Leadership Skills

7 Ways to Overcome Stage Fright in Public Speaking

All greatness is achieved while performing outside our comfort zone.
— Greg Arnold

It is common knowledge that the #1 human fear is public speaking. When someone needs to make a presentation, often they just want to ‘get it over with.’

But if you are in business, becoming proficient at public speaking can accelerate your career and increase your influence. Instead of trying to ‘get it over with’ think ‘get good.’

Here are a few strategies that can help you reduce your anxiety. Be assured that nervousness in public speaking is normal and even healthy.

1. Master your material.

There is no substitute for knowing your material. The more prepared you are, the more confident and spontaneous you will be. Thorough knowledge of the material will also help you speak in a conversational tone.

2. Arrive early.

Make sure you are not dealing with last minute room set-up or technological issues. This will compound your stress. Get there well ahead of time and make sure everything is in order. Greet participants as they arrive. This takes the edge off and gives the audience a positive first impression. 

3. Start strong and Finish strong.

The first few minutes are usually the hardest. If you have your introduction down cold and it has a good hook, you gain early momentum. Once you get going, the anxiety is often reduced or even eliminated. Additionally, don't end with a whimper. 'Does anyone have any questions?' isn't exactly a great lasting impression. Summarize what you have said and then paint a picture of a bright future with the material you presented. Help them 'imagine' how life will be better from what you have shared.

4. Make nervousness work for, rather than against you.

If I am nervous before a speech, I simply tell myself that it is positive energy waiting to be channeled into a great presentation.

“Everyone has butterflies in their stomach. The only difference between the pro and an amateur is the pro has the butterflies flying in formation.”
— Zig Ziglar


5. Use positive visualization.

This technique is used by some of the world’s greatest performers. Jack Nicklaus used to imagine the golf ball landing softly on the green right next to the hole before he ever took a swing. Picture yourself confident and effective during your presentation.

6. Focus on the MESSAGe, not yourself.

I used to give monthly Employee of the Month presentations at an organization. I would tell myself that my job is to honor person being recognized, not to make myself look good. This actually helped take the edge off my nervousness. In a similar way, your job is not to impress the audience but impact them. Focus on helping them.

7. Think thrive, not survive.

Being a Christian, I think of what the Apostle Paul said, 'God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.' Go up with confidence and seize the day. Make the most of your opportunity. Play offense, not defense.

Your presentation will never be perfect but life is an adventure not a test. It's about success, not perfection. 

There are no shortcuts to becoming proficient at presentations. But with practice, your anxiety can be dramatically reduced.

When I started my career in education, I volunteered to teach topics like infection control, fire safety and HIPAA about 6 times a month in front of an average size audience of 40 people. I did this for the sole purpose of gaining ‘face time’ in front of an audience.

So start small. Volunteer to make a presentation at a department meeting or for a committee. You will doing something most people are unwilling to do.

You have to go through awkward to get to awesome.
— Mark Batterson