Self Development

How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking

How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking
Written by Mae Davies
The 2 Week Diet
When it comes to learning how to conquer a fear of public speaking, people often focus on the more actionable methods, such as certain relaxation and warm-up techniques that they can use or do before their big speech, that they forget the benefits of the speech itself. This is why they still feel the same amount of pressure, anxiety, or fear every single time that they are about to speak with a larger audience. To make sure that you avoid this pitfall, it is a big help to remember the benefits of delivering a speech in order to conquer this fear of public speaking by having a new perspective. This offers a more permanent and a more efficient solution. Here are some of these benefits.

How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking: The Benefits

It is incredibly empowering

The main reason why not a lot of people get to deliver a speech on a stage or a podium to a group of people is because not everybody has the ability and the opportunity do so. Hence, being asked to deliver a speech in itself is already an honor and incredibly empowering. By accepting this type of empowerment, you will begin to see that giving a speech is not a chore but is actually a privilege. Having this type of outlook will make it easier for you to realize that conquering your fear of public speaking can do wonders for your self-confidence. It has also been said that giving a speech to an audience, especially in a formal event, can give you even more confidence in general.

It puts you out there

In today’s technology, being out there can refer to different things. From having accounts in all types of social media platforms to uploading videos of yourself on YouTube, there are many ways that you can put yourself out there and get recognition for your work, achievements, or skills. However, not all of these methods of self-advertisement can be as effective or fulfilling as giving an actual speech to a room full of people who are actually in the same room or venue as you. It is a more personal and relatable way to put yourself out there, which is something that no other social media platform will be able to provide. This is why it still pays to learn how to conquer this fear of public speaking even if you already have a very active social media life since this method of speaking is very different.

It can provide excellent career opportunities

Before shying away from the opportunity to give a speech about your career or your office in front of your peers and supervisors, always remember that giving speeches can open a lot of doors for you. For starters, giving a speech will allow your supervisors to see your ability to lead and to handle pressure appropriately. This will also introduce the idea that they can entrust important tasks or work to you.

How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking Before the Speech

When it comes to knowing how to conquer a fear of public speaking, being aware of the steps on preparing for the speech is just as important as knowing what you need to do during the entire ordeal. This is because having the right psyche or mental and emotional state is one of the most effective ways to prevent a panic attack or a nervous breakdown that can be caused by this seemingly daunting task. Here are some tips on how to conquer your fear of public speaking before your actual speech.

Make a list

At least a day before delivering your speech, make a list of things that can make the task seem less daunting or scary for you. These can be anything from imagining that the crowd is in their underwear to the happiest event that you have attended so far. You can then take a glimpse of this list during your speech whenever you start feeling like a panic attack is about to come.

Have a positive offstage beat

An offstage beat is the general outlook of actors and singers before they face the camera or act on stage for a play. This beat enables them to put out the right emotions when doing a scene or performing in front of an audience. You can use this beat in order to mentally prepare for the task of speaking to an audience. The key to having a positive offstage beat is to constantly remind yourself of the good things or events that have happened hours or even weeks before the big speech. If you are giving a speech in order to honor your triumph, then you can also choose to focus on that fact.

Do a warm-up

Instead of verbally repeating the contents of your speech in your head over and over again minutes before your big speech, it is better to do a physical warm-up, which normally involves unhinging the jaws and stretching the muscles. This is because physical preparation is just as important as mental preparation. By preparing for the task physically, you can distract yourself from any negative feelings by making the body release happy hormones. This can also make it easier for you to move your extremities and other parts of your body during your speech, which can make it more compelling.

Practice

One of the best ways to prepare for a speech is to know its content by heart. This will ensure that you do not rely on your memorization skills alone once you are up on that podium or stage. Solely relying on your memorization skills is not the best idea, especially if you are just starting to learn how to conquer your fear of public speaking since more adrenaline is released in the body during these nervousness-inducing events. Considering that adrenaline can cause confusion, relying on your memorization skills can be a great disadvantage.

By knowing how to properly prepare for a speech, you will be able to feel more comfortable about the idea of speaking publicly in the near future. This means that knowing how to conquer your fear of public speaking before every speech can be a permanent solution to your problem.

How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking During the Speech

Contrary to what most people believe, knowing how to conquer a fear of public speaking does not end when the actual speech begins. This is because speech-induced panic attacks and extreme nervousness can attack at any time during the speech. Hence, it is important to learn how to control or even eliminate these types of emotions when you are in the middle of speaking publicly. Here are some methods that you can use when it comes to knowing how to conquer your fear of public speaking during your speech.

Think of your goal

It is easy to give in to the pressures of giving a speech and just throw everything into the wind, especially if you are in the middle of giving your speech. This is why you need something that can remind you that you need to finish the speech to the best of your abilities, and the best way to do this is to constantly remind yourself of your goal. Another advantage of using this method is that it allows you to avoid mannerisms or behavior that can elicit a negative reaction from your audience.

Most of the time, people who are not really fond of speaking to a relatively large audience only do so when the event or purpose is very important. When this happens, you cannot afford to proceed with your speech haphazardly or while donning sarcastic and inappropriate behavior, which you can unconsciously be using to handle the stress. This is why constantly reminding yourself of your goal and the reason why you should put your best into it is important when trying to conquer your fear of public speaking properly.

Write down the basics

Aside from the things that can uplift your mood or get you through the fear of public speaking, you should also write down the basics that can help you relax and function normally. The list should include breathing normally and keeping your emotions in check. Even though these tasks may seem involuntary to some, these tasks can be easily forgotten by those who have an extreme fear of talking in public or those who are still at the early stages of learning how to conquer their fear of public speaking. This is why these basics should be included in the notes that you are planning to carry up on the stage. You should also practice glancing at it every now and then during your practice to ensure that the list can indeed help you during your speech.

Acknowledge your nervousness and accept it

Even though acceptance of this nervousness should come first before going up on that stage, this does not mean that it can be skipped if you were not able to achieve it during your preparation. Acknowledging your nervousness is still possible even if you are in the middle of your speech. As a matter of fact, there are instances in which this somewhat late acknowledgement can greatly benefit you, especially if you are starting to feel the early symptoms of a panic attack since it can motivate you to start using relaxation techniques that can prevent these attacks.

How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking by Moving

Aside from having the proper and calm mindset by making use of different relaxation techniques before delivering your speech, there are other ways that you can alleviate or even totally remove any possibility of having an anxiety or panic attack when addressing an audience. One of the most effective ways to go about this problem is through physical movements. Here are some tips on how to conquer your fear of public speaking by moving.

Loosen up

People who are about to do anything nerve-wracking are often advised by both experts and non-experts to loosen up since doing so can help prepare the muscles and other parts of the body, which will be most likely used for these events or scenarios. Hence, it makes perfect sense that those who want to learn how to conquer a fear of public speaking should learn how to loosen up properly. When loosening up before a speech, you should waggle your jaw. Waggling entails moving your jaws from side to side as well as up and down to prepare your mouth for speaking. It is also advisable to stretch the body, especially the arms so that you can use them properly during your speech.fear of public speaking

Grounding

Despite being a very basic form of posture and movement, grounding is often overlooked by people who want to conquer a fear of public speaking because they think that this simple technique will not do anything. What they do not realize is that grounding has a lot of benefits. For starters, it can make it easier for you to avoid anxiety or panic attacks since one of the symptoms of this problem is losing your balance. Considering that grounding will enable you to stand in a very stable manner, losing your balance will no longer be a problem. Another reason why grounding is very helpful for those who want to learn how to conquer a fear of public speaking is that it can boost your confidence.

Grounding can be achieved by simply ensuring that your legs are shoulder-width apart and that your feet are flatly and firmly planted onto the ground. One great way to exercise or practice grounding before your big speech is to do kettle bell swings.

Moving from one place to another

As your speech progresses, staying in one place is highly unadvisable since it gives you more time and energy to think about the task and actually suffer from a panic attack. This is why moving around and making use of the stage is highly advisable. If your position, stage, or equipment does not allow you to move around, make use of your arms. You can use them to form gestures that can make your speech more engaging. However, you need to stay away from arm or hand gestures that can easily be misinterpreted, especially when you are dealing with a diverse audience.

Through these body movements, you will be able to learn other techniques that can teach you how to conquer your fear of publicly speaking aside from your usual relaxation techniques. This will enable you to find the set of methods that will truly work for you.

How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking: Recognizing the Symptoms

Unlike medications and other chemicals, such as nicotine, relaxation techniques and other natural methods of alleviating panic attacks that are induced by speaking in public do not have a systemic sedative effect that can be felt within seconds after administration. This is why early detection of these attacks is crucial when it comes to conquering a fear of public speaking naturally. This can be done by learning more about the physical symptoms of these anxiety attacks. Here are some of the symptoms that you need to look out for when learning how to conquer a fear of public speaking without using any chemicals.

Fight or Flight

When made to face a seemingly dangerous scenario or situation, the flight or fight response is triggered within the people who are involved. What determines the final response that will take place will be determined by other factors, such as their personality and current emotional disposition. This is why having either a flight or fight response before or during your speech is a symptom that you may need to start using relaxation techniques for. The flight response is having the need to flee from the place with no regards for the consequences that may follow while the fight response is characterized as having increased bodily functions such as sweating and breathing.

Increased bodily functions

This is one of the strongest indicators of the fight response since signals for overdrive are being sent to the brain. However, those who are more inclined to flee the scene can also experience these symptoms. This is because a panic attack always starts with elevated bodily functions, such as increased respiration and blood flow, which can cause that flushed feeling. Increased sweating and diarrhea can also be present since the excretory system is also working a lot faster than normal in these situations.

This is why those who want to learn how to conquer a fear of public speaking are taught how to determine their breathing as well as other vital signs without the aid of big medical equipment. This enables them to determine if they are breathing faster or more heavily than normal or if there are other deviations that can be telltale signs of an impending panic attack.

Hyperactive or indiscernible emotions

Before or during a panic attack, the amount of adrenaline that is released in the body is greatly increased. Aside from the physical effects of this rush of adrenaline, psychological effects can also be felt. These psychological effects may include having indiscernible emotions or thoughts that can be interpreted as confusion and feeling more than one apparent emotion at a time, may it be anger or excitement. These feelings are stronger than normal anxiousness or nervousness.

By keeping these symptoms in mind, you will be able to use the proper relaxation techniques that are recommended for people who want to conquer their fear of public speaking at the right time. This will allow you avoid a full-blown panic attack and proceed with your speech to the best of your abilities.

How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking: Recognizing Your Response

The first step in learning how to conquer a fear of public speaking is analyzing your body’s reaction towards fear or anxiety in general. This will enable you to find the right methods that you can use to alleviate or even completely avoid these types of emotions whenever you are about to give speeches or do something else that can be as nerve-wracking. Here are the different reactions to fear and panic.

The Fight Response

Out of all the other types of responses that are prompted by the fear of speaking publicly, the fight response is the most common. This is because this fear can increase the brain and body activity in which several bodily processes are heightened. These processes include metabolism, heart rate, and breathing. Hence, it is normal for you to experience excessive sweating or even mild bouts of diarrhea when you are about to speak publicly. If you find out that this is your go-to response when you are about to address an audience, it is best to learn how to conquer your fear by using different relaxation techniques. These techniques can counter your body’s increased bodily functions. Simple relaxation methods, such as deep breathing techniques, work best for controlling the fight response.

The Flight Response

The flight response can present itself in a variety of ways, which can be unnoticeable for many. This is why they often make use of the wrong techniques on how to conquer a fear of public speaking since they fail to realize that they are on flight response mode. Aside from having the strong desire to leave the venue before your big speech, the flight response can also present itself in a less subtle manner. This includes orienting your body toward the exit by facing or slightly leaning toward it or refusing to make eye contact with the audience. Despite being more subtle, the flight response can be more difficult to handle than the fight response. For this one, you need to face the task with a lot of confidence. This can be achieved by grounding yourself or finding a very stable stance.

The Freeze Response

When under pressure, there are certain people who simply freeze instead of going for their fight or flight response since it requires very little emotion and thinking. Aside from not moving any part of your body, this response can also manifest itself in other ways, such as awkward gestures, flushing, and a rise or fall in your vocal tone. If you make use of this response, it is best to learn how to conquer this fear of public speaking through bodily movements. Bodily movements can bring you back to reality and increase blood flow in your body, which then breaks the frozen trance that you are in.

Based on your past experiences, general views about giving speeches, and other factors, you can experience a mix of any of these responses from time to time. This is why it is best to learn different methods on conquering your fear of public speaking instead of just learning a single set of techniques for a single response.

How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking for a Diverse Audience

Even though the mere act of speaking to a crowd in either a formal or an informal event can be fear-inducing itself, this fear can be heightened by a variety of factors, which include having a diverse audience. This is why one of the most effective ways to conquer a fear of public speaking is knowing how to speak to a diverse group of people. Here are some tips if you are talking to various types of audiences at once.

Do ample research

When dealing with a very diverse crowd, it pays to do your research ahead of time. This research should cover the basics, such as the age and cultural background of your audience. If you have a lot of time on your hands, you can dabble in other characteristics, which will not only help you conquer your fear of public speaking but also make you become an excellent public speaker. These characteristics can include the country or area where most of your audience is from. You can also determine the pace or tone that they prefer by observing the speakers before you if possible.

Be aware of the things that you should avoid

One of the most common reasons why there are a lot of people who experience panic attacks when talking to an audience is because they fear that they might do or say something that can bring out negative responses. What they do not realize is that this is completely avoidable and all they have to do is be aware of the things that they should avoid. Aside from the regular topics that you should avoid mentioning either as a part of your speech or as a side-note, such as religion, sports, or politics, the things that you should avoid should also be based on the preferences of your diverse audience. This is why those who want to conquer their fear of public speaking are often advised to only talk about general topics in order to avoid inappropriate ones more easily.

Sarcasm and other behavior that can be irk-inducing should also be avoided. Be mindful of this when dealing with a diverse crowd. There are a lot of people with a fear of public speaking who tend to use sarcasm, NC-17 jokes, and other remarks that can infuriate others as a defense mechanism against panic attacks or anxiety without even knowing it.

Learning how to conquer a fear of public speaking for a diverse audience can come in handy at any given time since it can be used in everyday conversation with your colleagues of different ages or students of different cultural backgrounds. This is why it pays to learn the tips on how to speak to a broader group of people as soon as you can, even if you are not required to speak publicly at an event any time soon. These tips can also help those who are finding it hard to socialize with other people.

How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking: Things to Avoid

The key to learning how to conquer a fear of public speaking entirely is to not just focus on the relaxation methods and other techniques that you can do before and during your speech. You should also focus on the things that you should avoid, which can worsen or even cause your fear of public speaking. These can be anything from ordinary mannerisms to negative outlooks on the matter, which you may be guilty of without even realizing it. Here are some of the things that you should avoid.

Memorizing and reciting every single word

Memorizing every word in your speech is not recommended since doing so will make you more inclined to deliver the speech in a very boring and monotonous fashion. This can elicit a negative response from your audience and cause you to panic or feel a sudden surge or fear and anxiety. Memorizing your piece word per word will also make it harder for you to recover from a fatal mistake. Oftentimes, people who memorize their speech and forget a single word during their delivery can no longer continue properly and give in to the panic attacks that are caused by speaking publicly. This is also the reason why reading your speech word per word is not advisable. The only time that this can be done is when memorization is already second nature to you and is a normal part of your daily routine or job.

Rushing to finish your piece

Most often than not, people who want to conquer their fear of public speaking fall on delivering their speech at a much faster manner when all else fails. They think that doing so will help them get the job done faster, which will enable them to lessen the possibilities of doing something wrong or experiencing something that can trigger their fear. What they do not realize is that doing this very thing can actually be a trigger. This is because talking at a faster manner will require your brain to think faster and to think about a lot of things all at once. It will also make you breathe faster since you will need to gasp for air at a quicker pace. All of these characteristics create the perfect setup for an anxiety or panic attack.

Pretending the audience is not there

One of the most outdated ways to conquer a fear of public speaking is to completely ignore the audience. It has been proven by many experts on the matter that doing so will only provide a temporary or band-aid solution to your problem since you are not solving the cause of your concern. Completely ignoring your audience will also predispose you to deliver a less than admirable speech, which can cause your audience to react negatively and show their displeasure. When this happens, you are more likely to suffer from an anxiety or panic attack right on the spot. This is why it is best to learn how to conquer this fear by determining the cause and solving it instead of just completely ignoring your audience.

How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking: What is Audience Awareness?

One of the main causes of a fear of public speaking is a lack of audience awareness as this predisposes them to make false assumptions that can trigger a panic attack, such as assuming that the audience will not like them no matter what they do. This is why learning about audience awareness is essential. Here are some of the basics of audience awareness and why it plays an important part in knowing how to conquer a fear of public speaking.

Why is public awareness important?

According to many experts, audience awareness is a skill that all excellent public speakers have and is the key toward delivering a successful or captivating speech. However, the practicality of this skill does not end here since it can also help people who want to know how to get rid of their fear of public speaking. Through this skill, they will be able to amply prepare for the public speaking event, which will help elicit a positive response from the addressees and can stop a panic attack at its heels or prevent fear. Audience awareness can also increase the confidence of the speaker since he or she will not start assuming the worse of the audience.

The first steps toward audience awareness

When conducting research on public awareness, speakers should first consider the characteristics of the audience that cannot be changed, which include age, level of education, or understanding on the subject matter and the topic at hand. Considering these characteristics ensures that the speaker can prepare a speech that includes age-appropriate and audience-friendly jokes and comments. Since these variables are objective, the chances of making wrong assumptions about the general audience are less likely. This will also help the speaker set the right tone, which is essential especially if the speech should be formal or professional.

How to use audience awareness during the speech

Because of the fact that having audience awareness is one of the best ways to properly engage the crowd, stand-up comedians often use this skill during the first few minutes for their performances. In these first few minutes, comedians use the knowledge that they have gathered through audience awareness and formulate their opening jokes or introductions. For those who want to learn how to conquer their fear of public speaking, they can use audience awareness to calm themselves down. Having audience awareness allows them to remember that the crowd is simply their colleagues who are mostly the same age as they are and are not as intimidating. These assurances can greatly help those who are finding it hard to speak in public.

Considering that having audience awareness does not require having a big monetary budget or excellent skills in research, focusing on this skill can greatly help those who want to conquer their fear of public speaking but are on a tight budget or are pressed for time.

How to Conquer a Fear of Public Speaking Through AWARE

Despite being developed by experts, such as Aaron T. Beck PhD, using the method called AWARE is not as popular as it should be, especially for those who are not fond of reading scientific journals and medical breakthroughs. Because of its lack in popularity, there are a lot of people who would rather spend thousands of dollars on seminars and trainings that are geared toward learning how to conquer a fear of public speaking instead of using this free method. To avoid committing the same mistake, learning about AWARE and what it stands for is essential. Here is the meaning of this acronym and how it can be used to help with the fear of public speaking.

Acknowledge and Accept

The first step in any method is to always address the problem in a straightforward manner by acknowledging the problem. Doing so makes it easier for people to realize that they indeed need help in the area. Acceptance also enables them to see that certain behavior or outlooks can make the problem worse instead of helping with the situation, such as having the perception that having a fear of public speaking has no solution.

Watch and Wait

Accepting and acknowledging the problem enables people to anticipate, watch, and wait for the signs and symptoms of panic attacks that are triggered by speaking publicly. It is then that they can look for the causes of their fear of public speaking and see how they react whenever they start to feel anxious or when they are starting to exhibit the early signs of panic. This will allow them to take note of any triggers or signs that they can watch out for the next time that they have to deliver a speech.

Actions

Because of the fact that they are now more aware of the times that they are more likely to experience panic when speaking to an audience, people can now seek actions that they can take, which can prevent the escalation of these signs into a full-blown panic attack. This is the most crucial part in conquering a fear of public speaking. This involves using a series of relaxation techniques and bodily movements, which can serve as both distractions and therapies to this type of fear.

Repeat or Rewind

The reason why AWARE is highly recommended for those who want to conquer their fear of public speaking is the fact that it aims to actually solve the problem instead of offering a temporary solution. In this particular step of this program or method, people are encouraged to evaluate and analyze the data that they have gathered so far, such as the triggers of their panic attacks and its symptoms, so that they can be used in the future.

End

Being the resolution, this step involves assuring the person that every public speaking event has to end and that the problem does not have to persist every single time. This serves as the end goal of those who want to get rid of their fear of public speaking.

Through AWARE, people can conquer their fear of public speaking without spending thousands of dollars or wasting their time on programs that simply do not work.

About the author

Mae Davies

BA, MA Psychology (and Conflict Resolution), University of Cambridge (2007). With a decade of trial and error in psychology and 33 years of navigating my own complex (that’s one word for it!) relationships with family, friends, co-workers and men, I hope I have some useful knowledge and skills to share with my readers about making sense of relationships and trying to become a better person every day.