Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

10 Ways to Eliminate Public Speaking Fear

The following is an excerpt from Chapter One of the public speaking training book Fearless Presentations published by The Leader’s Institute. You can purchase the entire public speaking training book from our website by clicking here.

10 Ways to Reduce Public Speaking Anxiety & Fear of Public Speaking

PART 2: (View Part 1)

The big day came, and as I walked into the room, trembling from the fear and pressure, I noticed that every single person had on a nicely pressed suit. I was wearing slacks with a shirt and tie, but no jacket. I didn’t even own a jacket. The pressure began to build even more.

As the first presenter was introduced, she walked to the front of the room, sat down a manila folder, turned on her overhead projector (this was in the days before PowerPoint,) and put up a beautiful, color-filled slide. Why in the world had I not thought of using an overhead! My palms began to sweat profusely.

The second presenter had the audience laughing and nodding their heads within minutes. He created a true rapport with the audience. I didn’t have any jokes in my presentation, and I couldn’t see how anyone would be nodding in agreement with me, because I was just prepared to recite some facts. My stomach churned.

It was now my turn. As the director called my name, I stood and moved my hands to pick up my notes. When I did, the napkin that my hand was resting on came with me—attached as a result of the sweat that now seemed to be pouring from my palms. As I peeled it off, I picked up my notes, and I could see the pages shaking in my hand. I just prayed that the people in the audience couldn’t see it.

As I spoke my first sentence, I could feel the beads of sweat on my forehead, so I pulled the sleeve of my white shirt across my brow. A few seconds later I used the other sleeve and continued alternating them throughout the presentation.

I talk pretty fast anyway, but when I get nervous, ITalkRealFast! SoFastThatItWouldMakeYourEyeballsSpin! I gave my entire 15-minute speech in less than five minutes and said every word.

As I looked into the audience, no one was nodding. Most people just had blank looks of confusion. When I sat down, there was utter silence in the room. The director called a break. I looked at my sleeves, and they were soaked to my skin. I was so embarrassed that I wanted to crawl under the table and die. If I could have walked out of that room and never laid eyes on any of those people again, I would have gladly done so.

About seven months later, when the board came back to my school, my adviser pulled me aside and told me that they had told him that they would not be extending an offer to have me back. I was crushed. I had never failed this badly at anything.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Right or wrong, people form a perception about our competence based on how confidently we present ourselves. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you went to the doctor for a pain that you’ve been having in your side. The surgeon who is examining you says the following, “Uhm… Well, uh you know? You might, uhm, have to have your uh appendix taken out.” How competent are you going to feel about this doctor’s ability to treat you? Or even worse—the doctor says all the right things, but as he looks over your chart, you notice his hand shaking. It doesn’t matter how many degrees this person has or how many initials the doctor has after his or her name. You will probably question the doctor’s competence.

That is exactly what happened to me during my presentation. I realized that even though I had been a respected and valued employee of the company, the negative perception that was formed about me during my presentation counteracted all of the goodwill I had previously developed. I vowed that the same thing would never happen to me again. I was going to do whatever I had to do to make sure that the next time I gave a presentation, I would give the audience a true representation of my abilities. I was willing to attend any public speaking training, any presentation seminar, and any type of program to eliminate my public speaking anxiety.

Over the last ten years of attending and teaching public speaking training, I have identified a number of simple, key things that anyone can do to overcome fear and nervousness in front of a group. I have used these things myself with great success. Over the last ten years in my public speaking classes, I’ve watched the confidence of thousands of people grow and develop in a matter of minutes as a result of using these few simple techniques.

On the following pages, you will find an outline of tips and techniques that successful speakers have used for centuries to create solid, polished first impressions and deliver dynamic, fearless presentations.

Universal Fear

A number of years ago in an episode of Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld talked about a poll that had been conducted in which Americans said that their number one fear was public speaking, and that the fear of death was number five. He said, “…that would mean that at a funeral, people are five times more likely to want to be in the casket than giving the eulogy. “

Below are a few simple things you can do to ease some of your nervousness and anxiety from public speaking.

  • Realize 90% of Nervousness doesn’t Show: Most of the symptoms of nervousness, butterflies, sweaty palms, faster heart beat, etc., never show to an audience. If you set your notes down on a lectern, the audience won’t be able to see even shaky hands.
  • Written Material: Never, never, never, never, never write out a talk word for word unless absolute accuracy must be maintained as in legal situations. Otherwise, just make brief notes. A little spontaneity adds a tremendous amount of character to your talk. Written speeches are almost always boring, and when you read text, it is much more difficult to make a connection with your audience.
  • Committing Your Talk to Memory: Never memorize a talk word for word. Memorizing a talk word for word can actually lead to more anxiety. If something out of the ordinary happens or if you ever lose your place, you will put an extreme amount of pressure on yourself to get back. A better way to memorize a talk is to narrow your talk down to just a few main ideas and commit those main ideas to memory. If during your presentation you have additional time, you can add additional details to the main ideas, and if time runs short (which it often does,) you can rest assured that your main points were delivered.
  • Show up Early: Get an idea for the setting, mingle with your audience, and test any equipment that you will be using.
  • Take a Few Deep Breaths: When many of us get nervous, we tend to take shallow breaths. This robs our brain of oxygen and can create a negative reinforcing cycle. What happens is that we originally take a shallow breath out of nervousness and try to speak. Somewhere along the way, we realize that we won’t be able to finish our sentence, so we speed up. That makes us more nervous, so we breathe even more shallow. When this cycle occurs, just pause, take a deep breath, and continue.
  • Look for a Friendly Face: As you are approaching the front, make eye contact with a few friendly faces in the audience. Smile, and they will probably smile back. It will put you both at ease.
  • Drop your Hands: Your hands and your gestures can add great impact to your delivery, but when you are not using your hands, just drop them to your side. It will feel awkward at first, but dropping your hands to your side is the most natural gesture you can use. For instance, when you walk down the hallway at your office, do you cup your hands in front as you walk? Is it more natural to lock your hands behind you when you walk? Probably not. In most situations, it is natural to just let your hands drop to your side. When you do this, it will allow you to make more purposeful gestures when you need to. (See Chapter 6 on Gestures and Movement.)
  • Speak Only on Topics in which You are an Expert: One of the reasons that speech classes and toasting clubs can actually make people more nervous is that the topics we choose to present on during these activities are topics that we put together after just a little research. If someone were going to ask you to present about a business topic, the main reason would be because you are the most qualified person to speak about the topic. You are qualified because of your experience. Your delivery should be as casual as if your best friend came up to you and asked, “How is your project going?” This will allow you to deliver your topic is a way that makes the audience feel as if you are talking to each person directly.
  • Be Excited about Your Topic: If you aren’t, no one else will be either. If you give your audience energy, they will give energy back to you.
  • Practice: Rather than practicing your presentation in front of a mirror (when we do this, we tend to find things to nitpick that an audience would never notice,) try practicing your delivery by using it in a conversation with a friend or loved one. “Hey, have I told you about the project I’m working on…”

After training thousands of people to become better speakers, one thing that I know for sure is that EVERYONE gets nervous when they present. Exceptional speakers just don’t show it. In fact, in many cases, the great speaker will use that nervousness to his or her advantage. The next chapter will show you how.

Other Public Speaking Training Resources

You can purchase the entire Fearless Presentations public speaking training online class from our website by visiting our Online Store. Our High Impact Leaders class and Fearless Presentations public speaking training course are also great ways to conquer the fear of public speaking and eliminate public speaking anxiety.

Speaking Skills Reduce Public Speaking Anxiety

One of the easiest ways to reduce public speaking anxiety is to strengthen your speaking skills. The fear of standing up and giving a presentation to your peers is still of the biggest anxieties that plagues the business world, but it is a simple challenge to overcome by strengthening your public speaking. In fact, with a few simple tips, you can make those butterflies and sweaty palms go away.

  1. Most Speakers are Just as Nervous as You Are: Have you ever wondered why some speakers look so poised during their presentations but when you perform, you feel that your nervousness is radiating to the audience. I’ll give you a little clue or insight on how you are not as transparent as you think. The majority what you think others can see or detect is not visible to your audience no matter what you may perceive, it’s just that you are feeling all these forms of nervousness and think that others can see your butterflies, sweaty palms, can detect when you are miss-delivering some of the content that you may have left out. The truth is that the aforementioned never show to the audience. I remember delivering my first seminar and thinking that the participants will not take me as a credible speaker/presenter because I feel nervous, after panning around the room for a while I realized that they could not detect what I was feeling which in turn reduced my inner anxious feelings giving me the confidence to feel like a seasoned presenter.
  2.   Preparation (or lack of it) will Either Cause Anxiety or Reduce It: If you had to give a speech on yourself or even  a hobby, interest or subject that you were passionate about I would venture to say you would breeze right through it comfortably.This is why organizing yourself properly before giving a presentation on an topic that you are unfamiliar with. One of the biggest causes of anxiety before a presentation is lack of preparation. In addition to knowing your material, you may also want to do some research on your audience. This will give an understanding of the type of people you will be delivering to and create a sense familiarity with your audience. For example; I gave a Time Management Seminar to group of Social Service employees for the first time. I did some investigation that gave me one clue as to the personalities and industry that I would be delivering my presentation to. Social workers tend to be heavy multitaskers that have little time to deal with many issues. I also made contact with the faciliating manager and asked a few key questions on what they were trying to achieve with through the seminar. I would then have the proper ammo to anticipate any of their current situations which gave me the confidence going in that I could handle their questions adequately.
  3. Avoid Memorizing Your Entire Talk: When have you had your most effective presentation? It may have been an informal one, and it was probably very effective because you did not rely on any notes. This is how you should be delivering your  presentations, speeches, seminars ect. When you are tethered to your content verbatim, which I admit I have done in the past, it kills the flow and authenticity. The tendency here is to not want to leave anything out of your delivery and therefore you cling to your act of memorization, but the magic begins when you let go. You can actually have a layout in your mind that starts with an introduction, main points, and of coarse a conclusion. Believe it or not if you follow a formula everything will fall into place the speech or presentation will build upon itself. You can even come up with an acronym to help guide your through your presentation.
  4. Speak on Topics where You have Real World Experience: As I mentioned above the most credible sounding speeches or presentations are the ones in which you have actual experience in, not to say that you cannot relate your previous experience to similar topics or expertise. You will also be perceived as an expert. Your approach should be confident and deliberate. Also when you speak on a topic that you have had a real world experience, chances are that you will have some stories to integrate through your presentation, why are stories so effective? It is because in every story there is some portion or persona that the audience can relate to.

So to reduce your nervousness and or anxiety, realize that your peers are also nervous and you are “normal”, prepare in advance, avoid memorizing your entire speech, and choose topics that you know very well. If you do this, you will deliver a great presentation. Also remember that your speeches should sound natural and credible and you should always be prepared for the unprepared.

Participants in Public Speaking Deliver Compelling, Multilayer Presentations in San Diego, California

Public speaking class in San Diego helps participants deliver compelling, multi-layered presentations in San Diego, California. The Leader’s Institute® conducted its two-day public speaking class in San Diego on March 6-7 to an enthusiastic group of 5 participants.

At first, some of the participants were reluctant to get up in front of the group and speak because of public speaking anxiety. Through the careful coaching by a Leader’s Institute® instructor, participants capitalized on their strengths and became more confident speakers as the class progressed. By the end of the second day, the class members surprised themselves by their ability to deliver presentations layered with stories, analogies, and demonstrations. Each participant receives a video copy of their presentation after the class is done, so they can see their progress.

The Leader’s Institute® holds its two-day Fearless Presentations® class in San Diego, California and across the U.S. and Canada.  Whether you are looking to reduce the anxiety that comes with public speaking, or just make your presentations better, this public speaking class is for you.

For a Complete List of Upcoming Classes, Visit the upcoming presentation skills classes post. You can can click here for details about the Fearless Presentations ® class.

Public Speaking Fear


By Doug Staneart 

Public Speaking Fear? Where does stage fright come from, and how in the world do you get rid of it?  Most people who stand up in front of a group and feel the butterflies in the stomach, the sweaty palms, and the shaky hands think that they are the only ones who feel public speaking anxiety, but presentation fear is very common. Surveys show that over 95% of people asked admit to having, at least some, public speaking fear.  Over the last 20 years, I’ve helped over 20,000 overcome their presentation anxiety, though, and here are a few things that I’ve learned in the process that might help you too.

Where Public Speaking Fear Comes From 

Anytime you try something new, you will be nervous.  However, when we try public speaking for the first time — by definition, — we are always experimenting in front of a group.  Think about how nervous you were when you drove a car on the freeway for the first time.  Think about how much more traumatic that would have been if 25 of your peers had been watching every move you made during that first drive.  So the initial fear or anxiety that you felt the first time you spoke in front of a group was absolutely normal.  If you didn’t feel nervous, that would be strange.   Over time, if you have successes in your new skill, your confidence grows, but if you have what you perceive to be a failure — even if you did okay — your nervousness will grow.  This is why most people have this fear.  Continuing the learning to drive a car example, if you only drove once every year or two and every time that you did, you had all those peers watching you, it would be difficult to develop a track record of perceived successes. 

How to Eliminate Public Speaking Fear 

The best way to eliminate the nervousness is to have a series of successes.  That’s why Toastmasters and other speaking clubs work so well when people attend over a period of time.  When you speak and have a success, your confidence will grow slightly.  So if you string a series of successful presentations together, you’ll diminish the fear pretty dramatically.  The biggest problem with toasting clubs, though, is that it takes months or years to make progress, and most of the time, people who attend need help right now!   A good public speaking class can help dramatically here.  A public speaking class where you can get up and physically speak in front of the class six to 10 times in a short period of time like two to three days will work wonders if it is in a controlled environment. 

Once the Public Speaking Fear Diminishes, Experiment with More Challenging Presentations 

After you start to feel more comfortable, it’s important to try more challenging presentations.  In reality, you have to force yourself to become more nervous again.  The reason why is that as you get better at the more challenging types of presentations, the simpler presentations become really easy.  Going back to the car driving analogy, if you only ever drive in the parking lot, you’ll never grow as a driver.  However, when you begin to drive in a neighborhood, and then you go back to the parking lot, the parking lot is easier.  When you get on the freeway, going back to the neighborhood and driving is a lot more comfortable.  If you became a NASCAR driver and got good at the bumpin’ and rubbin’ at 170 MPH with just inches between each car, then you will have absolutely no fear when you drive around your neighborhood.  It’s the same with public speaking.  When you get really good at the complicated, the simpler presentations become second nature. 

So if you are feeling those butterflies and sweaty palms, realize that you’re normal.  Find a place where you can string a series of successful presentations together in order to begin to grow your self-confidence.  Then experiment with more challenging presentations over time to continue to grow.  You’ll eliminate your public speaking fear in no time.

Doug Staneart is a public speaking coach based in Dallas, Texas.  He teaches a public speaking crash-course called the Leader’s Institute® Boot Camp where he helps participants eliminate their public speaking fear in as little as three days.  Request information about the Boot Camp at https://www.leadersinstitutebootcamp.com and, he’ll send you a free copy of his best-selling book, Fearless Presentations.

Anxiety in Public Speaking

“I can’t believe I agreed to do this speech. Look at all those people out there! My knees are shaking, and my stomach feels like I just went over the top of a roller coaster. My heart is beating so fast and hard my tie is jumping. I just want to scream and run away!”

Speaking in public is often cited as the number one fear of adults. The Book of Lists places the fear of death in fifth place while public speaking ranks first. Jerry Seinfeld said, “That would mean at a funeral, people are five times more likely to want to be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”

Let’s look at some techniques to deal with the anxiety and give an excellent presentation. The methods are divided into the acronym P.R.E.P.A.R.E.


The foundation of a good speech is built on the 6 “W’s” of effective journalism. You must determine:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What are your key points?
  • When are you speaking; how long?
  • >Where is the speech; physical surroundings?
  • Why should the audience listen to you?
  • hoW are you going to present?

In an effective speech your audience will only remember 3 to 4 main ideas. Decide on the essential ideas vital for their understanding your topic. These are your key points. Make a brief outline with supporting details, quotes and graphics.


Practice is essential. Try delivering your talk without using any notes and check your timing during this rehearsal. If you have to use notes, then just jot down your key points. Don’t attempt to memorize the entire speech word for word. Mark Twain said, “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” That is the effect you are working toward – a conversational, impromptu style, but with thorough knowledge of the material.


Launching your presentation is as important as the takeoff of an airplane. If the liftoff fails, the rest of the trip becomes irrelevant. Determine how you are going to start your speech and commit the first several lines to memory. An excellent beginning includes telling the audience why they want to listen. What is the benefit to them?

If you are particularly nervous, look for a sympathetic face and talk to that person for several moments. Do not begin with an apology… “I didn’t have much time to prepare this talk.” Or “I’m not really very good at giving speeches.” Starting with a negative makes the audience uncomfortable. Remember you feel more anxious than you look. Convert your nervous energy into enthusiasm and launch your speech positively.


Your body is a tool. Learn to use it effectively. Find your center of balance. Your feet should be firmly planted about shoulder width apart. Hold your shoulders back and chin up. Stand calmly, being careful not to fidget or sway. Let your hands rest by your sides.

Make your movements purposeful. If you make a gesture with your hands, let them return to the resting position by your side. Don’t wander around the room. If you want to go to a different location – go there and then stop. Speak to one person at a time and maintain eye contact.

Your voice has volume, tone and pace. Realize you will speak faster and at a higher pitch than you did when you were rehearsing. Be aware of this tendency. Speak loudly enough so everyone in the room can hear you, but not so loudly the people in the front rows are covering their ears.


Know your audience. Don’t be like William Safire who said, “Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.” What does your audience know about the topic? Try and anticipate their questions. During the presentation, seek reactions, questions and concerns. This makes you appear accessible and allows you to move through the topic with your audience following along closely.

If possible greet audience members as they arrive. Ask why they came or about their interests in the topic. Adjust your presentation plans to better meet their needs. Finally keep in mind the audience is not your enemy – they want you to succeed. Nobody came to watch you flail or fail. Engage people and make them partners in your successful talk.


Remember the physical reactions you experience in front of a group are normal. When confronted with a stimulating situation the body resorts to the “fight” or “flight” response. Your pulse increases. Adrenaline releases into your bloodstream. Your body prepares for a physical response but you have to stay put!

Sometimes your mind generates negative thoughts. Michael Pritchard said, “Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed.” Deal with the fear by building a solid foundation (know your topic!) and feeling confident in your message. Take a few deep breaths. Mild exercise or stretching can disperse some of the anxious energy. Smile.


Like the touchdown of an airplane, your presentation must be landed correctly. Begin the end by summarizing your key points. Next ask for audience questions and clarify any remaining issues. Then make your closing statement, which should encourage some action. What do you want the audience to do? Memorizing the last few lines ensures a strong close. Finally smile and nod your head.

If the thought of speaking in public makes you anxious, you probably will be. However if you P.R.E.P.A.R.E., the level of your anxiety will be lower and you will deliver a better, more effective speech. Who knows, you may find you like giving the eulogy better than being in the casket!

Richard Highsmith, is a senior instructor for The Leader’s Institute. He has twenty-five years experience training and coaching. He has built and sold two successful businesses. To learn more about becoming a High Impact Leader visit our website at https://www.fearlessandpersuasivespeaking.com or call us toll-free at 1-800-872-7830.

Contact Us

(800) 872-7830

Contact Information

Corporate Office:
The Leader's Institute ®
5430 LBJ Freeway, Suite 1200
Dallas, TX 75240
Phone: (214) 989-4131

Site Map | Privacy Policy | © 2016 The Leaders Institute - All Rights Reserved