public speaking anxiety

13 Tips to Overcome Public Speaking performance anxiety

Do you think you are the only one afraid of speaking in public? That your public speaking anxiety is abnormal and you can’t possibly deal with it?

Here are 13 ways to overcome public speaking anxiety:

  1. Acknowledging that you are afraid
  2. Study and Research your topic
  3. Get to know your audience before the speech
  4. Prepare your Script
  5. Have a Strategy for your Delivery
  6. Use visual aids
  7. Rehearse your Speech
  8. Maintain a healthy diet and sleep habit before the big day
  9. Make a pre-stage ritual
  10. Plan for a potential Brain Freeze
  11. Command the Room
  12. Feedbacks
  13. Closing

Although some times if feels like ‘too much work’ to deal with the fear of speaking in public. It certainly has its merits and it’s worth it long-term. Don’t take my word for it. Let me share with you one of my favorite quotes on the subject:

“Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king. He is an independent force in the world.”

— Sir Winston Churchill

Even though there are so many benefits of being skilled at speaking in public and influencing others, people are still not quite at ease when it comes to standing in front of others and sharing their voice, and ideas. It can be a frightening experience;

With this article, we want to demystify the concept of public speaking anxiety, to share with you the reasons why people get afraid of speaking in front of others, what are the benefits and things we lose when skipping on learning to deal with the fear, and HOW to deal with public speaking anxiety. With quotes from experts, and an insightful video for you to watch, keep going!

What is Public speaking Anxiety?

Glossophobia is the technical term given to a severe fear of public speaking. People who suffer from glossophobia tend to freeze in front of any audience, even a couple of people. They find their mouth dries up, their voice is weak and their body starts shaking. They may even sweat, go red and feel their heart thumping rapidly.

Funny how this might sound, but yes, I too have been a victim of public speaking anxiety, and up to this day depending on the stakes I get nervous, butterflies in the belly, dry throat, and feeling of anxiousness that even prevents me from sleeping the night before.

I am not going to claim to suffer from chronic anxiety disorders, nor to know precisely how to stop it, because I believe we are all a little afraid of something. The idea is to learn to cope and deal with it more effectively.

A few examples of what typically happens are:

  • The nervous shock that comes with the awareness that you are about to face an audience;
  • The constant self-doubt, the worrying if you will say the right things, or if you are even going to be able to articulate at all;
  • The fear of looking stupid in front of your peers, and that shivering feeling that seems only to get worse the closer you get to the appointed time of the speech.
  • Your hands get wet, and you start feeling your throat dry out, your head is filled up with thoughts of how horrible things can go, and you feel unprepared to share your wonderful idea with the world.

One thing you must realize is that performance anxiety happens to almost everyone, cutting across all walks of life and professions. So, public speakers are not left out. The condition is not peculiar to you, not at all; rather, it is more rampant than you can ever even imagine.

Kant (2000) stated that the condition is predominant from age 20 – 80. This is, in fact, the totality of one’s adult life. The whole idea of public speaking performance anxiety runs with an internal phobia; a self-imposed pressure on oneself, fear of embarrassment.  Hence, it is only wise that you see a professional.

Locking yourself up, hiding in your shell and retreating cannot do you any good. If you are not ready to seek professional help yet, or perhaps you’d like to try a few tricks that people like me, and many others have tried and helped us improve ourselves and deal with public speaking performance anxiety, then please take some time and go through this article, it should prove insightful.

What exactly is performance anxiety and how it relates to public speaking?

The concept of anxiety is described as a condition of apprehension, uneasiness, and fear which occurs when faced with a situation perceived as threatening. As part of social anxiety, stage performance anxiety and also public speaking performance anxiety (glassophobia) is characterized by avoidance of performance, when, however, people are put in the situation to offer a public speech; the issue of performance anxiety comes in.

You must know that public speaking is somewhat sub-requirement for any job. You should be able to express yourself and sell an idea to the best of your capability if you want to succeed in almost any field.

In a recent poll by Gallup, it was reported that a whopping 40 percent of adults living in the United States suffer from varying degrees of public speaking performance anxiety.

Many folks cower away when it comes to public speaking. In 2014, a survey made by Chapman University reported that over 25.3% of its residential population are afraid of public speaking and would usually shy away from any effort to deliver or present a speech.

According to comedian Jerry Seinfeld, “people’s number one fear is public speaking, number two is death; this means to the average person, if you go to a funeral you are better off in the casket, than doing the eulogy.” Hilarious comment but a valid deduction.

I happened to be at a function some few days back, some college students were charged with giving a speech which revolved around the theme of the summit. About ten (10) of them, we all know how group presentation usually comes off, with a leader and others acting as assistants.

When the time came for the group leader to begin his presentation; he completely froze, I could see through the hollow in his eye. When the crowd started clapping, I sensed it made him feel worse; he tried to withdraw back into his team; however, one stood firm, tapped him in the back and whispered some words to him. In less than a minute, he kicked off and amazed the entire audience way beyond our expectations.

Most people are faced with performance anxiety just because they anticipate a response from the crowd, a response which naturally may not exist, but the image already formed automatically describes the premise for the anticipation, this leads to fear and nervous breakdown.

According to a psychologist, Vivian Diller (2013)

‘The key to staying calm is not getting nervous about feeling nervous. Finding a balance between controlling as much as you can, while recognizing there will be some things you can’t control, is key to not letting your nerves interfere.

Public speaking performance anxiety; a limitation to the presentation

Public speaking performance anxiety has a massive effect on performance, your anticipation of failure acts on your psychological posture to deliver; the inbuilt fear already harbored limits the capacity to present your speech to your maximum capability.

A few questions that beg answers, why are you scared of speaking in public? What ticks you off? What frightens you? What exactly is it that makes you feel so uneasy? When you begin to answer these questions truthfully, then you will go a long way on finding solutions to the issues.

Stage performance anxiety and public speaking anxiety can only mar your performance. Form the inception; you have already set out to fail, by being scared of embarrassing yourself, having low self-esteem and lack of trust in your ability confines your potential and limits your mind to explore talents that exist within.

Common Causes of public speaking anxiety

Let us go through some of the most common causes of public speaking anxiety. Read through this list and figure out that which relates to you, this is a simple way to know what affects you and the beginning of how to address the problem.

  • Fear of people – social anxiety

Most of the time, the fear of addressing two (2) or more people, or standing in front of a crowd is perceived as an uphill task to some people.

The fear of people is a widespread phenomenon associated with stage and public speaking performance anxiety and studies have shown that it is a cause of performance anxiety.

The fear of people otherwise known as anthropophobia is a condition which causes uneasiness when put in interaction with other people.

  • Fear or embarrassing oneself

As stated earlier, one of the causes of performance anxiety is the fear of embarrassment. The internal anxiety developed overtime nursing the “what ifs,” questioning your ability to deliver.

  • Presentation brain freeze

What will happen if I forget what I’m supposed to say? What happens if I get stuck? What happens if I get a presentation brain freeze?

Many of us forget that mistakes are normal and that even the best of us make mistakes. This does not make you a lesser person than the other. What makes the difference is the ability to shake off the error and continue to deliver your speech as if nothing happened.

Being afraid of committing mistakes, like forgetting one point, or dropping the microphone is one of the major causes of presentation anxiety, a fear of failure.

One way to beat it is by practicing, and also a simple belief in your capability goes a long way in keeping our mental, physical and psychological readiness in top gear.

  • The fear of not being expert enough

Perhaps you have seen other presenters and how smooth their delivery and body gesture is. The fear of not being expert enough becomes a cause of public speaking performance anxiety.

  • You are afraid of competition
  • Lack of faith in your sales pitch adequacy
  • Fear of failure
  • Question answering

Most often, when people deliver speeches, the crowd is expected to ask questions, and the speaker gives answers to the issues raised.

The most common fear lies in the questioning of your ability to answer questions. The answer to this, though more straightforward than you may think, has created various degrees of strain on public speakers. Planning your speech and having adequate information on your topic gives you a 100% assurance on your ability to deliver.

  • Fear of not been prepared enough

How public speaking anxiety is holding you back?

When the above causes of performance anxiety, whether related to public speaking or stage performance, are not appropriately addressed, certain issues are likely to arise. Some of these issues are graver than the original fear as mentioned above.

In the long run, the avoidance of public speaking can cost us even more harm, loss of goodwill, opportunities than the embarrassment we initially sought to cover.

  • You lose out of networking with fantastic people
  • You miss out business opportunities
  • You lose out on developing your mental capacity and
  • The ability to effectively expressing yourself in front of others
  • You may miss out on winning funding, sales, and revenue for your business
  • You lose out on learning from your failure and becoming a better version of yourself.
  • You continue to get stuck in your comfort zone
  • Most importantly, you let one of the most amazing unique voices (your voice) from reaching out to the world and share your perspective, making others unaware of your existence, strides, and efforts.

13 Amazing Tips to Help You Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

I mentioned earlier that performance anxiety is common, even more than we would usually care to admit. Know that whatever you are going through when faced with the task of speaking in front of others is not peculiar to you. You are not alone!  

The person you probably look up to has his/her own share of performance anxiety; the difference lies in the ability to manage the fear. I admit it’s not easy standing in front of the crowd talking, but the practice is the best teacher, and in time, you too will tell your own crowds about how you wrestled public speaking performance anxiety and won.

Sylvie Verleye super inspiring and insightful video on how to deal with presentation stress and anxiety is an amazing resource for you to get how inexperienced and experienced speakers do to handle the public speaking anxiety.

Expert Academy Youtube Channel

“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?”

Soledad O’Brien

List of 13 tips to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

1. Acknowledge that you are afraid 

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’  

Nelson Mandela

Hence, the knowledge and the acceptance of ones fear is the first step in overcoming such fear.

Buttressing this point, Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady of the United States, said,

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

This is the hallmark of strength. Fear holds no glory; rather it is a limitation to what you should have achieved.

2. Study and research your topic

An excellent study and research will provide you with a stronghold, a stable and solid posture and confidence in the presentation you are about to make. Know your topic, research on the pros and cons of your topic. The information you are able to garner will aid you in maneuvering around the subject when speaking.

‘Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.’ – John Maxwell.

Therefore, to reach your potential, you should be able to read, study, research and practice. Hard work has many advantages, more than we actually know of.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, ‘I find that the harder I work the more luck I seem to have.’ This shows that hard work, study and smart works can only lead to success.

3. Know your audience

Have a good idea of the audience you are about to address. This information will sharpen the speech you are about to give. Prepare your speech according to the age bracket and the professional position of your audience. It will be very awkward to deliver a speech meant for high school students to a bar association audience and vice versa. Know your audience and niche your speech to suit that grouping.

4. Prepare your script 

Have a guideline on how you want your script to go. It will be foolhardy to cram up all you want to say in your head or read out your whole speech word for word to the audience. You become boring, and within a second, you lose the audience. So, have a script which will guide your speech. Write out short point and flow with what you have already researched in your head. Using this format, you become active, alive and engaging.

5. Have a strategy 

Presentation strategy is a unique tactic some of the best public speakers you know utilizes when presenting their speeches. Some kickstart theirs with hilarious comedy, others with some stories, fiction or not, we don’t know, but it surely arouses the crowd. This is the best way to attract your audience.

You can try using these icebreakers to begin your presentation. Activities, games, stories are an excellent way to warm up your crowd and make them feel comfortable and relaxed before you start.

You surely do not want some serious looking middle-aged men and women looking squarely into your eyes especially when you a prone to performance anxiety. Best way to avoid that is by introducing your icebreakers. So consider using killer quotes, great jokes or, life lesson analogies in your next public presentation and behold the magic you will see.

6. Make a visual aid 

You don’t always need to be all up in your audience faces. Besides, videos and other graphical representation would usually paint the picture better than you would. So, prepare your videos, power points, virtual reality, augmented reality to assist you in your speech presentation.

7. Rehearse your speech

The best way to rehearse is by speaking to yourself. Stand in front of the mirror and rehearse your speech, your strategies all to yourself over and over again. Add up body language a facial expression to bring life to your presentation. Connect your plan, script and visual aids until you get it right.

8. Maintain a healthy diet and sleep habit before the big day

Before your big day, remember to eat healthily and avoid sleep starvation. You don’t want to look sluggish and tired in front of people who came to learn from you.

9. Make a pre-stage ritual

Pre-stage ritual is the final stage of your planning. It helps you relax and girdle up for the speech. So, visualize how great you are on stage, picture yourself giving out a killer speech. Take deep breaths, warm up the voice, lips and throat. Take with you a bottle of water, as your throat may run dry.

10. How to deal with Brain freeze

Pausing is the best way to deal is a brain freeze. Smile and tell the audience about yourself and what makes this topic in particular important to you. From there, you can arrange the points in your head, sort out the ideas and recover from there.

11. Command your room

When a technical glitch occurs, whether it be microphone malfunction, projector or network signal disruption, take charge of your room. Lighten the mood and keep talking, you could make your voice louder through voice projection or convey your messages with authority in your voice. This way, you continue to have a hold of your audience.

It would help if you did not let the audience feel you have lost your composure. In fact, why would you lose your composure in the first place? Accidents happen and losing your composure over these type of situation is a loss. Such action will drastically affect the audiences behavioral response to the situation.

12. Feedbacks

Feedbacks are a way of assessing your performance as a speaker. Create questions and answer segment, interact with your audience through quizzes and games. Provide for various charades and guessing games.  

Feedback is the final point in your public speaking process. Remember, the way you leave your audience determines how remarkable your speech will be in their heart.

13. Closing

Closing a speech with an icebreaker is an incredible way to conclude. You want to leave the stage with a standing ovation. Leaving the stage with a quote from a great personality on the subject of your presentation will be a great way to end your presentation.

In Closing

Stage performance anxiety and public speaking performance anxiety in more severe cases will usually include panic attacks, nervous breakdown and in general distress. Moreover, at this level, I strongly advise you to seek professional help.

Exchanging experiences with someone who is familiar with the problem of stage and public speaking anxiety is the best way to overcome this strain.

Kant stressed that no one was above public speaking performance anxiety; this included people in business, doctors, lawyers, artists, and even the experienced public speakers or stage performers themselves. She pointed out that the only way to fight this strain is by practicing. Even the best speakers practice, so why can’t you?

Follow these tips and get set to overcome public speaking performance anxiety. I cannot wait for you to become a better version of yourself, for you to grow your business and make incredible exploits. Being able to comfortably and effectively express yourself is critical in today’s world of globalization.

Thank you for reading this far, I would love to see your comments on the topic, your experiences and further advice on how to deal with stage or public speaking performance anxiety.

I want to close with the same quote I started this blog post with:

“Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is so precious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durable than that of a great king. He is an independent force in the world.”

— Sir Winston Churchill

References & Further Reading

kant, l. (2000). Public speaking anxiety. tennessee: University of Tennessee

John Zimmer, at

Ruth Kinloch. 27 Public Speaking Anxiety Tips [+ Bonus: Online Courses].

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