The Fear of Public Speaking

Smiling Cheshire CatWhat does the fear of public speaking have to do with connecting with your audience? Well, when you take the stage smiling, looking confident and comfortable, the audience will immediately relax, knowing that they are in good hands. That is, you’ll connect.


The Secret

The first secret you need to know is that most people can’t see that you’re nervous, unless of course the perspiration is streaming down your face. Alternatively, your knees are shaking like a magnitude eight earthquake. Of course you mouth could be as dry as the Sahara desert. The worst-case scenario is that you have all three symptoms. However, if the audience can’t see that you’re nervous, fake it until you make it. And oh yea, never apologise.


Welcome Those Nerves

Nervous Girl

I have been speaking publicly for over 20 years and I’m still nervous every time before I speak. Mind you, I would be even more nervous if I wasn’t. Why? Because I know that those nerves energises me and give me a razor-sharp focus. It actually means you care.


The Story Behind Nerves

Book with "The Story” Title

 The Adrenaline Rush

So what’s the story behind these nerves? Well, it’s primordial and it’s paDinosaur Chasing Cavemanrt of our reptilian brain. It’s your primitive, fight, flight to freeze response. And it’s is part of your survival instinct. Because in those early Neanderthal days, if you were rejected by the group, you would probably die. So even today that fear of rejection, still triggers a rush of adrenaline that will soar throughout your body. While an adrenaline rush for athletes is anticipated and a legitimate natural drug supplement; when you get an unexpected adrenaline rush on stage, you will most likely freak out. However, once you know and understand what’s going on, realise that you’ll survive and recognise that this rush will energise you and give you a razor sharp focus, you’ll welcome those nerves. You’ll find that with time, you will be able to control those butterflies in your stomach and have them fly in formation. Make those nerves your friend.

Worst Time for Nerves

Usually the nerves are worse just before it’s your turn to speak, as there are no distractions. These fears are often about being judged, and thinking about what could go wrong. However once you are up there and speaking, nerves usually subside to some degree. But now and then, they can sneak up on you and can play havoc.
For me, this has to do with some old self-worth issue
that sneak in from left field. Now I recognise it and wave those nerves goodbye.


Key with Preparation Written on it

As I mentioned, I’m still nervous every time before I speak. As Mark Twain said, “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous, and those that are liars.” It’s how you manage your nerves that’s important. One of the most important aspect of public speaking is preparation. The saying, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” has never been more relevant. Ever had one of those exam nightmares where you know absolutely nothing? Preparing includes practice, familiarisation with the stage and venue. Get there early, get up on stage and imagine the audience being there. This is so that when you do get up there, it will be like visiting an old friend.


The Cure

Capsule Pill


Lets say you have prepared and you’re not
sure whether you’re just very excited or very
nervous. My suggestion is to take in a deep
slow Girl Breathing in the Airbreath, hold it, let it out slowly while letting your shoulders slump and then wait. Each part of this three-part exercise should be done slowly to a three-minute count. Do this a few times and you’ll feel yourself relaxing. This phenomenon is well understood by physiologists and you can find out why here. It just works.

Mind Over Matter

Change your State – Another way to reduce those nerves and perform at your peak on stage is to imagine yourself stepping through an arch like entry when stepping on to that stage. What the…? I hear you say. Well, have you ever had a bad day and someone you really like tells you an uplifting story and you immediately feel beSilhouetted Man with Hands Up and Out Stretchedtter. That’s what’s called a change of state. When you walk through that imaginary arch and tap into all your past successes, you’ll be able to take that stage and own it. This tactic will give you a new confidence and
believe, and you’ll know that you’re just going to nail it. Trust me, you’ll be surprised at your success.

Visualisation – Visualising yourself being successful, means you will be. This strategy also reduce nerves. Did you know that the brain can’t differentiate between visualising success and success having actually happened? Always visualise success. That’s why people say, “If you can see it, you can be it.” or “I you believe it, you can be it.”

Stage Time

Cute Toy Stage and Curtains

There are many other methods to help control your nerves, however imagining everybody naked has never done it for me and I have yet to hear from someone that it has worked for. One thing that has worked for me is to get up on stage anytime an opportunity presents itself, or to create those opportunities to increase my stage time. The strongest advocate for this is a champion speaker, coach and humorist, Darren LaCroix, who has the mantra “Stage time, stage time, stage time.” Oh! And one more thing, it’s always about the audience, it’s never about you, so STAY; that is, Stop, Thinking About Yourself. I learned this from Kim Chamberlain. Check out her six tips here.


Bottles of Coloured Solutions


Make nerves your friend. It energises you and gives you a razor sharp focus. It shows you care.

Speak to Connect, and make a difference.

Author: Henk van den Bergen

I have been speaking on Champagne for 20 years and decided to improve my speaking skills by joining Toastmasters International 13 year ago. I'm still a member today and I'm passionate about sharing what I’ve learned. I’m also proud to be the 1998 “Vin de Champagne Award” winner and being a three time Australian finalist in the International Speech contest.

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