I have more than 20 years’ experience training and coaching people to overcome and cure their fear of public speaking. I would say of the hundreds of people I have worked with around 90% strongly dislike having to stand up and address an audience. Many people fear it far more than any visit to the dentist or a trip to the very top of a tall building!

There are any number of reasons why someone might be fearful about getting on their feet to present to an audience. In my experience by far and away the biggest reason is fear and the effect this has on their ability to present live.

Fear is an incredibly powerful feeling that can have a very negative impact on your presentation.

I have drawn on my 20 years of coaching experience to create the 10 steps below that I hope will help you cure your fear of public speaking.

1. Think of nerves as being positive energy. You don’t go to the Doctor complaining of breathlessness, perspiring hands and butterflies in your tummy; only to be told that you’re suffering from a bad dose of nerves. What you are experiencing is a rise in the level of adrenalin in your bloodstream: the body getting ready for fight or flight. Welcome your symptoms as heralding the arrival of positive energy – energy which will propel you towards a successful presentation.

(Presentation nerves holding you back?)

2. Rehearse. The easiest way to overcome anxiety is to rehearse. When you don’t rehearse, the first time that the audience hears your presentation is also the first time you hear it too – and that’s when you can get a massive attack of stage fright. Rehearsing your presentation dissipates surplus energy, builds self-confidence and guarantees a winning presentation.

3. Polish your opening and close. If you can get the opening and the close right, then you can trust yourself to remember the rest. Polishing the opening and close will make a big difference to your self-confidence, and to the way your audience responds to you.

4. Focus on a vision of success. Rather than thinking about what could go wrong, consider what a very successful presentation is going to look like. What are going to be the best bits, the highlights, and what kind of positive things are the audience going to say about you? Focusing on a vision of success creates a mind-set of positive thought which will keep your anxieties in check.

 5. Take physical exercise. It’s the easiest way to dissipate excess energy, stop the body from shaking and rid yourself of feelings of anxiety. If you are speaking in a meeting room, or auditorium, then before the event starts take a walk around the block. Going for a brisk, fast-paced walk is guaranteed to make you feel better about yourself and the presentation you are about to make.

6. Get to the venue early and meet the team. Good reconnaissance is never wasted. Get to know the person who is organising the event and ask them if you can familiarise yourself with the room, walk on the stage, click through your PowerPoint slides - or better still, have a complete run-through and rehearsal of your presentation. Getting to know the venue and the people who work in it will make the environment more familiar to you, and ultimately, less frightening.

7. Focus on the audience. Believe it or not, the audience want you to succeed and want your presentation to be a success. And if you tailor your presentation to specifically meet their needs then they will probably give you a huge round of applause. Making and keeping a good connection with your audience is guaranteed to make you feel good and bring the best out of you.

8. Use cue cards. In the super digital, interconnected, multi-screen world that we live in, the humble cue card is still the best confidence-builder that you can possibly use. A well-prepared set of cue cards will help you remember your key points, get rid of concerns that you might forget your words - and give you something to hold on to.   

9. Slow down. When you first get on your feet and the energy levels are high you may find that you’re speaking faster than normal and the pitch of your voice becomes higher. The way to deal with this is to slow down, or insert a pause. You will find that following a pause your voice automatically re-registers itself to your normal pitch and sound. Try it and you will find that my advice works every time.

10. Avoid the B Team. Every event has an A team and a B team. The A team’s job is to make the event happen; the B team’s job is to stop it happening. Typical B team players could include your boss who always insists on last minute changes, the colleague who keeps asking if you are nervous, and the hotel receptionist who won’t allow you a late check-out. Stay calm and be positive; learn to spot B team players and avoid them like the plague. Remember, you are on the A team, and the A team always wins.

I hope you have found these tips useful. If you would like to find out more about the coaching we offer please take look at the Presenter Coaching page of our website.

I know how worrying preparing for a presentation can be and if you would like to ask me any questions or would like some advice please do get in touch with me.

You may also like these posts and pages:

- 10 Tips to Become a Better Presenter
How to Improve Public Speaking Skills & Confidence - 10 Tips
How to Stand Still When Nervous or Anxious - Public Speaking Tips Video
13 Public Speaking Tips for Delivering a Great Business Presentation
How to Improve Your Presentation Skills - 10 Tips for the Most Important Skills
Top 10 Presenting and Public Speaking Tips - How Can We Help You?
- 10 Habits of the Bad Business Presenter
- The Presentation Training page of our website

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Sean Malone