Overcoming the fear of public speaking (article)

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In this article, Derek Stockley discusses the fear of public speaking. He provides some techniques to overcome the anxiety that can occur when asked to speak in public. This is a topic frequently dealt with at public and in-house training programs. See: Public Presentation/Public Speaking course in Melbourne or On-demand Service Explanation or for five or more to be trained, see: In-house training.This training is very practical and effective.

Many people fear speaking in public

Or at least they become anxious when called upon to give a public speech.

Every-day events often prompt the topics for these newsletter articles. The 'fear of public speaking' was chosen this week because it was mentioned in a number of different ways in the last few days:

  • On the radio yesterday morning, a 'pop quiz' was mentioned - the number one fear held by people was listed - public speaking.

  • The day before, I was told about a primary school that had introduced a public speaking course for grade six students. It was seen as an important initiative as everyone has to speak in public at some stage in their lives.

  • At the weekend, a professional public speaker was featured on a TV business magazine program. On stage, he was animated, lively and effective, yet before each public speech, he openly acknowledged that he was always nervous and anxious.

Overcoming the fear of public speaking

Most people overcome the fear of public speaking.

I remember organising a public speaking program in my Jaycee chapter. After discussing some of the key features of public speaking, it became time for a new member to stand up and deliver a short speech. She was very nervous and anxious about it. Although initially thinking it was too hard, with the encouragement of those present, she eventually stood and delivered the speech.

She went on to participate in regional and state oratory and debating competitions. She became chapter president and held other positions at the regional and state level. She also conducted training sessions.

That first step was very important. When she did give her first speech, she did very well. After overcoming the fear of the unknown, she quickly developed her skills and ability.

Anxiety before speaking

It is normal to experience some level of anxiety before making a public speech.

I once saw a world renowned body language expert just prior to giving a public presentation. Although he was an expert on body language, he was displaying all the tell tale signs of nervousness.

Like the professional speaker mentioned above, he was nervous, even though he regularly gave public presentations. He knew his topic (he was a best selling author), his presentation topics and format were basically the same - yet he still suffered some minor stress prior to saying his opening remarks.

A little stress is good - it gives you an edge. If you are overly relaxed, or over confident, you can be setting yourself up for a fall.

Public speaking can be learnt

Some people naturally have the 'gift of the gab'. However, there are specific lessons to be learnt.

Anxiety often comes from not knowing what to do.

A speech has a basic structure: an opening, body and conclusion. Knowing what to do in each step creates a lot of confidence.

Preparation is the key - thinking about your audience and what the message should be. Ask yourself: what do I want to achieve? A logical flow of key points will deliver an effective message.


Anxiety about public speaking often comes from the fear of the unknown. It can be overcome through good preparation - learning the basics and thinking about the audience and the message you want to convey.

Related article

The rules and appropriateness of a public speaker saying "thank you" is discussed at: public speaking tip article.


Jaycees is an international organisation committed to personal development and community service. My Jaycee involvement is explained at Personal Background.

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