Public Speaking–5 Ways to Ditch Your Fear for Good

In many surveys over the years, people have ranked the fear of public speaking as worse than the fear of dying!  Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, networking for your business is going to involve public speaking.  You may find yourself giving a sixty-second elevator pitch at a networking meeting, a ten-minute presentation at a chamber function, or a forty-minute educational presentation to a prospect.


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /


The following 5 strategies are my top tips to help you lose your fear of public speaking and start winning over your audiences with confidence.

1) Prepare, prepare, prepare!  Don’t wing it!  Prepare an outline of what you want to say and practice it.  Use note cards, or type your remarks out on a piece of paper.  (Print with large handwriting or type in a large font–make it ridiculously easy to read so you don’t lose your place in the paragraph.)  Don’t over-prepare though; this can just lead to more anxiety.

2)  Be specific and talk about the things you know best.  At networking meetings, don’t try to teach people everything you do in one short pitch.  Think in terms of teaching the audience something of significance.  Focus on just one or two areas of your business–the topics you feel you understand best.  This will increase your comfort level and reduce stress.

3)  Use handouts, visuals, or PowerPoint slides to support your presentation.  If you’re worried about stage fright, props such as books, slides, handouts, or gadgets will help you keep your mind on your topic, add a special element of interest to your presentation, and give the audience something to concentrate on besides you.  PowerPoint can be a great tool, but it becomes a noticeable crutch if you fall into the trap of reading from the slides.  PowerPoint should support your presentation, not be your presentation.  Read a few of the many books and articles available about how to effectively use PowerPoint.

4) Remember, you’re the expert.  It’s true.  In the eyes of the audience, you are the expert and they want to hear what you have to say.  They’re eager to learn something from you.  If you focus on what you know best, you will feel more confident and be more credible.  Believe in yourself and in your message.

5)  Be creative.  Find a way to communicate that makes you comfortable.  Instead of talking to a group, engage them in conversation; or start with Q & A, and then answer at length.  Don’t be afraid to be different.  Surprise your audience.  Walk around the stage or up into the seats.  People get tired of the same old approach and are invigorated by something unexpected.  Have fun with your message; it will help you turn your nervous energy into positive energy.  The audience will feel it and radiate it back to you, and before you know it, your anxiety is gone.

Here’s the deal . . . you can’t get better at something if you never practice it and the best time to start practicing is now.  So, start this coming week off by looking for opportunities to practice the above tips.  If you’re nervous, start small with your one-minute elevator pitch.  Make it a point to fill the entire minute exactly.  Work up to five-minute and ten-minute talks as you gain confidence.  When you feel ready, look for an opportunity to make a lunchtime educational presentation.  The program chairs of many associations and membership organizations are always on the lookout for speakers.  Position yourself as the expert; enjoy the satisfaction of educating other people.  When you remember to apply the tips in this strategy, we feel confident that it will alleviate much of your speaking anxiety.  One final thought: It’s good to be a little nervous.  Just convert that into positive energy, and you’ll have the audience in the palm of your hand.

I’m really interested in getting some feedback from all of you reading this blog, so please respond in the comment forum below to any or all of the following questions–and/or offer any thoughts related to overcoming the fear of public speaking. Thanks so much!

  • On a scale of 1 — 10,  1 being “not really afraid” and 10 being “more afraid than death,” how afraid would you say you are of public speaking?
  • What mental and physical manifestations of fear and anxiety do you experience when faced with having to speak in public?
  • What tools/strategies/tactics have you personally found to be helpful and effective in managing your fear of public speaking.  Alternately, what tools/strategies/tactics have you found to be useless or ineffective?

6 thoughts on “Public Speaking–5 Ways to Ditch Your Fear for Good

  1. All the above are excellent tips, needless to say. In our BNI/Rock Solid Referrals chapter our Mentorship Committee works closely with all new members as they prepare for their first 10-minute presentation. And, in addition to the above, we stress two other points:

    1. We ask them to remember that all their fellow members in the room are there to help them, not criticize them. New members should pretend they are having a big 1-2-1 with all their fellow members, and to try to be as prepared and relaxed as they would with one fellow member.

    2. We ask them to remember that while their fellow members will know it’s their first time giving a 10-minute presentation, visitors who might be in the room that day do NOT! For all they know, that particular member has spoken dozens of times before. So, just go out there and pretend that all members are your company’s employees, your sales team. Educate them on your product, give them marching orders as to whom you’d like to sell your product or service, and how they can help you do so.

  2. Luckily, I have been acting as Networking Coordinator for BNI Cambodia CEO Chapter for two terms. I have found that the best way to do better presentation is Preparation and Practice. Preparation brings more confidence. Practice is a source excellence in everything we do.

    I hired a coach to help me with presentation and public speaking skill.

    If I can not find a coach then I will find someone who is considered to be a champion in Public Speaking & Presentation to help me.

    When I first started I had my team to assess my public speaking and give me feedback during my practice and during the real show.

    Now I feel that I am the best person in the field of public speaking comparing to myself in the past.

  3. I am not afraid of public speaking unless I do not have a topic prepared .I do the best when I practice at least once but if I practice 3 times it really makes everything flow better.

    The additional tip I would give all speakers at BNI is to make sure to be early. If you are flustered from running in at the last minute it can really affect your ability to be confidant and focus. Additionally, being early gives you the ability to handle unexpected issues without stress.

  4. One of the big challenges to public speaking is to have diction that is clear enough that the person(s) in the last row or standing in the rear understand your words with clarity. A great technique I discovered years ago was when my late Grandmother was loosing her hearing. In order to communicate with her I found myself slowing down my delivery and over enunciating my words, much like a robust whisper. Actually, she was also reading my lips.

    Upon reflection, I realized that this was not a ‘coached’ technique but a natural one buried in my subconscious and ready fro use! So, the infamous ‘Light Bulb’ went on!

    When I am speaking to any audience, I pretend that the back row is my ‘Grandmother’ and that she is hard of hearing. The level of intensity, of course, must be adjusted to fit the occasion. In this case I simply applied a technique that I already can do ‘naturally’ and apply it to any presentation. This has really helped with any nervousness I might have. You see, my Grandmother was a wonderful person and I am already feeling better just thinking about her.

    Another great resource has been Toastmasters where I have been able to practice many different types of speeches in front of a very supportive audience.

  5. I would agree with the last point that you can have great support from associations like Toastmasters or the offshoot in the UK which are the Speakers Clubs. I was invited to join the North Cheshire Speakers Club last year and have had a very enjoyable and productive time with them. I found the friendly and positive suggestions on improving my public speaking to be very helpful. see
    The same support that you have in a BNI Chapter is exhibited in this not for profit organisation that does excellent work with schools to help the next generation gain confidence in public speaking.

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