Five Ways To Manage Your Fear Of Public Speaking

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on March 19, 2012 – 6:12 AM

You’re about to deliver your keynote speech or appear on a national television program.

You feel unsteady on your feet. Your heart pounds. Beads of sweat form on your forehead. 

Most people experience nervousness during public presentations, and probably for the same reason – they don’t want to make an embarrassing mistake that humiliates them in front of their peers and prevents them from achieving their goals.

There is no silver bullet for eliminating nervousness entirely. But you can learn how to manage your fear more effectively and lose some of the butterflies that hinder your performance.

Here are five tips and techniques that have helped our clients manage their fear over the past decade:

1. Practice Makes Perfect: Most people tell us that the single best way for them to reduce their fear is by getting familiar with their material and practicing in advance. Fear tends to recede for most people as they gain more speaking experience.

2. You Don’t Have To Be Perfect: No one is judging you on a scale of perfection. You’re allowed to stumble over a phrase, say an occasional “ummm,” or forget a word here and there. If you focus on doing the big things well – delivering quality content with passion – the audience is probably going to form a positive impression of you.

3. Remember – It’s Not About You: Stop focusing on your own fears and focus on the audience instead. Think about their lives, their needs, and their concerns. Remind yourself how your information can make their lives better. Try to serve them, make them feel more comfortable. It’s not about you. It’s about them.

4. Take Long, Deep Breaths: Adults breathe an average of 12 times per minute. That number goes up when you get stressed, which leads to a reduced concentration of carbon dioxide in your blood and oxygen in your brain.

Focusing on breathing can help reduce your stress

Taking long, deep breaths can help you regain control of your respiration. Begin by slowly exhaling all of the air from your lungs. Next, slowly inhale through your nose until your lungs are full. Hold your breath for as long as you can comfortably do so. Slowly release the air through your mouth until your lungs feel empty again. Repeat this exercise 10-12 times.

5. Flex Your Muscles: You can use a modified version of a technique called “progressive muscle relaxation” by flexing – then releasing – different muscles.

Sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Flex the muscles in your face for ten seconds, then relax for twenty seconds. Move on to your neck and repeat the same exercise, continuing on with your shoulders, then your arms, then your hands, then your chest, then your stomach, and downward until you reach your toes.

Want more tips to help reduce your fear of public speaking? Click here to read a few suggestions from our readers.

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Comments (3)

  1. By KT:

    Good ideas. Also, for the truly phobic, Toastmasters can help. For physical symptoms, a bit of propranolol may help get you through a harrowing stage-fright experience.

  2. By Brad Phillips:

    KT,

    Thank you for your comment. I agree that Toastmasters can help, and I’ve also heard good things about Dale Carnegie’s executive public speaking course. Then there’s my firm, Phillips Media Relations, of course!

    For readers who aren’t familiar with Propranolol, it’s a beta blocker that is occasionally prescribed to help combat extreme nervousness. According to Wikipedia, “Propranolol is often used by musicians and other performers to prevent stage fright. It has been taken by surgeons to reduce their own innate hand tremors during surgery.” This site is not equipped to make medical recommendations, so talk to your physician if you think you might be a good candidate for combating stage fright through prescription medication.

    Thanks for reading,
    Brad

  3. By Shaan Goerge:

    A very perceptive and interesting article. As a performer I liked what you said about transforming nerves into excitement and also your opening paragraph about how a bad feeling is really all that we have to fear. Excellent.

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