Fear of Public Speaking

Oh those butterflies…

I’ve got a book at home called “Juggling for the Complete Klutz“. My wife bought it for me one Christmas as a stocking filler… she’s good with stocking fillers.

It’s a great book, it teaches you how to juggle in easy steps. It starts with simple moves and slowly builds up to more difficult things.
Step V is called Special Problems and the author starts by saying…

Almost everyone seems to have a strong tendency to turn to this section too soon. Deep in our hearts we all figure we’re exceptional – one way or another – and consequently deserving of some special attention.
It is often a deeply humbling experience to realise that our problems are neither very unusual, nor even very serious.

John Cassidy and B.C. Rimbeaux – Juggling for the Complete Klutz

When I read that I had to laugh because he’s right. We all consider our own problems to be far greater than anyone else’s. Same with Public Speaking… we all consider that we are much more nervous than anyone else.

Truth is… everyone gets nervous, in fact according to a frequently cited survey, most people consider public speaking more frightening than death!
Personally I’d rather lecture to a thousand people wearing only my socks than die….. but they are rather nice socks.

Fear of public speaking is not new, Shakespeare knew all about it…

Steel thy fearful doubts and change thy misdoubts to resolution.
William Shakespeare

I couldn’t have put it better myself.
So let’s see if I can persuade you to follow Bill’s advice and “change thy misdoubts to resolution”.

What is Fear of Public Speaking / Stagefright?


Fear of public speaking, public speaking phobia, stagefright, nerves, communication anxiety, collywobbles, call it what you will, is our response to a situation we perceive as stressful.
What you perceive as stressful can be good or bad.
Winning a million dollars can be just as stressful as losing a million dollars – you get the same type of stress response.
Whenever we get stressed, our primeval urge to “fight or flee” kicks in and our bodies produce a rush of adrenalin. It’s this rush of adrenalin that causes the symptoms that we associate with the fear of public speaking.

A woman went into a room at a posh hotel and saw a man pacing back and forth as he talked to himself.
She said, “What are you doing here?
He said, “I’m the keynote speaker at a banquet. And I’m on in ten minutes.
She said, “Do you always get so nervous?
He said, “I’m not nervous. What makes you say that?
She said, “You’re pacing. You’re talking to yourself. And you’re in the ladies toilet.

Don’t worry… it doesn’t get any more technical than that, but knowing what causes all those weird symptoms can be useful.
It lets you know that your reactions are normal and you’re not going mad.

How to fight Fear of Public Speaking


There are lots of proven methods for lowering your stress level and beating Public Speaking Fear so let’s take a look at them.

Preparation and rehearsal

In my post “Practice, Practice, Practice” I stressed the importance of preparation and rehearsal in order to make your speech flow well and sound natural.
The extra benefit of preparation is that it will calm you down. Knowing that you are well prepared will do wonders for your confidence.

Rehearsal and preparation will reduce your fear of public speaking by 75 percent.
What generates confidence is preparing well, practising with astute colleagues or coaches and getting their feedback, making sure all the little details are taken care of, and speaking often
Tom Leech

Practise in front of an audience – Join a Speakers Club

Thing about Public Speaking is that it’s not natural!
In day to day conversation, I say something…. you say something… I say something… you get the idea.
But in a speech, you’re doing all the talking and that feels weird.
You need to get used to that weird feeling by giving lots of speeches in front of a real live audience.
Check out my post “A helping hand” for advice on how to join a Speakers Club and get that practice.

Fighting the symptoms

Our natural response to stress results in some uncomfortable symptoms. Yours will be different to mine, but I’ve listed the common ones below, along with a few ideas to lessen their effect.

Practise deep breathing to reduce your fear of public speaking by another 15 percent.
If you are afraid, breathe slowly, feel your feelings and share them if you need to and then proceed to enrich the lives of others through your presentation.
Terry Cole-Whittaker

  • Shakingyour hands shake, your legs feel wobbly, your knees give way.
    Put your notes on the lectern. If you hold them they will amplify your trembling. If you must hold your notes, use 3 by 5 inch cards.
  • Sweatingyour palms sweat, your forehead perspires, your armpits get damp.
    Don’t wear a shirt or blouse that will show the sweat. You may know you are sweating, but nobody else will.
  • Shallow breathingyou run out of breath and can’t finish your sentences.
    Breath through your nose not your mouth and breath from your diaphragm… so called “Belly Breathing” – take a look at this great article on deep breathing.
  • Heart pounds / palpitationsyour heart pounds as though it’s about to explode.
    The audience can’t hear your pounding heart and as you get into your speech it will slow down.
    And don’t worry… it won’t explode.
  • Dry mouthyour mouth gets dry and it becomes difficult to speak.
    Go easy on the coffee and take a drink of water whilst you are waiting and just before you are announced.
  • Upset stomachnuff said.
    Watch what you eat and find out where the nearest loos are.
  • Memory stops workingyou can’t remember the first line of your speech or any of the dates, names or quotations you are going to use in your speech.
    When we are stressed our memories can let us down so here are a few specific things you can do:
    First line of your speech – if you can only remember one line of your speech, the opening line is the one. Practise this line like crazy.
    “Amateurs practise so they can remember, professionals practise so they can’t forget.”
    Plus, as you put your notes on the lectern, look at that first line….
    Dates and names – make sure they are in your script, highlight them if it helps.
    Quotations – don’t even try to remember quotations. Pick up your notes and make it obvious that you are reading it… nothing wrong with that.
  • Feeling of total panicyou think that whatever symptoms you are feeling will escalate out of control as your speech progresses.
    That doesn’t happen, but you need to give a couple of speeches before you realise it.
    The most stressful part of your speech is the beginning. As you get into your speech and start noticing smiling faces and people nodding in agreement, your tension will reduce.

All of these symptoms are caused by that pesky old adrenalin preparing you to do a runner or take on Joe Frasier. A great way to burn off some of that adrenalin is to introduce dynamic gestures and movements into your speech. Take a look at the great motivational speakers, they use that adrenalin to add dynamism, energy and power to their speeches.

Changing perception

Remember what I said earlier about Stagefright / Fear of Public Speaking… it’s a reaction to stress. Good thing about stress is that it is a mental phenomenon and hence can be controlled mentally.

Control your mind to reduce your fear of public speaking by that final 10 percent.
Always visualise the end of the program with 5,000 people standing up and applauding your ideas and presentation – it removes stage fright.
Thomas Faranda

Do you know what you’re scared of? You probably don’t.
You just have a feeling of unease.
It’s a bit like your mum telling you to be careful… but she doesn’t tell you what to be careful of.
Most of our fears bear little relationship to reality so let’s take a look at our fears and compare them to reality.
Time to move from “half empty” to “half full”.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Stagefright fantasies commonly fall into two categories: how badly you’ll perform and how horribly the audience will react.

Common stagefright fantasies
  • Fear that you’ll perform badly, your speech stinks – “My speech isn’t good enough. My material is terrible.”
    No way! If you’ve followed my advice on writing your speech, practised, revised your speech and practised some more… you will have great material.
    You may not bewitch the crowd with your silver-tongued oration, but you are doing something that most of the audience wouldn’t even try.
  • Fear of how the audience will react – “The audience hates me. They’re out to get me.”
    That just ain’t so and to prove it, I’m going to quote from Professor Max Atkinson’s book – Lend me your ears.
    “…members of an audience are not, as many people seem to assume, wired up to each other in such a way as to constitute a collective mind that somehow enables them to conspire together against the speaker.
    …when asked whether, when they are in an audience, they sit there feeling hostile towards speakers, hoping to see them fall flat on their face and make a fool of themselves. The answer is invariably no…. “

    Now you may not believe me, but a professor?
General stress busters

Because the symptoms of Stagefright are the body’s reaction to stress, it follows that any stress busting technique will reduce those symptoms.
My favourites are:

  • Deep breathing – if you only have time to do one thing from the whole of this post, this is the one. Deep breathing will slow down your breathing, give you something to focus on, calm you down and relax you. For a step by step guide, take a look at this great article on deep breathing
  • Relaxation – any form of relaxation you can do whilst you are waiting to be introduced will help. I consciously relax various parts of my body, jaw, shoulders, arms and carry that feeling with me as I walk out.
  • Exercise / keep fit – the reaction to stress causes an increase in heart rate. If you’re fit your body can cope more easily with that increase and you’ll notice it less. So get in shape.
The real secret….. don’t look nervous

In his book “Public Speaking for Dummies”, Malcolm Kushner says:

The uncommon knowledge is, it doesn’t really matter how nervous you are – as long as you appear calm. As long as the audience thinks you’re confident, that’s what counts.

That is great advice.
What you have to do is act out being calm and we all know what calm looks like. Relax your shoulders, let your arms hang loose, no fidgeting, no pacing, no stiff movements.
If you’re looking for role models, take a look at the masters of calm:
Bill Clinton – cool, calm, collected, no hint that he isn’t enjoying every moment.
Barrack Obama – loose limbed and lithe, a man to inspire with his word pictures and delivery.
Gordon Brown – for his sincere smile and sophisticated banter with the audience.

Things not to do

You might be tempted to try some of the remedies that are trotted out whenever Public Speaking Fear is mentioned.

  • Imagine the audience naked – This strategy adds to the idea that “the audience are out to get me” they really aren’t. The audience is just a group of individuals, treat them as such.
  • Don’t look at the audience. look over their heads – I said earlier that speaking to an audience is unnatural… you are doing all the talking and you aren’t getting any feedback. Correction, you aren’t getting any spoken feedback. If you look at the audience you will see smiling faces, nodding heads, puzzled looks. That’s the feedback that you need to get used to in order to make your speech feel more like a conversation.
    Look at the audience members and start getting that feedback.
  • Have a couple of stiff drinks – What I’m advocating in this post, is that you take control of your fears and learn how to control them. If you use alcohol as a crutch, it may relax you but can result in slurred words, fluffed timing and fumbled notes. You look silly and your confidence takes a nosedive.

Final thoughts

There are three secrets to conquering the Fear of Public Speaking, unfortunately… nobody knows what they are.
In other words there are no quick fixes.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.
Mark Twain

It may be that you will never remove all those butterflies, but if you give it time, follow my advice and stick at it, you will learn how to keep them flying in formation.
Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

My thanks and gratitude to:
Randy on Flickr for his Butterfly image.
Stock,xchng for lectern and chairs image.
Mike Baird on Flickr for his sunset photo.
And the following authors whose books I have used as references and quoted throughout this article.
Malcolm Kushner – Public Speaking for Dummies
Laurie Rozakis – The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Public Speaking
Lilly Walters – Secrets of Successful Speakers
Professor Max Atkinson – Lend Me Your Ears

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  1. Another informative post, Keith! I like the General Stress Busters, as they can be used for any potentially stressful situation. And speaking from experience, when I’ve remembered to use those type of tips, they have significantly helped in reducing my stress level.
    .-= Ryan Cowles´s last blog ..Lomography SuperSampler Review and Photo’s =-.

    • Hi Ryan
      I love the deep breathing.
      Really works for me.
      Slows down my breathing, gives me something to concentrate on and calms me down.
      As you say, the general stress busters can be used anytime.

  2. I know my limitations of ever becoming a public speaker. It’s not something I could ever see myself doing. I found out my fear of this when I was studying to become a teacher, on my first practical course where I had to do a lesson in from of a class of 7 year olds. I did it but I hated every minute of it.

    Guess what? I chose another profession 😉
    .-= Sire´s last blog ..Tips On Having A Photo Blog And How Photos Can Inspire A New Post =-.

    • Hi Sire – good to have you back.
      Reminds me of Clint Eastwood in one of the Dirty Harry films. He looks at his Lieutenant and says…
      “I like a man who knows his limitations.”LOL
      Can’t imagine you as a teacher although you are probably still teaching… but to a much bigger class.
      Keep on blogging.

    • Yes indeed, a much bigger class, one that has students from all over the world and the fact that I can do it all from home makes it so much easier. 😉
      .-= Sire´s last blog ..Taking The Time To Think Before Clicking Submit =-.

  3. Awesome article Keith!

    Public speaking is for the brave! 🙂

    I think that a huge factor that will help to overcome the fear of public speaking is to improve one’s confidence. If a person has zero self confidence I think it would be next to impossible to even attempt public speaking. Although self confidence does not eliminate the fear but helps to control it.

    The exercises that have worked best for me are: deep breathing, practicing on friends and, depending on the audience, I may crack a joke to lighten the atmosphere. The huge confidence that I have developed over the years in myself regardless of the situation has helped me to soar, along with the realization that I’m speaking to human beings who are just like me.

    Keep up the great work Keith!
    .-= Robyn from Sam’s Web Guide´s last blog ..Will Social Media Marketing Consistently Outperform Search Engine Optimization? =-.

    • Thanks for stopping by Robyn.
      You make such an important point…
      “…the realization that I’m speaking to human beings who are just like me.”
      Once you understand that, it’s just like having a one to one conversation – well almost.
      Keep in touch.

    • Public speaking is for the brave!

      That explains why I can’t do it, I’m just a big chicken. The braves thing I’ve ever done is talk back to the wife, and man it’s taken awhile but I’ve learned it doesn’t pay to do that. 😀
      .-= Sire´s last blog ..Taking The Time To Think Before Clicking Submit =-.

  4. hi Keith

    It is phenomenal what you said:

    “Exercise / keep fit – the reaction to stress causes an increase in heart rate. If you’re fit your body can cope more easily with that increase and you’ll notice it less. So get in shape”

    thank you, that’s a good point!

    And breaking through the fear of public speaking opens up the gates to real creativity

    have a great day
    .-= Martyna Bizdra´s last blog ..Winning.The most Successful Car Racing Team. Strategic Planning Process =-.

    • Hi Martyna
      You are so right…
      “breaking through the fear of public speaking opens up the gates to real creativity”
      I’ve found that to be true for me. The confidence you get spills over to other areas of your life.
      BTW – I’ve just set up my RSS feed – only common or garden WordPress, not Feedburner.
      Hope you’ll subscribe and visit again.

  5. Hi Keith .. all good thoughts and things we need to be aware of. Being infront of lots of others with them inspecting you is bad enough, let alone them listening to you .. so following your advice is essential.

    I have to say .. that I wish as a kid I’d been ecouraged to do more .. public speaking, do the swap with my French penpal .. etc .. learning to put yourself into a difficult camp is the way to learn – quickly .. it may be hard for a few days – but what pleasure later or .. & you won’t worry about being wrong sometimes .. it’s natural.

    Glad I don’t have to have the pleasure of hearing you in your socks though .. I’ll leave that to your wife and your maker??!!

    Have a good week .. Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..Pevensey Castle, Normans Bay, smuggling and family remembrances … Part 1 =-.

    • Hi Hilary
      Good to hear from you – hope things go well at home.
      As for hearing me in my socks… you are right, just my wife and my maker. LOL

  6. Great stuff, Keith.

    Just been reading Solar by Ian McEwen: there’s a wonderful speech in it, climaxing with the speaker… no, I’ll not give it away. Cheers


    • Hi Mike
      You can’t just leave us in suspense, well… perhaps you can.
      You’ve done a great job this year promoting the ASC and Public Speaking – well done.
      See you in York for a drink and a natter… you can tell me the ending of the speech. LOL

  7. Hi Keith,

    Wow, not only is this a great article content wise, but it is beautiful visually.
    So much valuable information.

    I especially like the part about not looking over the heads of your audience. I have always questioned that. I like looking at the faces of my audience and being more personal.

    I have had the good fortune of really enjoying public speaking. It’s not that I never get nervous, but I feel grateful that it is not an overwhelming feeling. In fact, I love public speaking. Lucky me.

  8. Keith — Great article, and as others said, very well laid out. It made for an easy read with excellent information.

    When I did do some public speaking, my choice of nerve tonic was always humor. If I made myself laugh, it relaxed me and helped me get through my presentation.

    I don’t know if I can agree with you about crossing out Gordon Brown. My daughter who lives in London tells me that he’s a master at getting the sympathy vote for his approach to public speaking:~)
    .-= Sara´s last blog ..Life Lessons: Humbled by Simple Words =-.

    • Hi Sara
      Great to have you back, I’ve missed you.
      I’ve looked at some of your recent posts but they are way too clever for me and I haven’t left a comment – my apologies.
      Thanks for mentioning humour.
      I’m in two minds about my next post, should it be Public Speaking tips or should it be (pause for drum roll) Public Speaking humour?
      You may have made my mind up for me.
      As for your daughter’s comments on Gordon Brown’s speeches… I could never contradict a lady, she is of course correct.
      Thanks for coming back – “Gam zeh ya’avor”.

  9. Great and very comprehensive article – loads of brilliant tips – I would be tempted to add in one of my own – especially if you’re clear on your subject but just need to get rid of the anxiety – try Thought Field Therapy (TFT) it can be a really quick, permanent, solution.

    • Hi Lucy
      Thanks for adding your own little tip.
      Not heard of TFT but I’m sure people will Google it if they are interested.
      Keep in touch.

  10. It is a great article, Keith. Couldn’t agree more with what all the others have said. But what’s really blowing my mind is that I gave that exact same book – Juggling for Klutzes – to my husband one Christmas. What does this mean, I wonder? We both want our husbands to be jugglers? Hmmm, I’m gonna have to think about that one!
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Meaning Mondays: Life As A Quilt Edition =-.

    • How spooky is that Patty.. scary!
      If you get your husband to contact me, perhaps we can start a double act.
      We’re both probably too old to run away to the circus but how about Britain’s got talent?
      We could make a fortune. LOL

  11. Hi Keith, this is such a great and complete post. Your use of images, boxes and bullet points in addition to the great content made this such a joy to read.

    I have to agree with not picturing the audience naked. I remember trying this once. I couldn’t shake the thought that I didn’t want them picturing me naked (which added to my anxiety) so I banished that thought from my head.

    • Hi Belinda
      Thanks for your kind words.
      I spend time looking for good graphics, it can really add interest to a post.
      The idea of imagining the audience naked is mentioned in so many books on Public Speaking and yet is so bizarre!
      Appreciate your comment.

    • Picturing the audience naked, or even in their underwear, just wouldn’t do the trick for me. Think about it.. Would you feel comfortable if you really were in front of a large group of naked people?
      .-= Ryan Cowles´s last blog ..Taking a Train Across the Country – Part One =-.

  12. Roy Gibson says:

    I found speakers club helped me enormously when talking in front of a crowd, to not keep saying ‘er’ any time I could not think of anything to say. The Politicians could use some of our help, most are pathetic at answering questions without saying ‘er’ every other word.

    • Hi Roy
      Good to hear from you.
      Yes Speakers Clubs are brilliant for helping with those nerves.
      Thanks for stopping by and good luck tomorrow in the Topics Contest.
      See you soon.

  13. Hi Keith,

    You’ve hit another one out of the ballpark. Fabulous post.

    The part that resonated with me was when you talked about how when you do public speaking, you’re doing all the talking. Being the introvert that I am, that’s what I’d find hard.

    P.S. By the sounds of it, you and Bill (William Shakespeare) are great friends. 🙂
    .-= Barbara Swafford´s last blog ..Comments -Why Some Aren’t Worth Reading =-.

    • Hi Barbara
      Good to hear from you.
      That’s right, when you give a speech, part of you is waiting for a response. You have to get used to that lack of verbal response and look for subtler responses… smiles nodding heads, that sort of thing.
      As for Bill, he writes all my speeches. LOL

  14. “Amateurs practise so they can remember, professionals practise so they can’t forget.”

    I just had this tattooed on my left forearm. THANK YOU!!

    No, but seriously, there is a huge nugget of gold in that, and so much else in this article. But I like that one so much as it pertains to performing songs.

    .-= Jannie Funster´s last blog ..____ will ____ you (a poem) =-.

    • Hi Jannie
      That little phrase is one of my favourites. It’s short and clever.
      You could say that it’s just playing with words but for me it says a lot about how most of us practise and how a pro practises.
      Thanks for visiting.

  15. Hi Keith,

    your post is so much versatile. When I read it, I was thinking about solutions to some other situations than just public speaking.
    I must admit also, that it was great to read about “the butterflies syndrome”:) and that it is so normal to experience and that they can be trained with the time passing by:)

    .-= Justyna Bizdra´s last blog ..Discover how you can easily foster Creativity in your Business =-.

    • Welcome back Justyna
      I don’t know any Public Speaker who doesn’t get butterflies, or something similar.
      Great thing about giving lots of speeches is that after a while, you just accept it and stop thinking about it.

  16. Hey Keith

    Sure I will!
    I like Your articles, so see You in the future

    besos Amigo

    .-= Martyna Bizdra´s last blog ..Fear- my friend =-.

  17. Hi Keith. It’s a strange phenomenon, isn’t it? The part about preferring death to speaking in front of folk. With no completely effective way to disable that fear, I think. So we play our mental games, whatever works for us, and manage somehow.

    One more thing I’d add to your list of Not-to-Do’s is this: Don’t apologize for your perceived lack of anything — lack of experience, lack of knowledge, lack of confidence. As an audience member, an opening apology wipes out all credibility for me, from the start.

    Instead, get right into it, whatever your topic is, with a question or little story — much as a first-paragraph-hook in a book. If you get the audience thinking and/or visualizing along with you, they’ll feel part of your talk.

    Have you ever had someone say to you after a talk, “I felt you were talking directly to me”?

    It’s all about connecting, isn’t it? They came. They invested $$ and time to hear you — they didn’t come to hate you, but to enjoy and/or learn something that might make a difference in their lives.

    I think it helps, as a speaker, to keep that in mind, and then to just share. Then butterflies fly in excitement for the topic’s delivery rather than in fear of it.

    It’s been a while since I’ve spoken, but I imagine the butterflies will always be there…
    .-= Barb Hartsook´s last blog ..Life Happens in the Small Moments =-.

    • Hi Barb
      Thanks for taking the time to post a great comment.
      Couple of important points you’ve made:
      1 – Never apologise. Even if you feel nervous, why tell people? They probably won’t notice.
      2 – Train those butterflies to fly in excitement for the topic. That’s the perfect way to turn fear into excitement.
      Appreciate your contribution Barbara

  18. From my first oral book report….and here I thought the best thing about growing up was I never had to do it again 🙂
    .-= Sliloh´s last blog ..Ireland =-.

    • Hi Sliloh
      I know what you mean, all that feeling embarassed at school with your pals sniggering – I hated it.
      Perhaps that’s where the butterflies start.
      Let me know if you decide to have another go. LOL

    • Haha, book reports in school could definitely be nerve racking! Even if you don’t plan on doing anymore in the future, I’ve found a lot of the things discussed here can be used in every day situations.
      .-= Ryan Cowles´s last blog ..Metacom Newsletter and Invoice / Resume Redesign =-.

  19. I think the hardest part is the shortness of breath and the pounding chest. You feel like you’re going to explode it you don’t get through what you have to say as quickly as possible. But there’s no one to save you because everyone is sitting there looking at you. This makes me so nervous and yet I play it cool and hope no one notices. They gotta notice, but their always nice about it. They must all be crazy 🙂
    .-= Paul Germana´s last blog ..Finally! Internet Marketing Is Revealed =-.

    • Hi Paul
      Classic signs – “shortness of breath and pounding chest” – plenty of deep breathing and lots of practice in front of a real audience will help with both.
      And speak slowly, especially at the beginning of your speech. I used to write “speak slowly” at the top of my script, just to remind me.
      Good strategy to act relaxed. After a few speeches you won’t have to act, you will be relaxed.
      Keep training those butterflies and thanks for stopping by.

  20. I’ve been in Sales & Marketing all my working life and had no problems with making presentations on a one to one basis or to small groups, but the first time I was faced with a larger audience my legs went to jelly! My voice held up okay, so I don’t think anyone noticed! But I was like the proverbial swan – calm and serene on the face of it, but below the surface……
    I stumbled across my local ASC Speakers Club and the calm atmosphere and friendly support helped my to cure those jelly legs. So if your problem is wobbly legs – practise all you can with a supportive audience and they will get stronger each time you speak.
    Sans Souci SC
    ASC Midlands District President

    • Hi Hillers
      I’ve never experienced the “Jelly legs” but I’ve experienced most of the other symptoms.
      Getting that practice in front of an audience is oh so important.
      Thanks for your comment – hope to hear from you again.

  21. Keith, I wrote a guest post for Steven Aitchison’s blog on Irrational Fear of Public Speaking but I admit, you have it broken down to even MORE detail – thank you for writing about such an important topic. The fear is sometimes an illusion for me. I KNOW that I should be nervous before a speech so I start to feel nervous sometimes as a result. Meditation for 2 minutes or real inward thinking and quieting of the mind helps too. Great great post!!!!

    • Hi Farnoosh
      I’ll take a look at your post on “Steven Aitchison’s blog.”
      Meditation sounds good – perhaps you could do me a short guest post on the technique you use.
      I’m sure we would all find it useful.
      Let me know if you could do that.

  22. I think we should all take the view that, as I always tell new speakers, when you are at the lectern/podium you are ‘in charge’. Take that position and you can readily set your nerves in order.

    • Hi Brian
      Now that you mention it, whenever I’ve seen you speak, you always look “in charge”
      Thanks for reminding us.
      Remember me to Carolyn and see you both soon.

  23. I spent years as a performing artist and even that is not as scary as public speaking. Public speaking allows no act. You have to give an unbiased endorsement or assessment of a concept or idea, with no dissimulation from it’s directive. If you are nervous, what you really think has a way of showing in your face. Can you imagine what it’s like to be the white house press secretary?
    .-= Paul Germana´s last blog ..Stuff You Desire to Study Dealing with Website =-.

    • Hi Paul
      I always see a speech as a performance, which means that during your speech you become a performer.
      Most of us could act a small part in a play so why not simply act out your speech.
      Be yourself, but be yourself with a bit more passion.
      Give it a try Paul.

  24. I still remember my first public speech where literally my whole body trembling so much and I just trying my best to stop that but when I start, I just started it and people listening me so quietly, that gave me internal boost which help me to complete my whole speech. Really public speaking always need a big heart. Thanks for this insightful article.
    .-= Arafat Hossain Piyada´s last blog ..Convert digital image into a pencil sketch instantly using Instant Photo Sketch =-.

    • Hi Arafat
      Thanks for your comment – I think we can all remember our first speech and how difficult it can be.
      You are right “Public Speaking needs a big heart.” I think that’s why the audience admire good public speakers.
      Keep getting up and giving those speeches and let me know how it goes.

  25. Hi Keith,

    Thanks for the very informative and detailed post. You offered tons of great tips.

    I’ll just add one technique that has helped me with public speaking.

    I’ve found that for me practicing in a room in front of one or two friends or family members is not much different than giving a talk in front of a much larger audience. Therefore, I think this is a really good way to prepare for a talk. It allows you to get comfortable with people looking at you while you are giving a talk.
    .-= Greg Blencoe´s last blog ..My personal 30-day money challenge starts next Monday on May 10th =-.

    • Greg – that is a great piece of advice and with your permission I might add it to the article.
      I don’t actually do that myself because all my friends and family have listened to so many of my speeches, I take pity on them and practise alone. LOL
      Please visit again.

  26. Hello Keith!!
    Thank you for visiting my blog!!!
    I think I’ll follow yours, it’s really interesting!!!
    Have a nice day!

  27. Wow… great post there keith.

    I know all to well about the fight or flight response because I have an anxiety disorder (unwanted anxiety in situations that the average person wouldn’t consider stressful)

    It’s a problem I’m gradually learning to live with, and deep breathing definitely helps me to cope with it. Regular exercise is something I need to do more of, but I think that’s probably the same for most people.

    Thanks for the post, It’s always a pleasure to read your blog.

    Take care,

    .-= Paul Lear´s last blog ..How I built my List from 50 to 2000 in around 15 weeks! =-.

    • Good to have you back Paul.
      Deep breathing can be used for any stress / anxiety problem. Glad that it works for you.
      A friend of mine is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist who specialises in all forms of anxiety. I was hoping that he would add a few paragraphs to this post but I published before I received his contribution.
      When I get his input I’ll drop you an email, you might find it useful.
      Keep in touch Paul and good luck with the anxiety.

  28. Hi Keith,
    I really love your website and great advice. I had been on the speaking circuit for a long time about 10 years ago and see you offer some very sound advice. It is a matter of practice, practice practice… before you know it those butterflies turn into a feeling of anticipation and excitement.

    • Hi Rob
      Good to get advice from a seasoned speaker.
      Great line “those butterflies turn into a feeling of anticipation and excitement.”
      That is real encouragement for anyone just starting out in Public Speaking.
      Appreciate your comment Rob.

  29. Having just become National President of the Association of Speakers Clubs, I am looking back on the days when I wouldn’t even open my mouth at a meeting, when to stand up in front of an audience would fill me with dread and all this when I was a teacher who could address a class of children without a qualm. However, let an adult into the room and I was a quivering wreck. It is standing before one’s peers which is the nerve-racking experience. If only I had joined a Speakers Club 30 or 40 years ago, life might have been very different. The positive, encouraging feedback received makes all the difference to confidence-building. If I could have one wish it would be to shout to the world just what a life-changing and enhancing experience, becoming a confident speaker can be.

    • Hi Gwyneth
      Thanks for taking a break from your Presidential duties and leaving a comment.
      Just can’t imagine you being nervous in front of an audience but I guess we all were once.
      “Positive and encouraging feedback” is so important for building confidence.
      I was lucky to join an ASC Speakers Club that not only had great speakers (do you remember the late Haydn Samuel?) but really helped build my confidence.
      Have a fantastic year as ASC President and I’m sure our paths will cross before next season’s AGM.

  30. Hi Keith,
    I had a presentation I was doing just this past week. While I felt mostly calm about it, I still had moments of anxiousness. What really helped was the preparation I did ahead of time. And – in talking with people beforehand – and their words of encouragement also were very comforting.

    Great reminders!
    .-= Lance´s last blog ..RAOKA: Family =-.

    • Hi Lance
      Preparation always helps with nerves. Gives you confidence in your material.
      Great point about getting support and encouragement from friends and family.
      We don’t have to do it alone!
      Thanks for giving us a “real life” comment.
      Hope you’ll visit again.

  31. Keith, thanks for this well written article. I am going to print it out so I can read it whenever I need it for the future.

    I could have used all of your tips 2 weeks ago when I was interviewed on Conversations Live! Radio by Cyrus Webb. It was my very first radio interview done with no prior knowledge of what questions I would be asked. Everyone said it was a great interview. I was terrified – way beyond scared. I was gratful that the inside trembling that I felt didn’t show in my voice.

    Back in college in the early 1970’s I took a required Speech class. It was the most frightening, most rewarding class that I took in my 4 years of college. It never failed that I could take a 3-minute speech and reduce it to 1-minute flat every time that I got up in front of the class to give my speech. I got a C out of the class. It was a well deserved C. I learned so much about myself in that class and was able to overcome so much of my shyness in speaking to other people. I am glad that the class was required at the time or I would have never signed up for it.
    Thanks for writing and sharing this article.
    .-= Patricia – Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker´s last blog ..The Baggage Of Abuse Gets Heavy =-.

    • Hi Patricia
      Thanks for taking the time to leave such a great contribution to the comments.
      “…first radio interview done with no prior knowledge of what questions I would be asked.” sounds pretty scary to me but it sounds as though you did a fantastic job.
      I would always recommend joining a Speakers Club if you want to improve your Public Speaking skills – Toastmasters have a good reputation.
      Good to read your comment Patricia please keep in touch.

  32. It was before 5am when I started reading this so I have to finish the latter part. It’s a very thorough article, Keith, and I am quite impressed not just by you knowledge of public speaking but also by your articulation of it (an even harder thing to do). It is quite nice to have such a wonderful reference. I shall link to this in my future Toastmasters posts. Thanks for writing about public speaking. Not nearly enough resources on this topic.

    • Hi Farnoosh
      Before 5am… are you mad! LOL
      Thanks for your comment – great contribution as usual.
      Appreciate you linking via your Toastmaster posts.
      I always enjoy visiting your blog, super photos that really cheer me up.
      Got a post coming out soon about “use of humour in speeches”. I think you’ll like it.

  33. Hi Keith,

    Thanks for your kind comments on my public speaking “False Dichotomy” (http://tombreeze.com/a-to-z/the-false-dichotomy).

    I have seen your site before and really enjoy your tips and techniques.

    Also, what a great following you have – a thriving community!

    I’ll be in touch soon to add your stuff to my website!



    • Hi Tom
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a supportive comment.
      You are right, I’ve been fortunate to have so many great commenters – helps keep me motivated.
      I was impressed with your video and would encourage people to take a look over on your site.
      Hope you keep in touch.

  34. Hi Keith,

    As always, a well-written, in-depth article that covers all the angles.

    I’m glad you mentioned practice as the first key to overcoming nervousness. When I coach my clients, they always comment on how much more confident they feel after going through the speech a couple times. The more you do it, the more natural it feels and the more confident you become.

    Keep up the great work!
    .-= John Watkis´s last blog ..“How to Start a Speech” – 90 Minute Teleclass =-.

    • Hi John
      Good to hear from you again.
      As you say “practice is the first key to overcoming nervousness… the more you do it, the more natural it feels”
      The good thing about practice, is that it is something we can control. We can practice as little or as much as we like.
      I notice you are doing a Teleclass on “How to start a speech” – hope it goes well John.

  35. Hi Keith,
    A very enjoyable, informative and constructive article. I liked the feedback you have received too, with lots of useful ideas. The key ideas you have said of preparation, practice, deep breathing and talking slowly to gain confidence are very helpful. I find really looking around at your audience and being the recipient of their positive vibes and nods etc as you said (and Patricia Fripp says) is empowering.
    I look forward to your post on humour – great for rapport and helping your audience and you relax!
    Well done, Carol.
    Sans Souci Speakers’ Club, Solihull

    • Hi carol
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a useful comment.
      I’m trying to get the post on humour out this weekend… but you know how weekends suddenly fly by!

  36. Thanks for your reply Keith – I certainly do know how the weekends fly by! This is the last weekend before next Wednesday’s AGM of Sans Souci Speakers’ Club when I “hand over the baton” to the new President, so it is a busy one. I look forward to your ideas on humour – this year has been enjoyable but a lot of work and I look forward to having more time for a laugh!

    Best wishes,
    Carol Bullimore.
    2009/10 President of Sans Souci Speakers’ Club, Solihull

  37. Keith,

    People have always found my stories so good they didn’t notice my mistakes. I didn’t know Winston Churchill did all that prep including planting people in the audience.

    The think I was never good at was being humorous. I can make a few jokes naturally while speaking but how does one become funny?

    • Hi Tess
      Thanks for leaving a comment.
      Winston was a stickler for preparation and rehearsal as are most professional speakers.
      “How does one become funny?”
      Long term – read lots of funny material – start with something like Woody Allen’s “Complete prose“.
      It’s a masterpiece on writing funny material rather than telling jokes.
      Short term – read my next article on Public Speaking Humour. Hope to have it out in the next few days.
      Keep in touch.

  38. Great post Keith. I think your skills with public speaking have really helped with your writing as well. Everything here feels conversational, even though reading an article is even more one-way than a speech!

    I agree with what you’ve said. Most of all with your point that it doesnt matter how nervous you are, so long as the audience doesn’t know it.

    There is a great book on confidence called “The Magic of Thinking Big” and one of the tips from that that I’ve always remembered the most was “to be confident, act confident”. It carries the exact same message as the point you made, and I think it can be applied to just about anything. Just by making yourself appear confident, you really will become more so.
    .-= Michael Martin´s last blog ..Get Your WordPress Themes from PliablePress! =-.

    • Hi Michael
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.
      I know that you’re busy at the moment working on those great WordPress themes over at PliablePress.
      The ones I looked at were absolutely stunning.
      Well spotted with your comment on making the post sound conversational – the same technique used in good speeches.
      You feel as though the speaker is speaking to you.
      I’ll take a look at “The Magic of Thinking Big” and put it on my Amazon wish list.
      Wishing you every success in your new venture.

    • Haha, it’s the most stressful thing I’ve ever done! So much still to do! Really rocks that people like you have been so supportive though, thank you!

      That’s cool though, The Magic of Thinking Big is a great book and I definitely recommend it. It’s slightly dated now (Definitely focused at a very corporate world), but the advice in it all holds strong. Let me know what you think of it if you do get it someday! 🙂
      .-= Michael Martin´s last blog ..Get Your WordPress Themes from PliablePress! =-.

  39. Malcolm Kushner quote is right – I used to have to speak in front of people, even held a couple of Seminars, and I was always so nervous that I had to use the toilet a lot beforehand (and not for wees! 😉 ). And once I had a friend sitting in the audience, and she knew exactly how nervous I was, and she came up to me afterwards and said that I appeared completely confident up there. I never would have thought from the way I was feeling!!!
    .-= Petra´s last blog ..The “Getting Organized” Of Internet Marketing =-.

    • Hi Petra
      great to see you are back in the land of the living.
      Agree totally – we never look as nervous as we feel. Problem is… getting people to believe it!
      Appreciate your comment.

  40. I think on a deeper level, fear of public speaking has to do with a strong sense of identity. When we’re so consumed with making sure we live up to our sense of self, we get anxious and feel the need to not mess up. We want to keep that identity preserved. I think changing your beliefs about yourself (along with the tips above) would help relieve some of the nervousness associated with public speaking.
    Henway´s last great post ..My Review Of ColonixMy Profile

    • Hi Henway
      How right you are… we all want to be perfect and so we impose pressure on ourselves.

      Nobody says we have to be perfect and you do get points for trying.

  41. Helen Clark says:

    My nervous reaction is a wobbly voice, no matter how practised, relaxed or comfortable I think I am when I start I get the wobbles and then never recover……any tips?

    You’re site is fantastic, I’ve already contacted a few speaker clubs so fingers crosssed practise will help.


    • Hi Helen
      Wobbly voice is common.
      We can hear the slightest change in our own voice and assume that the audience can hear it. That makes our voice wobble a bit more and we get caught up in a spiral of panic.

      A few things to help.

      1 We can hear the change in our voice… but the audience can’t – remember that.

      2 Stop listening to your own voice and start concentrating on the audience.

      3 Get plenty of practice at home and in front of an audience at a Speakers Club – safe place to practice.

      Sounds as though you are already sorting out a Speakers Club – well done.
      Please let me know how it goes.

      BTW – are you in the UK or abroad?

  42. I really enjoyed reading this post. I enjoyed reading about some of the fears and symptoms of public speaking. I learned a lot about how you can fight those symptoms.

    I believe that no matter how many times you have given a presentation you will always have some type of fear. But being able to handle yourself and know what those fears or symptoms might be is key.
    Dan Black´s last great post ..Manage SelfMy Profile

    • Hi Dan
      Glad you enjoyed the post.

      I think you are right, no matter how many speeches you give you will always have those butterlies… but at least they will be flying in formation.

      Please keep in touch.

  43. Hey Keith,

    I just saw your comment.

    WOW!!! Pretty comprehensive post. This should be the internet’s destination for public speaking and presentations.

    I wonder how I’ve never stumbled upon your site before. Ok! I’m off to check the rest of it

    Fernando´s last great post ..Guest Posts on WeBlogBetter and BloggingProMy Profile

    • Hi Fernando
      Thanks for coming over and leaving a great comment.
      It’s comments like yours that make blogging worthwhile.

      Please take a good look round, hope you find lots of useful info.


  44. wow Keith,

    You definately have spent some time to write this article.

    For me only 1 thing helps – have to give the same speach to an empty room several times with set up time limit.

    thank you for sharing,

    • Welcome to easyP Helmuts.
      Giving the speech to an empty room sounds like a great way to practice without the pressure of an audience.

      Appreciate your comment.

  45. I know a lot of people who have extreme anxiety to public speaking. People whose hands and feet are shaking and trembling when they are on stage.

  46. I’ll add my voice to the chorus: Terrific article! I’ve done a fair amount of public speaking and what works for me: become the content. It’s not about me. When I think about me while speaking, it creates a feedback loop: “Oh, a touch of nerves, do they detect it? Uh oh, now I’m really feeling it. Yes, that quaver in my voice and hesitation were obvious! Now I’m really nervous, etc. etc.”

    When a microphone squawks, it is feeding back. It is no longer a conduit but is allowing it’s own response to itself to amplify that response and affect the output. The moment I think about myself, I switch gears to focus on content, content, content. My job is not to think about how I am doing. My job is to make the ideas coming through me as clear and as interesting as possible.

    The audience’s reaction is their business. That also isn’t about me. It’s about them. The feedback loop can start there if I let that affect the presentation. If they laugh at the right places, great. But whether or not they do, I know the joke works in the abstract. Whether or not they applaud, it’s still not about me. My focus is to give them the very best chance to “get it.” When I’ve done that, I join the audience in appreciating the ideas I managed to get across.

    It’s like singing a song. Here is a beautiful song, and my job is to do my best to not worry about myself or you, but to let you hear the beauty I know is there. The experience of channeling the content can be exhilarating. Only at the end do I allow myself the joy of success or sadness of achieving something less. Whatever the outcome, I am confident it wasn’t about me feeding back.

  47. The first time I felt stage fright when I open a speech at an event, the words that I speak of all, words I wanted to say on stage lost all of my memory. I feel nervous, and finally I just issued sober words that I remember. Indeed, there is need for conditioning yourself for public speaking. This must be done many times and eventually I got used to public speaking.