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Why people fear speaking in public and tips on how to overcome the symptoms of public speaking

Updated on July 17, 2015

Conquer your fear of Public Speaking

Don't let your fear of what people will think, stop you from conquering your fear of speaking in public.
Don't let your fear of what people will think, stop you from conquering your fear of speaking in public. | Source

Tips To Reduce Your Fear of Public Speaking

Visualize that your are confident: Imagine that your audience are held captive and in awe of hearing you finally speak.

Know Your Body: Knowledge of your body and how situations can impact it is vital.

Practise taking deep breaths to help reduce anxiety and nervousness.

Acknowledge that symptoms like cold hand and a fast heartbeat are part of the symptoms of public speaking. They will eventually disappear the more confident that you become. This will then help you focus more on what you need to say than on how your body is reacting.

Everybody at some time in their life will have an occasion arise when they will be required to speak in public.

It could be a work situation, a wedding toast or a going away party that could be the reason you will need to speak.

The first time you ever have to speak in a public arena can be very scary.

You might very well be the person in your group with the biggest mouth, but mention the word ‘You, Speaking, In, Public To Strangers’ and you can freeze up.

Symptoms you might experience when speaking in public

When you have to speak in public and your new to the experience there are a few things that can happen to your body.

These signals are the brains sending a message to the rest of the body telling it you're nervous.

  • Nausea
  • Sweaty Palms
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shaky Hands
  • Stutter or Broken Speech

But do not worry the first time anyone does anything out of their normal routine can be a daunting experience and it shouldn't be laughed at.

For most people something in their childhood or even adult life could be an underlying factor which is causing your nervousness or so the psychologists say.

Fear of Public speaking is called Glossophobia.

So Just Why Do People Fear Public Speaking

There are certain factors that can arise beforehand which leads to us getting nervous about public speaking.

1. The first time you're ever asked to speak in public could be for personal event or a work event. You will have a tendency then to over analysis it, mainly due to the fact you will be speaking to people you personally know.

2. Often it's the days or weeks leading up to the event and the thinking about it and talking about it to friends and family that can actually start causing the nerves. The response from these people will to tell you to stop worrying about it.

But in your own mind you will be thinking about things and asking yourself questions like “I can’t do this” or “Why did they pick me, I've never done this before”

However, it's better to stop, take a step back and think why were you picked? There was obviously a reason you were chosen over others.

If it’s in relation to work then maybe you are the most qualified person to speak on this topic. If it's your going away party, then obviously you need to say a few words. So the first thing to do is take a breath, stop thinking about it.

Over thinking something can actually turn it into something bigger than it should be. Don’t let it run your life.

Tips on Public Speaking

Public Speaking Gestures

1. Once you have planned what you are going to speak about and you've got your mind focused on the task at hand then you need to engage your audience.

2. Practise, Practise, Practise. The more often you rehearse what you want to say, the more chance you have of speaking it more naturally and not having to rely on your notes. This will also help reduce your nervousness.

3. You need to have short notes for backup which are too the point so that you don't get lost or confused about where you are in the talk.

Engage your audience


Engage your audience

What Do You Mean?

Well if you walk into a room and just speak non-stop from beginning to end without once lifting you head from your notes or presentation board then your audience will know you not over confident. When speaking in public at a wedding or even a work event maintaining eye contact even fleetingly is a good way to show your listeners you are confident and that you know what you’re talking about.

You don’t need to pick out one person and stare at them but occasionally lifting up your head and looking around the room wouldn't go amiss. It’s just another way to engage the listeners. Plus they don’t want to be looking at the top of your head for the whole event either.

Obviously if you’re new to public speaking the first time you do this will be very hard as you will be afraid you will lose your concentration. However if you practise this every time you have to speak and just occasionally lift up your head, it will become more natural to you. Before you know it you will be second nature.

If you notice half the room doesn't seem to be looking at you don't worry too much. They might not be listening to you, or they could be concentrating on taking notes or they might be in their own world. Don’t worry about it, it just means you have less people staring at you which is a positive factor that can help reduce your nervousness.

Reduce Your Nervousness

Some of the ways to reduce your nervousness is to ensure you have planned what you want to say well in advance. Once you know what you want to say then that half the battle. To become more confident at speaking in public you can do two things.

  • Get a friend or a family member to listen to you doing your presentation.
  • Stand in front of a mirror at home and talk to yourself.

The more times you do these kind of exercises the more your brain will come to understand what it needs to do. But also doing these things, no matter how funny they might look is a good way to help build up your confidence.

But even if you have planned on what to say, you can’t just go in to a room or an event and talk non-stop for the any length of time without at least once raising your head up from your notes or the presentation screen.

Not only are you making the talk uninteresting but you aren't engaging your listeners. You could possibly loose their interest in a few minutes with this kind of routine and all that planning and worrying was for nothing.


Use Index Cards To Prompt Yourself

Having some short notes written on index cards can help prompt you to remember a specific topic you want to talk about.
Having some short notes written on index cards can help prompt you to remember a specific topic you want to talk about. | Source

Backup When Speaking

Whether you are giving a wedding toast, a work speech or even a work presentation you have to have some form of notes or guide to help you. If one has a good memory and they don’t need cards or notes then congratulations your one of the few. But for many of us, having a few notes on cards which contain a few words or even sentences can help us to remember what we need to say.

However you might decide to rely your on memory and a few key words on you presentation to help guide you on the topics you need to speak about. This is fine as long as you remember what you need to say when the time comes.

Whatever works for you is what is most important. No matter how good or bad things go, don't criticise yourself too much if you forget to mention a few key facts don't worry to much because even notes on cards sometimes things can be forgotten.


Tips On Public Speaking

Be prepared. Plan what you are going to say in advance, it’s fine to ad-lib some things when you get in there but know the points you need to mention. Have either a presentation prepared to help guide you when speaking on topic or even some cue-card with recall words or sentences which can help you with the presentation.

Fake It. Being confident is all about looking confident. So hold you head up put your shoulder back and speak with a strong clear voice so all your listeners even the ones at the back of the room can hear you.

Maintain Eye Contact. Reading out what you want to say from your notes non-stop is fine if you’re really nervous, but do try every now and again to raise your head up and glance around the room. Chances are only half the room is staring at you and this is good as it can help reduce your nervousness. Less is more, right.

Take A Deep Breath. If at any time the nerves are coming back then stop. Take a breath and if you have some water beside you have a drink. No one will mind if you need to take a minute. Even the best speaker in the world needs to stop for a drink if their mouth gets dry.

Don’t Panic. Again spending days or weeks fretting over speaking in public is the number one way to erode your confidence. Saying to yourself each day ‘I can do this’, can help build up in your brain the power of positive thinking. The more times you say it the more you will actually come to believe it.

Time Build Up Confidence. This is actually true. The more times you do things like sailing, swimming, riding or even public speaking the better your confidences becomes. Over time your brain will adapt to the task and before you know it you will be an old hand at public speaking.

© 2012 Sp Greaney


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    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 4 years ago from Ireland

      @ tonymead60, I never realised comic did that. They always look so natural.

      Good luck with your public speaking career. The first time is the hardest but I'd say you'll be fab.

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 4 years ago from Yorkshire

      Hi Sangre

      well done, an interesting look at this common problem. I was an entertainer for over thirty years and performed in some pretty big venues. You are correct that the best way is to rehearse and not try to ad lib. Even the best comics who sometimes seem to be ad libbing are in fact following a script that they have honed to perfection over months.

      I'm going back to public speaking after a long break and you've just reminded me of the golden rules.



    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 5 years ago from Ireland

      @ Mama Kim, thanks for comment. I wish that too. So much more info out there today compared to even 5 years ago. A lot easier for students nowadays.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 5 years ago

      Wonderfully written! I wish this hub was around when I was still in school ^_^ voted a bunch!

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 5 years ago from Ireland

      @ Conservative Lady. I totally agree with you. Planning is vital for success and knowing your topic really well can make the difference between a good and bad presentation. Thanks for vote.

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 5 years ago from Ireland

      @ Christine Miranda, that's a fantastic tip which obviously helped with you such a high grade. :) I wish I had her when I was in school. Our teachers just dropped you in at the deep in and hoped for the best. But you get better in time.

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 5 years ago from Ireland

      @ davidlivermore. That very brave to take on a job like that. I think it's becoming a big thing in companies now to be able to do some form of presentations be it big or small. But 50 is a lot to be faced with the first time.

    • Conservative Lady profile image

      Sheila 5 years ago from Surprise Arizona - formerly resided in Washington State

      Very useful hub - as you stated we all are asked to speak in public at some time in our lives whether it is in school, work, or personal events. I find that practicing and knowing all I can about the subject I am speaking on is very reassuring to me. Voted Up

    • Christine Miranda profile image

      Christine Miranda 5 years ago from My office.

      Great Hub! I think people imagine all sorts of horrible things will happen. I received a great tip in 8th grade from Mrs Gaisford, my English teacher, when she assigned the first oral report many of us had ever done. Her advice was to "Look everyone in the forehead" she explained that making eye contact made it worse as the speaker but the audience couldn't tell the difference because you are standing and they aren't. Maybe it was total BS but I do it every time I have to talk in front of a group and it helps. :) Voted up & more. PS. I got an A!

    • davidlivermore profile image

      David Livermore 5 years ago from Bakersfield, California, United States

      I used to be so scared of speaking in public. Once I landed a job that required it, that made it worse. My first public speaking was in front of 50 people. Your hub is useful, and even gave me some tips. Thank you!