Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking

Everyday women make decisions based on whether or not they have to speak in public. Students have dropped courses or limited their career choices, activists and civic-minded citizens have given up their causes, and professionals have turned down promotions or have been passed over because they were afraid to speak.

You are not alone
The #1 fear in this country is speaking before a group. Millions of people suffer in silence with the fear and anxiety associated with public speaking.

Accept the Feelings
Don't focus on the fear or try to push it away. You fuel the fear by concentrating on it.

Positive Self-talking and Visualization
A positive and a negative cannot inhabit the same space at the same time. Fill your mind with positive imagery and messages and you push the negative, anxious thoughts and feelings out.

Use Manageable Mind Fillers
Anticipatory anxiety before speaking can sometimes be worse than actually speaking. Fill your head with diversions such as counting backwards from 100 by 3's, tell yourself a joke, sing silly children's songs in your head, count paisley's on someone's dress pattern, or really focus in on what someone else is saying.

Calm Breathing
Don't forget to breathe and don't breathe high in the chest. Both will cause shortness of breath, light headedness, and dizziness, which are also symptoms of panic. Diaphragmatic breathing, or breathing from the diaphragm or abdomen, has a calming effect.

Relaxation Exercises
Use in combination with breathing and visualization exercises. The effects are cumulative. The more comfortable you are with these practices, the easier it is to enter into a relaxed state when panic and fear arise.

Lessons for the Lectern
SMILE! You look more relaxed, feel more comfortable, and people will enjoy looking at you and listening to you. Also, the audience mirrors your facial expressions.

Rehearse. Practice. Prepare.
Practice in front of a mirror to notice gestures and eye contact. Rehearse with a hand held recorder. Spoken language and written language differ. Practice. Reassess. Revise. Never Wing It! It sends a message to your audience that you really don't care.

A thoughtful pause or moment of silence is always preferable to "AHS, UMS, and YOU KNOWS"! These are verbal crutches. A pause can be dramatic, let's information sink in, and gives us time to collect our thoughts.

Use Eye Contact
Look around the room briefly catching the eye of your audience members. A nod or smile from them is a great comfort and looking at them gives you a connection.

Use your hands and arms. If you clutch yourself or the lectern, nervous energy has nowhere to go. Move around and gesture and you will help your body relax.

Don't forget to BREATHE!
Holding your breath will increase your anxiety and your feelings of panic (not to mention make it difficult to get your words out!).

Memorize the beginning and end of your speech so you don't have to read from your notes. You make a stronger first and last impression if you have eye contact with your audience.

Be Persuasive
Be more persuasive and less informative. The more information, the more you will be tuned out. You need personal stories, drama, and emotion to bring your presentation to life.

Most often your audience is rooting for you and wants you to succeed.

Speak your mind
Share your ideas, and find your voice. Your spirit wants to be heard. Express the beauty and knowledge you hold within and let it be your gift to the world.


For information about FINDING YOUR VOICE workshops, contact Janet Terban Morris (