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Speaking Tips - Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking

Updated on September 15, 2020
Tusitala Tom profile image

The writer has been speaking to audiences for almost fifty years and telling stories to audiences for almost that long.

A Dozen Tips on Storytelling.

Public Speaking Phobia? Some fear can help in public speaking

The writer has been presenting to audiences for nearly forty years, has spoken to at least 40,000, but started off everybit as fearfully as you
The writer has been presenting to audiences for nearly forty years, has spoken to at least 40,000, but started off everybit as fearfully as you

In overcoming your public speaking phobia, proper preparation prevents poor performance

Welcome to this Hub on Speaking Tips

Overcoming fear of public speaking is, as everyone knows, one of the most common of all desires. We want to rid ourselves of the those worries, all those anxieties. "He can do it." "She can do it." "They just appear so confident, so relaxed when they're up there. I'll never be able to do that," so the thinking goes.

But believe me, I doubt there are more than 5% of people who are not like you were - or are - at the beginning. It seems to be the natural order of things. People fear public speaking more than almost anything else.

Why is this?

Forget your public speaking phobia: a little fear will heighten your ability to perform

The big problem as far as a fear of public speaking goes is that the would-be speaker, the tiro, the student, call him or her what you may, believes they will be too scared, too aprehensive to perform at the time. So often this is just not the case. The build up of adrelanin, readying them for that "Fight or flight" situation, will only make them perform that much better.

However, sometimes this is not the case. I've heard of people fainting, of others getting sick. But I will tell you this. Those who fainted and those who threw up went on not to just become good speakers but outstanding speakers. I'm not sure why this is, but it seems to go this way.

Pehaps it is a matter of motivation: the bigger the fear you're prepared to challenge, the more frightened you are but still you go through with it anyway, the more something deep inside you knows that you must become a speaker- must - the better you eventually become.

Just one more of the 900 audiences plus, that I've had the honor of speaking to down the years.

Preparation is the key to success

When you see a speaker up there, confident, captivating the audience, and doing it so smoothy, so easily - for example, a professional speaker talking about a subject in their area of expertise, you can make a fair bet that they've either practised that speech over and over outside of the venue's environment, i.e. rehearsed it, or have given the speech so many times the gist of it is firmly entrenched in memory. Generally, they are not 'speaking off the cuff."

Speaking Tips -  Requisites

In an earlier hub I described how there are five requisites that make for a great public speaker. The third of these was Knowledge of the Subject. Now, the chances are that if you're going to have to speak it will be a subject you already know quite a lot about- maybe even a lot about. So you have one of those five public speaking requisites right away.

Also, in another hub I wrote about how to prepare a great speech. Check that one out, too.

We can all create story out of the scantiest of information

Overcoming fear of public speaking is essential if you're to fully enjoy your life

Because of my own public speaking phobia, a very memorable day was largely spoiled for me    To explain:

On the day my wife and I got married the whole day was ruined for me because of the knowledge that, at the reception, I'd have to give a speech. I hadn't a clue what to do. A kindly sister-in-law took me aside, just before the Wedding Dinner and said, "Well, Tom, you could start by thanking various people."

My speech was awful: tongue-tied, mumbling, red-faced. A three-minutes speech which seemed to me like an hour-and-a-half. That was in 1960. I knew I had to do something about such a public speaking phobia but, like so many, put it on the back burner. Twelve years later, I attended - with the intention of joining - a Toastmaster Club. It was to be the first membership of several of these over the years.

I arrived at the venue where the club met. Sat outside in my car for 20 minutes plucking up the courage to go in. But when I did go in, in the foyer area (it was a hotel) I met the friendliest bunch of guys imaginable. They bought me a beer, made me feel at home.

I wont' go into my whole history in Toastmasters here, except to say, in my first speech my legs were shaking so badly I thought the listeners would see. My voice sounded funny, because my throat had closed up in fear. At the end of it, I couldn't remember a word I'd said - But I'd done it! I'd presented my first speech! The relief was enormous.

Tom speaking at a Probus Club annual luncheon in June 2010

Rehearsal Saved the Day

It was practice, going over what I'd say in my mind over and over before I did that first speech. I had no idea how to prepare. But I only had to tell the audience a little about my life. Funny, eh? We can chat to strangers at a bus stop about our lives, but when it comes to getting up in front of an audience... What happens?

In my hub on "How to Become a Great Speaker," the fifth public speaking requiste is that you practice. As I put it: practice, practice, practice! Take every opportunity. One way to do this is to join a public speaking organisation such as Rostrum, or Toastmasters. Or you could learn at evening college.   There are many place where public speaking is taught.

The writer presenting a storytelling workshop to an audience of Toastmasters in country NSW

Your already have the four of the five public speaking requisites

Of those five requisites for becoming a great speaker, you already have two even before you start.

Why do I say this?

Simply because you've chosen to read this. The other two public speaking requisites are: A burning Desire to Succeed, ie. to become a really good speaker, and secondly, Sincerity. You want to be able to present, and present material which is important both to you and your audience. This comes from your sincere desire. If you weren't sincere, you wouldn't even bother to get started.

With these in mind, go to my hub on "How to Prepare a Great Speech." Do what needs to be done. Then go out and join one of those public speaking groups and...practice, practice practice. And before you know it, you'll start to enjoy speaking. Incredible as it seems at this point, you will. Then you'll start looking forward to it. And after a while, people will start looking forward to hearing you speak. When that happens, you will have truly arrived.

There will still be a little fear there from time to time, an itsy-bitsy bit. Just enough to make your performance that more outstanding. But that dreadful public speaking phobia that held you in its grip for so long will be gone forever.

I hope you gained something from Speaking Tips - Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking.

Keep smiling



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