7 highly effective ways to get over your deep fear of public speaking

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4 minutes read

Glossophobia: fancy name, frightening condition

If the thought of public speaking causes personal anxiety, you’re not alone.

Some experts reckon glossophobia – the fear of speaking in public – affects up to 75 per cent of the population, from a few butterflies in the tummy to a full-body panicked paralysis.

Whether you’re staring down the single lens of a live TV camera or casting your gaze over a sea of attentive faces, Aruga’s tried-and-tested tricks and tactics will help you communicate with confidence.

1. Breathe

Taking a few deep breaths seems like such simple advice but, honestly, it works! A few easy breathing exercises before your presentation can calm nerves and focus minds. Spend a few minutes slowly inhaling through your nose then exhaling through your mouth. Place your hands on your stomach to feel your diaphragm rhythmically lifting and lowering.

Box breathing can help too: inhale for four counts, hold for four, exhale for four, hold for four then repeat. If the panic sets in mid-sentence, focus on slowing your breathing and replacing quick, shallow breaths with deeper ones to boost your blood oxygen level and soothe your nerves.

2. Write it down

What do you want people to remember from your speech or presentation?

Write down three to five main points: these could be a call-to-action, a key piece of data, an important fact or a sentiment you want to convey. These are your Key Messages and you should memorise them before your presentation – don’t read them. Instead, try to refer to them frequently and weave them naturally into your address.

3. Visualise

Step through the interview or presentation in your head. How you approach a media interview with one journalist on Zoom is vastly different to addressing a room full of shareholders.

First, think about your audience: how many people are you are speaking to, who are they and will it be in-person or via video? How long do you have to speak? Try and stick to your allocated time as closely as possible. Is this an open forum or will there be a Q&A session at the end? If so, what are people likely to ask and what answers can you prepare in advance?

4. Phone a friend

Enlist the help of a friend, family member or colleague to prepare for your public presentation. Ask them to listen objectively and provide honest feedback both on what you say and how you say it.

Practice your speech, focusing on:

  • Delivery – volume, speed, non-verbal cues and physical appearance
  • Presentation style – do you rely heavily on your notes or pace distractedly while talking?
  • Key Message inclusion – are you getting across your main points effectively?

If there’s a Q&A component, have them ask you questions and practice answering them.

5. Prepare for the worst

What’s the one question you don’t want to be asked? It may relate to a corporate scandal, a legal matter subject to a gag order or a personal issue you don’t want to discuss. You don’t have to answer it but curtly declaring “no comment” will rarely put the matter to rest.

Instead, think objectively about any issues you may be asked to comment on and draft answers that firmly but politely deflect the questions. For example: “I’m not able to comment on behalf of the CEO, that is a matter you need to address with them directly.”

6. Know your weaknesses

Do you talk with your hands? Tend to go off on a tangent? Talk fast and stumble over your words? Pepper each sentence with ‘like, yeah’ and ‘ummm’? Fidget with your jewellery when you’re nervous?

Becoming a polished presenter takes practice. Film or record yourself speaking then watch or listen to yourself with a critical eye to address any quirks that may irk your audience. Don’t be too hard on yourself though, it’s OK to let your personality shine through!

7. Play to your strengths

Authenticity is prized above all other public speaking traits. Warmth and a genuine openness will do more to win over an audience than the most carefully crafted script or stage-managed moments ever could. If you get excited by data or statistics, share your enthusiasm with the audience. If you’re naturally energetic, move away from the lectern and use a handheld or headset mic. If you’re shy, engage listeners gently with meaningful eye contact and targeted points.

Still need a little help prepping for your presentation? The Aruga Guide to Media Training is a personalised program tailored to your public speaking needs. We can help you refine your Key Messages, teach you how to deflect tricky questions, finesse your speaking and presentation skills and even create a safe space to practice in front of a TV camera or radio microphone.

Media Training

Never stutter in front of the shutter.

Do you have questions about Key Messages? Need a little one-on-one Q&A coaching? Perhaps you want to practice in front of a camera before your big moment? The Aruga Guide to Media Training is a personalised program tailored specifically to your interview needs. We can gently step you through the basics or push you past your comfort zone, in-person or online.