Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking

Try these 6 Keys to build your self-confidence

Source: iStock

Afraid of speaking in public? If so, you are in good company. Statistically speaking, 3 out of every 4 people fear public speaking, and women are susceptible to it more than men, with 75% and 73% of self-identified sufferers respectively. Speech anxiety is so common that there is a formal term for it –glossophobia.

Speaking to the audience strikes fear into many otherwise brave hearts. Yet human interactions are based on communication, and there are few skills more important than being able to effectively convey your ideas to others. Not addressing this fear is a sure way to undermine your own success. On the other hand, being able to master the art of “owning the room” will grant you numerous advantages in your professional and personal life. Among other things, it will help you better connect with people, save time, and ultimately get what you want.

Public speaking is not as life-threatening as car crashes or walking into a burning house, still most of us are more afraid of dying than giving a speech. What drives this seemingly unreasonable fear? Being judged, rejected, humiliated – it’s different for different people, but these minor fears have one thing in common: they all feed off the speaker’s lack of self-confidence. Unfortunately, there is no instant cure for the fear of speaking in front of others, and stronger self-confidence takes time to build. In the meantime, there are a few things that can help you during those trying times when you have no choice but to step into the limelight. These ideas come from the Six Keys to Confident Presenting:

  1. Know what you want. Set a clear objective about what you want your listener(s) to know, or do at the end. The more emphasis you put on the listener, the less emphasis you will have on how you look, how you sound, etc.
  2. Think about your audience. Who are you speaking to, and why? What knowledge do they have? What do they care about? Get curious. Investigate and stay interested in them.
  3. Put some thought into flow. Instead of just blurting out what you need to say, think like a teacher. What’s the best way to organize and convey your information? How can you piece it together so it makes sense and is understandable?
  4. Connect the dots. Help your listeners to have the “aha” from your speaking. If your objective is to teach or to train, how will you know when you have succeeded? Make it easy for them to see why this information matters.
  5. Emphasize their needs. If your listeners care about something you have not planned to address, it’s okay to say “I don’t know that; I will get back to you.” You don’t have to be adept and expert at everything, you just have to meet the needs of your audience. The more you do that, the less you will think about yourself.
  6. Have a take-away. Make the communication meaningful. Establish next steps, or a follow-up. Prepare some sort of closure for your audience so that they recognize some value in what they’ve heard. Don’t assume it; confirm it.

The more you focus on the people listening to you, and the less you worry about what everyone is thinking about you, the less anxiety you will have and the more confident you will be in speaking. It’s true that the mind can’t focus on two things at once. If you are thinking about them, you can’t be thinking about you.

Practice this in everyday interactions with people in your family or friend circles. Be deliberate in your communication. The better you get at this, the easier it will be to do it “on demand”.

More from Beverly D. Flaxington
More from Psychology Today
More from Beverly D. Flaxington
More from Psychology Today