think about us because it is ingrained in our genetics. It can be tough to get rid of this response. 

Public speaking is stressful as it consists of you having to open yourself to others, present your thoughts and ideas, behave according to the group norm and appear like you know what you are doing! No wonder public speaking anxiety is so common

Related post: How to Stop Worrying


15 useful strategies to help you overcome your fear of public speaking 



1. Keep practicing your speech/presentation


You know what they always say, practice makes perfect. If you need to prepare a public presentation, make sure that you practice your speech before you have to present it in front of others. Practicing will make you feel more confident.

Remember that it's not just about practicing what you will say, it's also crucial to practice how you will express yourself. Try to be natural though, it is obvious when we act like automatic robots.  

Your practiced speech version can act as guidance, directing you in case your anxiety strikes.  

2. Use visualisation techniques 


When I have to present in front of other people, I use visualisation techniques. Sometimes, I tend to mix a bit of humor and imagine my audience as a group of dwarves. I used to do this a lot for my university presentations and it helped me cope with my fear of public speaking. 

You can employ visualisation bit more seriously as well. Try to imagine things that you associate with power. confidence, success or simply achievement. It may sound strange, but visualisation can be a powerful tool. Let your imagination run wild!

3. Define your own personal worth 


As I have mentioned, one of the major causes of public speaking anxiety is related to a perception of threat to your self-image. This means that to conquer public speaking anxiety, you should begin defining your own worth, instead of caring about others. It's impossible to please everyone, so why bother? 

Basically, try not to worry about what other people think. I know it's easier said than done, but at the end of the day, you know yourself best. This means that you are the best judge of your personal abilities. 

You will start feeling better in yourself when you diminish the importance of other peoples' judgments. You don't need to prove yourself to other people to be a good person. Others can set us unrealistic expectations and even dictate how we should behave. I've actually written about this in reference to our self-identity.


3. Look back on your previous achievements 


Fear of public speaking can make you feel despair, it can also lead to a lot of pessimism. You may be stuck in a cycle of "I can't do this" when you are asked to speak in front of a group.

It is important to keep a note of all your achievements. Reflect on your achievements and fill yourself with positivity. Tell yourself that you are capable and that if you have achieved things before, then you will also succeed in speaking in front of other people. 

When your thoughts drift back to negativity and dread, come back to your past achievements. We all need to give ourselves mental evidence to show that we can do whatever we set our minds to.


Woman looking in front of a mirror
Image by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

4. Concentrate on a single focus point during your speech/presentation 


When you experience public speaking anxiety, your audience can look quite terrifying! When you are nervous, your perception of other people can get out of control. 

In order to ignore how others are looking at me, I always try to find a single focus point of reference - something that I can look at to help me concentrate. That can be an item, or simply looking further into the room. 

I know, it is important to maintain eye contact, however constant eye contact with your audience can do more harm than good, especially if you have afraid of public speaking. For me, focusing on a single point works wonders, it helps me to not get lost in the sea of scary-looking faces. 

5. Remember that public speaking is not the end of the world 


When we are afraid of something, it is easy to exaggerate the importance of things that cause our fear. 

What does it even mean, in the grand scheme of things, if your public presentation does not go as smoothly as you have planned? Why does it matter if someone judges you harshly?

You may think that public speaking is a nightmare but speaking in front of others is not the end of the world. There are far worse things that you can be doing. 

6. Remind yourself that fear of public speaking is a shared problem 


You are definitely not the only one who struggles to speak in front of others. In fact, I guarantee that there would be people in your audience who are also scared of speaking publicly. After all, fear of public speaking is such a common issue. 

This means that people in your audience might actually feel inspired to see you speak.  Understanding that you are not the only one dealing with anxious feelings will help you feel more connected with others. You are not fighting this issue by yourself. 

7. Think about where your fear of speaking in public originates from


Try to think about why you are afraid to speak in front of others. Question yourself and get to the bottom of why you are afraid of public speaking.

It is likely that your anxiety is rooted by attachment, for instance when we are children some parents can be harsh and even judgemental. They could even be afraid of public speaking themselves and this means that your fear could be a learned response, passed on from your parents.

As children, we learn about the world by imitating our caregivers, so if they are anxious about people and speaking in front of others, then you will be as well. 

8. Know what exactly you are afraid of 


Break your fear of public speaking into smaller, more manageable chunks. What exactly are you afraid of? Is it people, being perceived as a failure, saying the wrong thing? Instead of seeing your fear of public speaking as this huge monster, take it apart.

Once you know what exactly scares you about public speaking, try to come up with things to say to yourself to counteract your fears. 

9. Immerse yourself in public speeches online 


Don't forget to immerse yourself in videos of public speeches. Watch as charismatic speakers express their ideas and assess how they act on stage.

Observe their tone, posture and gestures. Pay attention to the little details. Find your favourite speakers and imitate their behaviour.

I was fearful to speak in public as I had no idea what to do on stage, imitation provided me with a clear guideline and directed my behaviour on stage. Once you get more comfortable with speaking in front of others, over time you will find your own voice. 

10. Pretend that your public presentation is a drama play 


As a drama student, I always fall back on this trick. When I need to present anything in front of others, I try to pretend like I am acting. Sometimes it's all about faking till you make it.

After all, when we are worried about what other people think, the best way to deal with this is to pretend like you are playing a character.

Think to yourself, how would a confident person act in this situation? How would they talk? How would they walk? How would they stand? Forget that you are a fearful individual and embrace this character.


Image of a red closed theatre curtain and stage
Image by Monika Silvestre from Pexels

11. Construct a positive meaning of your public presentation 


Change the way that you think about public speaking. If you focus that public speaking is terrifying, you will become lost in seeing the world around you through a fear lens. You need to construct a positive meaning of speaking in public.

I know at first it may seem impossible, but don't let your fear win. There is always a positive lurking somewhere, for instance, public speaking is a fantastic opportunity to develop new skills. 

You are an active agent, capable of crafting your own reality and meaning. You are the one in control, so put yourself in charge. 

12. Don't forget to breathe properly 


When you are in front of people and your anxiety strikes, your breathing could become hectic. Don't lose your breath, when you feel like the nerves are getting on top of you, take some deep breaths. 

Concentrate on your breathing, instead of focusing on the situation. You can use specific breathing techniques to help you out, plenty of those all over the internet! 

13. Try to pace your public speech 


You might be tempted to speak quickly, to get your public presentation over and done with, I mean I used to be. When I had to speak in front of others, I spoke fast, I mumbled my words and scrambled my sentences. 

When someone is speaking too fast, you can easily tell that they are nervous. So try to pace yourself, you don't have to be speaking all the time. Pauses can be extremely effective, it can highlight specific words and make your audience think. Take it slow. 


14. Know what you are talking about 


It's common sense, but when you are asked to talk in front of other people, know what you are talking about. Do your research.

It can be obvious when you have no clue what you are talking about. Being knowledgeable about the topic that you are communicating will also help you to feel more confident. 

15. Take care of yourself before a public speech/presentation 


Make sure that you take care of yourself before your public presentation. Don't forget to eat, to drink and to have plenty of sleep.

I hope these tips will help you overcome your fear of public speaking. Don't worry if your anxiety does not subside overnight, confidence can take some time. Believe in yourself and your abilities. 

Do you have any strategies that you use to conquer public speaking anxiety? Share in the comments! I hope you have enjoyed this post.

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30 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing these tips! I personally have a hard time speaking in public, so these tips will come in handy! My favorite tip is def #11.

    Much love always,
    GABBY | www.gabbyabigaill.com

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    1. No worries, Gabby. I'm glad you found this useful!

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  2. Replies
    1. Hey Molly, it's wonderful that you found the advice useful! Thanks for your comment.

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  3. I've been struggling with public speaking anxiety for as long as I can remember, so those are some really helpful tips - thanks for sharing! I especially found #10 interesting, I would've never thought about such an approach!

    Dominika | http://www.intothebloom.com

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    1. I am glad that you have learned something new from the post! How amazing! Have a great day.

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  4. I always struggle with public speaking, not helped with having anxiety. I have always done the focus on a central point too get through it as I never knew of any other tactics. I will use the other tactics in the future

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    1. I hope that you will find these tactics useful. Best of luck!

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  5. I have always struggled with public speaking, largely due to my anxiety and fear of it. However, your blog post contains some amazing tips that I will definitely be taking on board because I know it is something that I can't avoid forever. Thank you so much. A really great post.

    Charlotte Walter
    http://www.charlottelwalter.wordpress.com

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    1. Hey lovely, it's all a process of learning. I wish you all the best with conquering your anxiety.

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  6. I was thrilled to come across your blog! Since becoming a published author, I have been invited to speak at many events and I too suffer from performance anxiety. It does get better over time, once you realize your audience are only human too and are surprisingly very empathetic and eager to make you feel comfortable. I just always have to remind myself to 'breatheeeeeeee' Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Wonderful. Thank you so much for your kind comment! Best of luck to you :)

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  7. Goodness me, even the thought of public speaking makes me clam up! Since my anxiety started, I've had real trouble speaking in front of groups. Luckily, I'm rarely in a situation where I have to. But a few years ago, I started a new college course and we had to talk to our neighbour in class and then introduce them to the rest of the class. I got so anxious, I had a full on anxiety attack, palpitations - the lot. And I was only speaking in front of like, 16 other people! But I've recently started a group CBT workshop for worry management and I'm finding I'm speaking in front of the group a LOT more than I thought I would be and I'm definitely feeling much more confident!

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

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    1. Oh Jenny, I absolutely loved following your journey of overcoming anxiety, you've been doing so amazingly well, and I'm really proud of you! Thanks for your lovely comment x

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  8. These are some great tips. You are right, it is scary to speak publicly. Even when I was a trainer, I would get so nervous because of the evaluations after the class was over. But over time, I learned that you do have to practice and know what you are talking about.

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    1. Exactly! Knowing what you are talking about can really help :) Thanks for your comment.

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  9. Fear of judgement! I can relate; often when speaking to someone new, that fear tries to keep my lips shut. I enjoy working past the barriers and learning that I am enough the way I am, and what others think is in their heads, not mine.

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    1. As long as you realise that you have problems with fear of judgement, it can be easier to minimise these thoughts. It's all about having mindful awareness of yourself. Best of luck to you!

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  10. These are some helpful tips! I have never been horribly scared of public speaking, but I always talk too fast and forget to breathe properly! I was in drama for years of my life, so I don’t have stage fright, but I hate talking in front of a crowd as myself. When I was in a musical, I was pretending to be someone else- so I hated doing presentations where it was just me talking because it was stressful and embarrassing. I think these tips are some great ideas for overcoming this anxiety!

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    1. I think pretending to be someone else is really helpful! Glad you found these tips useful :)

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  11. These are SUCH great tips and strategies! Though I always dreaded it, I got by with public speaking through your number 10. That's my holy grail. When I was in a leadership position at work and had to run weekly meetings standing up in front of my team, that's what I did. After a while, it became a role that I was super comfortable with. Thanks for sharing these!

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    1. Absolutely agree. I've been trying to adopt a role of a confident person for instance in my interviews :)

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  13. Perfect timing for this post! I recently attended a networking event and for something as short as having to stand up and introduce myself, I started off strong but freaked out and hurried through the rest of my intro. This was totally related to my worry about others visually judging me at the moment. (Although this was subconcious an I didn't really know it until I read this post.) Thanks for these tips :)

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    1. Wonderful! It's all about experience. I absolutely hate introducing myself in these sort of events. I definitely would suggest for you to craft some good old introduction plans, just so you know what to say when someone asks you to introduce myself. If I don't have a plan myself, I just get stuck and that makes me feel super anxious!

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  14. Really helpful post! Thanks for sharing xx

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  15. One of my biggest dreams is to give a Ted Talk but somehow I feel I'd mess it up entirely!

    However, I think it's about time I start reading about it and your post seems to be like a message from the Universe.

    It's interesting how much we value how we perform in front of others. Never thought about it that way.

    Thank you so much for this post, Laura!

    - aimlief

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    1. Don't feel like you will mess it up. When we set ourselves for failure, we start acting in ways that would cause our failure. It's all about feeling confident and empowered. Tell yourself that you can do it!

      Glad you found it helpful :)

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