Overcoming the fear of public speaking

Vince Stevenson shares some hints and tips to help build your confidence when presenting and public speaking, whether face to face or online. 

Public speaking is both a psychological and a physiological event. Your mind and body should be brilliantly paired together. When you’re riding a bicycle or driving a car, the two are in sync. So why is public speaking – whether face to face or virtually – any different? Why is it such a stretch for incredibly talented, knowledgeable, and hardworking people to enjoy what can be one of life’s most cathartic experiences?

Here are some tips that I hope will help to take the fear out of public speaking:

1. Focus on the audience
A lot of people think that public speaking is about them. As a communicator, you’re delivering for the audience – without exception. You’re the communication conduit – the information flows through you. Public speaking is not about you: it’s about the audience.

2. Breathe!
Effective breathing and good posture will help you feel more relaxed and confident at the same time, so you don’t rush through your presentation. 

3. Communication is two way
If you’re not genuinely interested in what your audience has to say too, they’ll see straight through you.  

4. Treat all audiences with respect, humility, sincerity and empathy
If you do this well, you’re likely to create a great rapport and they’ll be more receptive to what you’re saying. Respect, humility, sincerity and empathy are human attributes though, not techniques. If you’re not authentic, people will see straight through any act. 

5. Adopt an attitude of gratitude
Your mind can only handle one emotion at a time, so focus on service and gratitude, rather than fear.

6. Become a storyteller
You’re taking the audience on a journey. You’re their tour guide. What’s the best way to bring your subject alive?

7. Plan, prepare and practice
Most anxious speakers don’t spend enough time planning, preparing and practicing.

It’s no good having two hours worth of material for a 20 minute presentation. Select the three most important points and allow five minutes on each, with an introduction and a conclusion. Then practice, practice, practice. Uncertainty creates anxiety, and that makes us reluctant and hesitant speakers – and that will show. 


About Vince Stevenson

Vincent Stevenson runs the College of Public Speaking London, is a speech coach and the author of The Fear Doctor and Anxiety Quick Wins. He’s also the co-author of the international bestseller The Successful Mind Book on the subject of leadership, management and personal success. Find out more at The College of Public Speaking


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