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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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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