Are you afraid to speak in public?

Written by Eileen Hopkins

My road to counselling and psychotherapy has been interesting. Having worked in a caring profession, nursing for over 30 years, I was always at my happiest when interacting with my patients & I have always been a people person.

Ever stood in front of an audience ready to give a speech only to find your voice has cracked, your palms have become sweaty, and your legs have turned to jelly?

You’re not alone. Public speaking is one of the greatest fears people face; in fact, according to a Gallup poll, 40% of people are more scared of giving a speech than they are of dying!

As a professional, chances are at some point in your career, you’ll be asked to commit to a public speaking engagement.

Why public speaking is one of our greatest fears?

The feeling of nausea and anxiety as you walk to the stage with your speech in hand is known as ‘glossophobia’.  It can be as a simple as a mild case of nerves, or lead to an intense panic attack as you enter the ‘fight or flight’ mode.

One of the main reasons many develop a fear of speaking in front of people is they forget it’s not about them.  It’s not about what you’re wearing, how well your hair is looking or how confident you appear. It’s about the content. Your audience is coming to listen to your content, and they only want you to deliver it well to provide them with value.

Here are several tips to get you started.


Organise your ideas well in advance.

A well-prepared presentation is essential to overcoming your fear of public speaking. By writing out your talking points or putting together notecards or slides, you’ll be much better able to recall important parts of your speech.

Know your introduction well.

Rehearsing your intro before giving your speech will help reduce your anxiety and fear.  Confidently delivering your message will help captivate your audience and set the tone for the rest of your talk.

Have a clear message.

If you know what you’re talking about, it should be easy to express your knowledge of your subject matter. Great communicators can get their [key] points across when delivering any speech or presentation. They use their words to convey what they want to say in a competent manner. If you find yourself stumbling, however, take a pause and deep breath so you can regain your confidence, then pick up where you left off.

Don’t let your emotions hijack you.

Unless you’ve confessed your fear in your intro, the audience will be totally unaware of the extent of your public speaking fear. They’re only sitting in anticipation of what you must share and will have no idea your stomach is in your mouth. Therefore, breathe. Relax. And remember, even if you make a mistake, you will probably be the only one who notices so don’t let your emotions take over.

Let your personality shine through.

Chances are you’re speaking about a topic you know well and feel it’s important to share.  By letting your passion shine through, you will be more engaging, and your audience will hopefully hang onto every word you say. Remember, being invited to speak should be reassurance enough that people are interested in your area of expertise.

Know your audience.

The mere fact you’re giving a speech in a room full of strangers can elevate your nervousness. Getting to know your audience helps to reduce fear and intimidation when in front of an audience. That way when you are feeling the heat, you can look towards familiar faces for some reassurance before carrying on.

In summary, Preparation is the key, giving you the confidence to deliver the information your audience wants to hear what you have to say. Additionally, remember to go easy on yourself. By following my tips above you’ll fine tune your communication skills, build your confidence and above all, overcome your fear of speaking in front of other people.

Most importantly, enjoy the experience!

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