Don’t let your fear of public speaking hold you back

Last week I ran one of my open workshops in London and I had six fantastic participants, and despite their professional experience, every one of them wanted to learn how to minimize their nerves. The fear of public speaking is a common and often paralysing condition.

As a departure from my usual session, I assigned them into pairs and asked them to share their worst nightmares about speaking in public.

  1. What were they really afraid of?
  2. What would be the worst thing that could happen, if what they feared actually came true?

Their greatest fear of public speaking turned out to be that others would think less of them as a result of a poor public speaking performance. And when challenged as to what the worst outcome of this could be people struggled to find a really terrible outcome.

  • Nobody would actually die or get hurt if the made a bad presentation
  • They wouldn’t get dismissed from their job
  • People would empathise with them

What we fear rarely comes true. In fact, the more we avoid what we fear, the more we inflate that fear and the more paralysed we become. Ultimately our fear ensures that very outcome that we think it is trying to protect us from, occurs.

Now consider what would happen if ignored the fear and  gave a good presentation:

  • People would be impressed with your skills, knowledge, and capabilities
  • You could influence more people more quickly
  • You might get positive feedback and encouragement
  • It would enhance your chances of promotion

Finally, cast your mind back to your childhood and slowly review your life to the present day. What sort of things have you done that, at one time in your life you were afraid of? Haven’t you successfully faced your fears countless times and survived?

There are lots of tools and techniques for tackling your fear of public speaking, but it’s usually best to start by challenging your fear head on.

P.S. If you’d like more help – check out this in-depth page on presentation nerves


  1. Analie on 01/03/2013 at 04:31

    please give me an answer about the factors that affect of re
    luctant speakers.

    • Gavin Meikle on 01/03/2013 at 09:24

      Hello Analie
      Thanks for posting a comment on my blog about fear of public speaking. I want to help you, but I am not 100% sure what your question means.
      As I said in the post, the most common root of presentation anxiety is around fear of embarrassment or shame. It takes real courage to stand up in front of a group of people and to express yourself. Public speaking is about making yourself vulnerable, and that can be scary. Thankfully in my experience of working with hundreds of speakers, learning to accept yourself as you are is a major learning point that unlocks your true potential. If you are interested in this, a great book to read is “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. I hope this helps but if I have missed your point, please send me another message. Best Wishes, Gavin

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