Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Jean Hamilton of Speaking Results

Many years ago, as I stood in front of an audience hearing my voice quiver, feeling my hands shake, and thinking at any moment my mind would go blank, I fully understood why fear of public speaking is often ranked as people’s #1 fear. It was impossible for me to tap into my true power as a speaker, when I had to internally contend with a body that was in terror.

I tried lots of things. Practice and preparation smoothed things over slightly. Toastmasters helped sort of. But the main thing that helped me overcome my fears are some key concepts from Neuro-Linguistic Programming:

Become Friends With The Part Of You That Is Scared

Often when I work with clients to overcome their fear of public speaking, they dislike the part of them that is scared and just want to get rid of it. The problem is, whatever you resist, persists. You will be much more successful in overcoming your fear of public speaking if you accept your scared part, and recognize what it gives you in a positive way.

Often times a scared part is a perfectionist and really wants to do a good job. It has a lot of energy; and it can also be vulnerable. Commitment to doing a good job, high energy, and vulnerability can be valuable assets to a presenter. Rather than having in internal struggle, when you realize the value of your scared part, you can begin to relax with yourself.

Focus On What You Want

There is a tremendous power of the unconscious mind that can be utilized to transform feelings of fear. Your unconscious mind believes what is repeated the most often. Repeat what you would like to achieve, and eventually your unconscious mind will believe that.

When the natural feelings of fear arise, imagine what it is that you want to feel. Imagine your body feeling relaxed and grounded, your voice sounding strong and resonant, and see yourself looking directly into the eyes of the audience. It is important to know specifically what you will see, hear and feel. It will make the whole experience more vivid.

There is a part of the brain that cannot tell the difference between a real event and an imagined event. Rather than thinking about shaky hands or a trembling voice, imagine yourself looking, feeling, and speaking, as you would while giving a dynamite presentation.  By rehearsing the positive, you are creating the neural pathways to allow it to happen. Professional athletes often use this positive imagery.

Awareness Of Your Mission As A Speaker

When you become aware of your mission and become immersed in your message, fear no longer has a hold on you. The life of your message becomes more important than what the audience thinks of you. The paradox is, the less you focus on the audience’s judgments, the more favorable their opinions.

It is vitally important when you speak before a group that you are interested and invested in your material. If you aren’t interested, your audience won’t be. There are far too many boring, lifeless speeches out there. Don’t add to the pack. Believe in your mission as a communicator of your message, and your fear will take a back seat.

photo credit: epSos.de


One thought on “Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking

  1. Ian

    So much of dealing with fear isn’t about getting rid of it, it’s about coming to terms with it. The old toastmasters expression ‘It’s not about getting rid of your butterflies, it’s about getting them to fly in formation…’ really is a apt description of the challenge of dealing with nerves. Some fear within reason is actually a good thing – that adrenal hit can bring life and vitality to your presentation. I’m usually very nervous about going on stage when I’m not actually feeling nervous (if that makes any sense) because it’s a strong indicator that I might not be bringing my a-game.

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