There are a number of fears people have about public speaking, and you’re not in the boat alone. More people cite fear of public speaking than fear of death as their #1 fear. Everyone gets nervous before speaking, even the best speakers in the world experience some jitters. It’s what you do with that nervousness that makes a difference in the outcome of your talk. Before you can learn to control your fears, you must understand what they are and how they affect you. Here are some common fears many people face in public speaking and some ideas on how to overcome your fears so that you can deliver your talk with ease.
Fear of judgment: people worry about what other people are going to think about them, especially if the audience disagrees with the speaker. Many fear criticism. It’s human instinct to look for the negative in something, instead of the positive. People generally do not like conflict. However, not everyone in the world is going to agree. If they did, we would all be robots.
Fear of forgetting: speakers worry they will forget what they want to say to the audience. This is true rather a speaker has a 3 minute talk or a 30 minute talk or a 3 hour talk. It’s nearly impossible to remember a presentation verbatim.
Fear of failure: many people fear they will completely flop the presentation. This can come in the form of not connecting with the audience, or not delivering your message clearly. This may also mean you leave the audience in confusion, you miss a key line, or you blow it on your conclusion.
Fear of rejection: this fear comes from the idea that the audience may not like you or support your position.
Fear of uncertainty: fear of uncertainty covers a plethora of outcomes, but the biggest is fear of the unknown or fear of what can possibly go wrong will go wrong.
Fear of nervousness: many people fear the audience will notice physical cues of nervousness such as shaking hands, sweating, or trembling voice. Fear of nervous may culminate in the worry the speaker will freeze up or worse, pass out or get sick.
Fear of questions: not as common as some of the above fears, but dreading what the audience may ask you after your prepared speech can be troubling. Speakers may have concern they won’t know the answers to the audience’s questions and therefore lose their credibility. Another common avoidance is dealing with hecklers, in other words, the person who completely disagrees with you and makes it well-known to you and the audience.
These fears hold you back from giving a stellar performance, but more importantly from sharing your knowledge with people who need it. Whether it’s one person in your audience or many people, someone needs your message. It’s worth overcoming your own fears to deliver it to that person. Think of your talk as a public service, a way for you to give back.
You can use strategies to control your fears and turn your anxiety into energy for you and your audience. Here is a list of 9 strategies you can implement to overcome your fears:
Identify which fears you have.
Believe that your message is important.
Prepare your presentation.
Talk about information you know.
Practice, practice, practice.
Use humor to engage your audience.
Be mindful of your physical body.
Pause during your presentation.
Ask for written questions.
Fear, nervousness, and anxiousness are normal in public speaking. Understanding that every speaker has these feelings, getting to know your own fears, and how to cope with them will help you deliver a powerful and persuasive talk!
For more information on how to become a better speaker, email Jennifer at
firstname.lastname@example.org and ask her about the 7 Steps to Becoming a Powerful and Persuasive Presenter course to cover everything you need to give a talk that will knock your audience’s socks off!