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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

Every Friday, I post a Simple Living News Update that includes links to some of my favorite articles of the week. In addition to the news update, I answer a reader question via video.

This week’s reader question is:

Can you share a few tips and tools that will help me overcome my fear of speaking in public?

For those of you who can’t watch the video, here’s a quick summary of my talk . . .

I’m scared of public speaking, so before I give a presentation I focus on the following strategies:

1. Preparation. Think about your topic, the points you want to get across, and about the type of room you’ll be presenting in. For example, I love using PowerPoint presentations because it’s a great way to display one or two key points, plus a visual images. But sometimes it’s not possible to use a PowerPoint, so you’ll want to engage the audience in other ways.

2. Practice. Once you’ve organized your talk, start practicing. Practice in front of friends, family members, or in front of your cats. 🙂

3. Just do it. At some point, you have to get out there and give your talk. If you’re still nervous about speaking in public, consider joining a local Toastmasters. For instance, when I worked in the investment management industry I joined Toastmasters and the organization helped improve my speaking and leadership skills.

Leave a comment and tell me about how you’ve overcome the fear of public speaking. 🙂

Now onto the news . . .

Snowberry: Wilderness Shampoo

“Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus, is a beautiful bush in the honeysuckle family found in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and across the United States and Canada. It is distinctive for its white-colored berries, so if you have seen it, I bet you recognize it.”

50 Posts Prove Our Words are Important

“Some things we write are just for fun, but usually there is a message or lesson. A message of hope or inspiration, or a lesson in business or life.

Maybe blogging will change, as everything does, but hopefully we can preserve the best parts of blogging and free content. You don’t need a perfect design, all the right widgets, advertisers or thousands of readers to write something important. If your writing is meaningful to just one person, it is important. Even if that person is you.”

I am old.

“Your days of old will come sooner than you’ll ever believe possible. So take hold of each day, each precious moment, right now. Take hold of it not by grabbing up all you can, but by giving away all you can. Give away kindness, give away hugs, give away your time, give away food, give away money, give away want, give away love.

Be ever so grateful of every breath, every sunny day, every light snow fall, every great movie, every life-giving meal, every good night’s sleep, every work of art, every venture, adventure and misadventure undertaken, and every new friend made.”

Cool Stuff


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ser March 4, 2011, 9:43 am

    For public speaking – realize that most people listening don’t know as much about the topic as you probably do (having done your research) or care as much as you do about the topic. Realizing that most of your audience does not ‘care’ as much as you do about your presentation will help you get over yourself and realize it is just one more thing you are doing for that day.

  • Layla March 4, 2011, 11:55 am

    I heard that toastmasters is a bit stuffy. I keep meaning to try improv, though (it’s pretty far out of my comfort zone, which is probably a good thing.)

    • Sophia March 7, 2011, 7:12 am

      Toastmasters really varies from individual club to club. The one I went to in San Diego was more casual and met every other week. Some meet weekly and are a lot more formal. However, there is a common order and flow at each meeting. You can check out a club meeting (or two) for free and actually pop in on different ones in your area until you find one that might be a good fit. What I liked about Toastmasters was it provided a systematic approach to improving my presentation skills as well as impromtu speaking opportunities. You will be under no obligation to speak if you are checking out a club. OK, my Toastmasters plug is over 🙂

  • Brenda March 4, 2011, 1:15 pm

    Public speaking has never been my forte and it’s not one of my favorite things to do, but there are two things that have helped me get somewhat better at it and less nervous:
    1) Practicing ahead of time as many times as you want until you feel comfortable with your talk/presentation. Even memorizing exactly what you want to say is good because even if you don’t say exactly what you planned, you’re a lot less likely to be at a loss for words.
    2)Yes, just DOING it over several occasions helps you to know what to expect whenever you’re in front of an audience.

  • Laura March 4, 2011, 1:27 pm

    Thanks for sharing 50 Posts Prove Our Words are Important. I’ve been reading bombarded with emails and posts about how to make your blog “BIG”. I really love what Courtney said, “If your writing is meaningful to just one person, it is important. Even if that person is you.” I needed to read that today. I’m just having fun with my blog and that’s perfectly fine. I need to focus on just enjoying.

  • Chris O'Byrne March 4, 2011, 5:01 pm

    I almost feel guilty for saying this, but I don’t have any problem getting in front of people and talking. It might be from all of my years teaching, but I think it has more to do with self assurance. Once I became comfortable with myself and realized it was okay to sound “dumb”, I just stopped worrying. Something similar happened when I realized it was okay to get lost while driving in a new town. I mean, how lost can you really get? Once I stopped worrying about it, I also stopped getting lost.

    My advice—let go!

    • Lisa March 5, 2011, 10:49 am

      I couldn’t have said it any better than Chris O’Byrne. Relax and be yourself…whether you’re speaking to a close friend or thousands…there’s really no difference.

  • Chris in Australia March 4, 2011, 5:50 pm

    Is there a name for fear of speaking on YouTube? Because I have that. It’s held me back from posting videos there.

    Before youtube arrived I could not have imagined that people would have access to such a large potential audience. It’s like having your own TV show. It’s an exciting opportunity, but this obviously brings with it some of its own difficulties and fears!

    • Gildas April 28, 2011, 4:23 pm

      Thanks alot – your answer solved all my prombles after several days struggling

  • erika March 4, 2011, 5:58 pm

    Before any speaking event, I always repeat that old quote to myself “Stand straight so they see you; speak loudly so they hear you; sit quickly so they like you.” Focusing on that, and not on my nervousness, helps.

  • Tanja March 4, 2011, 6:01 pm

    I’m glad your Fishtrap event went well. I would have loved to be there and heard the lineup of speakers! Public speaking? Maybe someday. Not quite over the fear of it yet. 🙂 I’m great with small groups, but haven’t quite moved up to being on a stage and doing it.

    My honey has and he says the same thing as you, lots of preparation and practice. I’m his “practice audience” ahead of time and he usually practices an entire talk around 4 times before doing it. Along the way we hone it. I think that the practice he does ahead of time is really the trick. (His biggest was an 8 hour workshop lecture. Try talking for 8 hours! I’d rather not. 🙂

  • et March 4, 2011, 7:47 pm

    I agree with Ser & Chris above.
    A lot of the problems comes from our inflated sense of self worth (I am doing this it must be important/perfect)- but paired in a paradoxical way with low self confidence.

  • Lisa March 5, 2011, 10:51 am

    By the way, I meant to mention that your links for this week were outstanding as always, Tammy!

  • Montreal SEO Expert March 5, 2011, 11:29 am

    I believe you should organize your points but don’t memorize or read a prepared document.

  • KPS March 5, 2011, 5:46 pm

    The best advice I ever got about speaking has held true for me. I give many talks (I teach), but these talks didn’t always go well. A friend advised that I should love my audience. That mindset changed it all.

  • Caitlin Kelly March 5, 2011, 11:40 pm

    I’ve done a lot of it and generally really enjoy it, but had a crash-and-burn last fall that was (ouch) instructive. It taught me that you really have to have a good sense of your audience before you start; I had been warned that my material would be pretty challenging to some of their orthodoxy and so, (which proved true) they were not wildly enthusiastic. When they laughed in the wrong places and didn’t laugh when I wanted them to, it rattled me. Now my self-confidence is a little impaired and I have a big one coming up…

    So I have found a mentor to help me who has attended that specific conference.

    Typically, I practice a lot and am really passionate and down to earth and people enjoy that.

  • DK March 6, 2011, 1:43 am

    Some great insights here (and in the comments) – I’ve been speaking for nearly five years and take a different view to some of the advice out there… especially the idea of practising – you should certainly know your topic and run through your presentation, although over practising means you won’t allow the space for it to be a conversation.

    This point and others form part of my top ten speaking tips if anyone is interested :

    http://mediasnackers.com/2010/07/my-top-ten-speaking-tips/ – they are not for everyone but they work for me 😉

    Here’s number 9 though as a couple of people mentioned about nerves and you also touched upon it in your video:

    9. Fool your nerves—those damn butterflies can turn into courage-eating moths which can eat you from the inside out. Trick them. The emotional and physiological response to fear is exactly the same as when you’re excited. Tell yourself it’s not nerves but positive anticipation and after a while you will create an ingrained learned response.

    Good luck guys 🙂

  • Mike Choi March 6, 2011, 10:12 am

    One of the things that helped me with public speaking was taking an improv class. It makes you do activities and say stuff in a front of a small group of people that you step wayy out of your comfort zone in a good way. It can can be a great way to meet new people and hone a new skill that is invaluable.


  • Dave March 6, 2011, 7:03 pm

    Let me state something, if you don’t “get” why someone would be afraid of public speaking, you cannot truly understand how debilitating this can be. I suffered from this for years and it has held me back at work, in life, etc. I Never had a problem interacting in small groups or one on one, but was a wreck in larger settings. I truly believe it is tied to introversion and social phobias at many levels. I have observed that for the most part people who are generally extroverted cannot usually understand this. At the age of 38 I joined Toastmasters and I can say it truly changed my life for the better. I can’t recommend it highly enough, believe me, it is cognitive therapy at it’s finest.

    • Tammy March 7, 2011, 7:28 am

      @Dave – I agree with your points. Toastmasters is an amazing organization! I’ve been thinking reconnecting with the organization. 🙂

  • Tammy March 7, 2011, 7:26 am

    Thanks for leaving all the thoughtful comments peeps! 🙂 I’m recovering from the flu and reading through all of the positive comments made me smile and feel a little better.

    Thank you!

  • I’m a professional public speaking and presentations trainer. I’m all for Toastmasters as somewhere to practice but don’t forget that the feedback you get is only as good as the other speakers. I’ve heard a lot of pointless stuff said at meetings and, occasionally, some out-right physically wrong stuff (such as drinking cold water as you speak).

    I’m not saying TM is bad, just urging caution!