The Fear of Public Speaking: Here’s How You Can Overcome It

The Fear of Public Speaking: Here's How You Can Overcome It

What Do You Think?

Here’s what I notice when I review this question with fearful speakers. Their strategies during a speech are designed to:

* End the speech as soon as possible

* Avoid any pauses or interruptions during the speech

* Avoid contact with the audience

* Hide the fact that they are afraid

These all involve efforts to resist and fight public speaking anxiety. They also involve efforts to resist the role of the speaker and to avoid using all the powers that come with being a speaker.

Don’t Be the Unspeaker!

Fearful speakers create trouble for themselves when they don’t embrace the role of Speaker. Instead, they try to be the Unspeaker. They try to “get through” the experience without committing themselves to the role of Speaker.

They read, they drone, they overlook the audience, and they focus mainly on resisting their fear. The result of this resistance is, typically, that it gives you more public speaking anxiety, not less – just the opposite of what you want.


Rushing through a talk requires that you talk fast. Talking fast interferes with your breathing. Instead of breathing comfortably, you breathe in a short, shallow manner, or you might even hold your breath. This gives you the sensation of running out of air and being unable to breathe, a common fear in this situation, and one that greatly increases fear of public speaking.

All this hurrying reduces the chance that your audience can enjoy your speech. It creates a barrier between you and them, which might have been your intention, but this will actually increase your fear. The less of a connection you have with them, the more unfriendly they will seem to you, and the more speech anxiety you will experience.

Ignoring the Audience

Fearful speakers often try to ignore the audience, hoping this will decrease their speech anxiety. For instance, lots of fearful speakers avoid eye contact with the audience. This prevents you from noticing any audience reaction. You won’t notice when people seem more interested or have questions.

When you have no audience contact, you focus on your own thoughts. And if you’re a fearful speaker, your thoughts are virtually guaranteed to be far more negative, and unrealistic, than anything your audience might think or say. The result? More, rather than less, fear of public speaking.

Fighting to Hide Your Fear

Finally, efforts to hide your fear create the additional fear of being “found out” as a nervous person. This only adds to the public speaking anxiety you already experience.

It has another negative side effect. After you’ve given a speech, even if it has gone well, you may take no pride in your success because of this thought: “If they knew how afraid I was, they’d think less of me.”

I’ve worked with many successful business people who, despite their speech anxiety, actually presented frequently and did a good job. Unfortunately, because of their desire for secrecy, they thought they were “fooling people” and never felt satisfaction from their work. In order to progress and feel confident, they had to see that they were the ones being fooled – not the audience!

Breaking the Vicious Cycle

You can overcome the fear of public speaking, with a game plan based on three basic elements: an accepting attitude toward your fear, use of the AWARE steps, and a willingness to be the Speaker, rather than the Unspeaker.

Written By Dave Carbonell

Originally Published In

Dr. Carbonell maintains a web site that’s overflowing with free articles and resources for people who struggle with fears and phobias. Take a look, at

The fear of public speaking is a common thing faced by a lot of people. But at the end of the day, overcoming this fear is what matters. Have confidence in yourself, be positive and try not to feel overwhelmed when you are in front of people. Take some deep breaths and just let it rip!

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