7 Ways to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety | Adam Markel

CAN I SHARE A SECRET

WITH YOU?

The moment before I begin a speaking gig is always nerve-wracking. I live it over and over again…by choice. Am I crazy? Maybe. Or maybe I just believe that if something is easy, it’s not worth it, and if it’s worth it, it won’t be easy. Despite my intense fear, I walk on stage exuding confidence.

I’m not alone on this journey. Many of us suffer from a debilitating fear of public speaking. In fact, it’s a very common form of anxiety. Anxiety is normal and natural, and everyone experiences it at some point in their life. Experts report that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 77% of the population.

Underlying public speaking anxiety is fear of judgment or negative evaluation by others. That fear is difficult to overcome, but with hard work and help, it is possible. Check out our motivational speaking classes for more information on how we can help you conquer your fear of public speaking and mast

The Reasons You Have Stage Fright

The moment before I begin a speaking gig is always nerve-wracking. I live it over and over again…by choice. Am I crazy? Maybe. Or maybe I just believe that if something is easy, it’s not worth it, and if it’s worth it, it won’t be easy.  Despite my intense fear, I walk on stage exuding confidence.

I’m not alone on this journey. Many of us suffer from a debilitating fear of public speaking. In fact, it’s a very common form of anxiety. Anxiety is normal and natural, and everyone experiences it at some point in their life. Experts report that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 77% of the population.

Underlying public speaking anxiety is fear of judgment or negative evaluation by others. That fear is difficult to overcome, but with hard work and help, it is possible. Check out our motivational speaking classes for more information on how we can help you conquer your fear of public speaking and master the art of interaction.

Self-Consciousness

Self-consciousness is the most frequently named reason for performance anxiety. Some people are okay in front of a small group, but they feel anxious in front of larger audiences. I’m always baffled by how easily I can speak to someone individually, but if those same individuals are in a group, my fear of public speaking kicks into overdrive.

We can blame our brains for this. Our amygdala, the almond-shaped fear center in our brain, lights up when we feel anxious, threatened or afraid and automatically shifts us into a fight, flight or freeze mode. 

The good news is that with help from motivational speaking classes, we can train ourselves out of it. Check out my article on How to Speak Confidently – Part 1 to learn how. As you work to improve in this area, it’s critical to maintain focus on delivering your message rather than presenting your best performance.

Thinking That Others Are Judging You

If you are like me, you approach public speaking as if you are the center of attention (makes sense, right?). You believe the audience is picking apart every word. The harsh (but wonderful) truth is people don’t really care about you. There is a phenomenon in psychology known as the Spotlight Effect, where people tend to overestimate how much others notice aspects of one’s appearance or behavior. 

This causes a lot of unnecessary and avoidable stage fright.

Your audience isn’t there to judge you but rather to learn from you, so be sure to focus on presence vs. pretense. Public speaking training will tell you that a great speaker is authentic on stage and not in their own ego. Make sure you stay in the moment and your audience will stay there with you.

Be yourself. It’s important to move away from what you think you should say, or what will make you look good. Instead, be present with what’s real and true. Remember, the audience believes you are the expert. Unless you prove them wrong, both you and the audience will leave the presentation fulfilled.

Bad Experience

I have more good news on overcoming nerves, but let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

We’re all familiar with failure. 

Some of us have a hard time letting go of our past. We blindly accept that a past action has the power to shape our current performance. If we believe our past failures control our future, they will.  

Here’s the good news, even though we have all had bad experiences, public speaking anxiety is often a learned behavior. Anything learned can be unlearned. When you are aware of your weaknesses, you can turn them into strengths.

Poor or Insufficient Preparation

If 2020 taught us anything, it was to expect the unexpected. After falling victim to the toilet paper shortage and finding myself bartering a $50 bottle of wine for a roll of one-ply, I learned to always be prepared. 

If you haven’t prepared your speech, there’s no reason you should succeed.  

Prepare until you feel your speech is perfect. Then do it again. It’s also important to include technical preparations in the hours right before you present. For public speaking tips that include ensuring you are technically prepared, check out How to Speak Confidently – Part 2.

Feel Discomfort With Your Own Body

Another lesson that I learned from 2020 is that my facial expression and body language don’t always match my words. Watching myself through endless Zooms was an uncomfortable but invaluable lesson. 

When speaking to a group, our nerves tell us to avoid eye contact (fear of judgment, my old nemesis), but making deliberate eye contact with a friendly face helps build confidence and slows speech to a conversational pace.

Additionally, how you sit, stand, gesture and move is a big part of engaging with your audience. Include movement that naturally goes with your speech flow as you practice. When your big moment arrives, they will feel like second nature. 

Sharing a powerful story is another way to create fluidity in your speech and one of the best ways to forget about discomfort in your body. It also allows you to connect and engage with your audience, which is the hallmark of a great speaker.

If you want more ways to manage your public speaking anxiety while looking good and feeling even better on stage, check out my podcast with Katie Depaola, founder of Inner Glow Circle.

Comparing Yourself to Others

For many of us, this is a behavior learned in childhood. Do you remember anxiously waiting to be picked for dodgeball? I do. I would size up kids who got picked first, wondering what they had that I didn’t. Back then, I thought it was their sharklike skills, but now I realize it was their confidence. They didn’t compare themselves to others, they simply believed in their own abilities.

Once you stop comparing yourself to others, believing in yourself will follow. Public speakers don’t have teammates to share in successes or failures on the stage. You alone hold the power to connect and engage with your audience.

But how do you harness that power? Motivational speaker training will tell you it’s by being vulnerable. People trust people who are open with them. Allowing your audience to see your truth sparks a connection. If you don’t hold back, they won’t either. 

Remember, your job isn’t to be an excellent speaker, it is to be interesting and share your passion for your topic. There is nobody else in the universe who can do that as well as you and that’s all your audience expects. 

How to Manage Public Speaking Anxiety

I’ve given you a lot to think about and work with…so now what?  

Do you feel ready to conquer your demons, climb a mountain, jump out of a plane or swim with sharks (sweet and scary audience sharks, that is) to become a fearless motivational keynote speaker? It’s okay if you’re not. I’ve been a public speaker forever, and sometimes I don’t feel ready to face my fears, but I am always willing and able to try. You’ll get there, too.

They (whoever “they” are) always say, “just focus on the audience instead of the anxiety,” but I know that it is easier said than done. If you keep reading this article, I’ll share with you some practical tips for overcoming your public speaking anxiety.

Become More Conscious of Your Feelings

I’ve given you a lot to think about and work with…so now what?  

Do you feel ready to conquer your demons, climb a mountain, jump out of a plane or swim with sharks (sweet and scary audience sharks, that is) to become a fearless motivational keynote speaker? It’s okay if you’re not. I’ve been a public speaker forever, and sometimes I don’t feel ready to face my fears, but I am always willing and able to try. You’ll get there, too.

They (whoever “they” are) always say, “just focus on the audience instead of the anxiety,” but I know that it is easier said than done. If you keep reading this article, I’ll share with you some practical tips for overcoming your public speaking anxiety.

Have a Positive Visualization

Stay with me…I’m not talking about “if you can see it, you can be it,” and magically, you’re ready to conduct motivational speaker training. I’m talking about visualizing yourself using the public speaking tips you’re learning to project confidence. 

As part of your practice, visualize how you will look, act and sound on stage. Imagine the positive audience reactions and how the room will look when you finish. You can even go wild and visualize a standing ovation or thunderous applause. 

Visualizing these outcomes will build your confidence. By the time you begin, it will feel as if you’ve already “been there, done that.” Easy, breezy, effortless.

Overcome the Brain Freeze

If only brain freeze was like chickenpox. We would be immune after getting it once as a kid, but sadly that’s not the case. Brain freeze in adults is much harder to cure. Harder, but not impossible, and here’s the secret…

Even the most seasoned public speaker has dealt with brain freeze at the worst possible moment. If you follow the tips for public speaking anxiety in this article, you can learn how to overcome nerves and rally if, and when, it happens to you.

The most important thing to do if you freeze is to redirect and move on quickly. Most likely, nobody noticed, but if somebody did, they will be impressed with your control and promptly forget about it. Don’t dwell on the negative aspects of the incident. Instead focus on what you can learn from it. We all make mistakes. The goal is progress, not perfection. 

Another way to deal with brain freeze is to implement cognitive restructuring techniques before and after your speech. These techniques, which I detailed in my motivational speaking classes will teach you to follow facts, not emotions. 

For example, if you told a joke and nobody laughed, you may doubt the joke and thereby your own humor. Restructuring helps you learn to follow the evidence. You may discover there was an audio malfunction during your punchline and the audience didn’t even hear it. Analyze all the information before jumping to conclusions.

Relax in Your Breath

You might be surprised to learn that overcoming public speaking anxiety could be as simple as controlling your breathing. When we feel anxious, our breath quickens and we tend to talk faster. Take a moment to breathe and focus that energy down into your heart. 

Remember, you are there for your audience. It’s not about you, it’s about the information you are sharing. In addition to slowing your heart rate (and speech), focusing on calm breaths will make your voice resonate more and pull you into the cadence of your words. 

You can learn more about the importance of breath in my podcast with Grant Parr, a former Division 2 quarterback who knows how to stay calm under pressure.

Don’t Memorize Everything

I’ve talked about being prepared, but you may notice I haven’t asked you to memorize your speech. Motivational speaking classes will tell you that, while it is important to have your main points committed to memory, the best public speakers leave room to ad-lib. 

There is no disputing the fact that speaking without notes creates a polished presentation, but if you stick only to a script, it may come across as artificial. In social settings, conversations adapt through twists and turns, and authentic speakers use that same technique. 

If you are following a specific script in your head, forgetting a sentence or phrase may incite brain freeze. Focus instead on memorizing key points rather than perfect sentences and the audience won’t notice if you pivot from what you imagined you would say. 

Practice Makes Perfect

If you decide to ignore everything else in this article and follow just one piece of advice, this is it: practice makes perfect.

Practice your speech in front of a mirror as if you are speaking to the audience. Even better, record yourself to see how your speech, expression, gestures and body language come across.

When you playback the recording, objectively critique yourself. It may feel uncomfortable, but it is important to get a sense of your voice and speaking style in order to make improvements.  

Implement your observations, and then start over….as many times as it takes to feel confident in your presentation. Practice in front of somebody who you trust will be honest with you, or grab a group of family and friends and ask them to be your objective audience. This creates more feedback and increases your comfortability in front of a group. 

I will tell you from experience, it is harder to present to family and friends than strangers. If you can learn how to overcome nerves in front of people you know, you are well on your way to overcoming public speaking anxiety.

Don’t Memorize Everything

I’ve talked about being prepared, but you may notice I haven’t asked you to memorize your speech. Motivational speaking classes will tell you that, while it is important to have your main points committed to memory, the best public speakers leave room to ad-lib. 

There is no disputing the fact that speaking without notes creates a polished presentation, but if you stick only to a script, it may come across as artificial. In social settings, conversations adapt through twists and turns, and authentic speakers use that same technique. 

If you are following a specific script in your head, forgetting a sentence or phrase may incite brain freeze. Focus instead on memorizing key points rather than perfect sentences and the audience won’t notice if you pivot from what you imagined you would say. 

Join a Public Speaking Class

We’ve all had a co-worker who attended a Toastmasters public speaking training and suddenly they were the first to volunteer for every presentation or speech. I admired their confidence but didn’t realize how much hard work they put in to conquer their fear of public speaking

It is rare that someone is born with perfect public speaking abilities. The best speakers acknowledge that they would benefit from help and hone their skills by learning from a master.

Join the Adam Markel Speaker Training Masterclass to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

Here’s where I package all those good news gifts and wrap them up with a beautiful “conquering your fear of public speaking” bow. If your dream is to get on the TEDx stage, become a keynote speaker, host webinars, or nail a successful pitch, my Get Ready Speaker Masterclass is perfect for you.

A leadership keynote speaker with Tedx talk experience can provide insight into the challenges and opportunities mentioned in this article in a clear and easy-to-follow manner. By enrolling in my Get Ready Speaker Masterclass, you will receive a roadmap for your journey to overcoming public speaking nerves.

This motivational speaker training masterclass includes:

  • 8 Live Online Public Speaking Training Classes
  • 2 Full Days of Live Online Speaker Training
  • 2x per Week Speaker Training Coaching Calls
  • Deliver Your Talk at a Live 2-Day Event
  • Your Talk, Professionally Filmed
  • Ongoing Accountability Support
  • Supportive Community
  • Lifetime Access

If you’d like to learn more public speaking tips and how to conquer your public speaking nerves, contact us by calling 877.697.4868 or sending an email to team@adammarkel.com. You can expect a response within 24 hours.
By moving from your head to your heart you will transform into the confident public speaker you have always dreamed of becoming.