Fear of Public Speaking

Speeches are terrifying. 25 pairs of eyes staring at you – judging you. Underneath the spotlight, pressure is on. Everyone is paying keen attention to each word you say, waiting for you to mess up. 

I’m obviously exaggerating – speeches are nothing like this. Yet, this fear seems to be rather universal amongst humanity, with 75% of the population possessing it. Even some of the most confident of speakers struggle with this anxiety! Our brains are programmed in such a way that we see eyes ‘watching us’ as an existential threat. We try to barricade ourselves from this source of danger, focusing on our slides, looking down or retreating back to our notes. So, how do we overcome it?

The answer to this question is a lot more daunting and seemingly impossible than it’d look – it’s relating back to the audience  – the actual source of our anxieties! However – it is possible…

Preparation: Material

When you begin to prepare for a presentation, the most common mistake is starting with the topic, when it should be our audience. Rather than focusing on the details, it’s about breaking the wall between you and the audience as soon as possible – whether your audience be a class, or your teacher marking your assessment! Craft the message around the audience’s needs.

Once you have your content, knowing your material is key; this doesn’t mean memorizing your speech (although it is a good idea to!). You should know about the topic itself, so if the worst happens, like dropping your cards or losing your place while reading, you know what you’re talking about and you can come up with quick solutions! 

Rehearse in front of a mirror or a friend 

Rehearsing in front of a mirror can show you what you look like while performing your speech. It’s also good to get used to talking in front of others, so rehearsing with your friend can help. 

With this, attempt to learn eye contact – it’s one of the biggest mistakes we make speaking to groups. Rather than trying to prevent connecting with anybody in the room, make sustained eye contact with one person per thought. By focusing on one person, and allowing connections to develop, you make each person feel like you are talking just to them.

Be optimistic  

You are always the most nervous right before you speak. This is the moment where your brain tells you, “Everyone if judging you. Everyone is waiting for you to fail…” And it is exactly in this moment that positivity and refocusing your brain plays a significant role – if you have a positive mindset, this naturally provides you with more confidence. 


Doing a speech can be stressful, but hopefully with these tips, all fears will be lost!