How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

Hilda Kalap
By Hilda Kalap,
updated on Jun 21, 2017

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

Glossophobia (the fear of public speaking) is one of the UK's top three fears, along with snakes and heights. But fear no more, happiful is here to help!

Surely public speaking can’t be that bad, right? Wrong. In a 2013 OnePoll study among the British public, the fear of talking to a crowd was found to be a more pressing concern than death itself. What’s causing this abject terror? The main reasons are feeling self-conscious, concern that others are judging you, and the fear of appearing nervous. There’s also the memory of a previous occasion when it didn’t go too well. But the good news is that public speaking is a learned behaviour, meaning you can plan for success. Here’s how to prepare a confident speech:

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Giving a speech in front of an audience shouldn’t be the first time you deliver it. Practise beforehand so you won’t get lost in the delivery and you connect with the audience. If it helps, video your practice runs and look at ways to make improvements. Also, time your presentation and always have back up material in case you have a few minutes left over. Don’t memorise your speech word for word, just remember the key points and use prompts for sub-topics and examples.


Unless you’re a trained actor, you’re probably unaware of the best methods of breathing for speech. Public speaking requires a larger reservoir of air than normal breathing. Breathing from the diaphragm is the key. It’s also a good way to calm a galloping heart, and to prevent you from audibly gasping through nervousness. Exhalation needs to be more controlled so you can sustain vocalised sounds to the ends of phrases, where the most important words usually sit. Deep breathing keeps your voice centred, which strengthens your credibility and confidence. Yoga techniques can also help.

Visualise your performance from beginning to end. Don’t miss a step

Find a quiet, private place to do your mental rehearsal. The key to effective visualisation is specificity. So, visualise your performance from beginning to end. Don’t miss a step. Start by seeing yourself waiting to be introduced. Imagine the audience, the face of your host, how many seats will be empty or full. Rehearse the way you walk, how tall you stand, the relaxed smile on your face, your confident body language, and what you are going to say. Visualise a positive reaction from the audience. Don’t stop until you’ve mentally rehearsed walking off the stage. Visualise only positive results.

Try ‘tapping’

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT or “tapping”) has been used for phobias, addictions, PTSD and much more. It is a powerful, effective technique that combines Chinese acupressure with modern psychology. It works by mentally “tuning in” to specific issues while stimulating certain meridian points on the body by tapping on them with the fingertips. The limiting belief and emotions are reduced in intensity by balancing disturbances in the meridian system. The basic tapping process is easy to learn and can be practised anywhere.

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Stay hydrated

Remember your first stab at public speaking? Remember feeling like your mouth was full of cotton wool? A dry mouth is a sign of anxiety. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before you speak, and keep a glass nearby at all times.

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