Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

Did you know that people rate the fear of public speaking as higher than that of death on surveys, according to Psychology Today?

It's something that you can get much better at if you put the effort into preparing and practicing

The first time I spoke at my own guild was probably more than fifteen years ago. I remember the anxiety I felt leading up to the event. There were over 75 people there and I did my presentation without seeing the faces of anyone in the audience. I struggled with speaking way too fast. Fortunately I had a friend there helping with the visuals so that was one less thing to worry about. 

After having done many presentations in the ensuing years I've finally gotten to the point where I feel very comfortable speaking and I'm no longer thrown when things go wrong. Which is good because they do! Often it's technical challenges. Every once in a while it will be a member of the audience who is challenging.

One of the things that really helped me was understanding, stress is good, it's your body getting ready to meet a challenge. I want to do a really good job. I want the audience to walk out the door saying "hey that was great!" So of course I feel pressure. If I didn't it would be because I didn't care if I did a good job.

Here's some of the things I did to get better at public speaking. 

I practice every talk many times. I stand up and do it out loud making sure I don't talk too fast. Now I usually speak too quickly for a moment at the very beginning but I catch myself and slow down.  

I studied up on how to do a good power point presentation. I read several books but this one is the winner in my experience: Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds

I wrote a list after every presentation about which skill I wanted to work on for next time and I searched out resources and worked on that topic.

I watched YouTube videos on public speaking. 

I video taped myself and watched it. It's amazing how fast you break bad habits when you see yourself on tape.  

I remind myself that the audience wants me to do well and there are always people there rooting for me. 

When I get positive feedback I make an effort to repeat it to myself again when I'm nervous. 

I always have a plan for how to do the presentation if all the tech fails. That includes a paper version of my notes and some visual aids which can be held up and passed around. 

I write the notes in a less formal manner and change them to be in alignment to the way I normally speak often putting them in point forms to force me not to read every word.

I look around the audience and at specific people. With knitters this is challenging as some of them never look up. 

If you are one of the terrified public speakers please remember, worrying about it is almost always much worse than the reality. No one likes public speaking, especially in the beginning. Preparation is critical and once you're done you get to feel brave for doing it. 


  1. LOL, 'KNitters never look up'. ;)that is a challenge indeed. Thank you for the tips. I've ordered the book of Garr Reynolds, I'ld like to improve my public speaking too.

  2. If you get over the fear, public speaking can be very enjoyable because it helps you live in the moment. And being in the moment, in the present, is the key to happiness.So if you want more info about this topic then visit how to overcome fear of public speaking.