The fear of public speaking

When you have to speak in public, do your legs shake, your heart rate accelerates and your throat goes dry?

Well know that you are not the only one, according to an American statistic the greatest fear of human beings is just public speaking, and the second greatest fear is death.

"The human being's greatest fear is public speaking, the second is death."

To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, an American comedian: if this statistic is true, it means that, at a funeral, many would rather stand in the dead man's place than deliver the memorial from the pulpit...

Perhaps the joke describes an exaggerated fear, but surely public speaking is a time when we feel particularly exposed to others' judgment, which triggers "uncomfortable" reactions in us.

Communication is one of the first actions we take in our lives (first smiles, crying, first movements...) and as children we are not particularly embarrassed by it. As we grow up, however, the sense of judgment from others can become a blocking threat.

Moreover, since the pandemic has forced virtual meetings on us, we have all had to deal with obstacles and fears we did not know:

A little "butterflies" in the stomach are always there for everyone at the beginning of a presentation-at least that's the case for me, even though I have been a trainer for more than 20 years and love being in front of an audience. The virtual presentation adds stimulation and opportunity, but also different fears.

For example, in a classroom I can "tune in" to a listener by slowly sliding my gaze from one person to another: but what happens if online participants turn off the video? Who am I going to talk to?

However, you don't have to be afraid--of fear! There are some tricks that can help us overcome "stage fright," whether face-to-face or in virtual form.



What most controls the way we speak is the breath.

You know when you walk up 4 floors of stairs at a brisk pace and when you enter the house you can't speak or otherwise struggle because between words you can't catch your breath, making your communication garbled and unintelligible?

This happens when we tend to "throat" breathe: we inhale air from the mouth and put it into the throat, the time for this action is very quick and the possibility of expressing several words in one breath is very reduced. Thus, speaking is very demanding.

Much the same thing happens in public speaking, when anxiety induces "throat" or at most "lung" breathing. Instead, the best thing to do is to breathe with the diaphragm.

So the practical tip is: whenever you have to speak in public, first "stretch" your breath, put one hand on your belly and check that it swells every time you inhale and then deflates when you exhale. There are various tutorials on the net on the subject: knowing how you breathe will help you do it better even under pressure. This will not totally solve the problem, but it will help you avoid apnea, slow down your heart rate, and thus speak more calmly.

If you have to give your web presentation, you will probably be sitting in front of the computer. Choose a comfortable and possibly somewhat enveloping chair that will support you in breathing with your diaphragm. Remember that the body in a well-balanced, stable position conveys strength and stability to your mind!

Even during your speech, remember to take pauses so that you can breathe quietly.


The most important, and at the same time simple, point to put in place to overcome the fear of facing an audience is definitely preparation.

The more prepared you are in your speech, the more confident you will feel and the less you will have to commit a part of your brain to focus on what to say. And the brain can then better manage your emotions and meet those of others in an engaging speech.

There is no need to study the speech by heart, but to repeat the speech aloud several times (even in different variations) and to make an outline of the topics. The key points (not words) will remain anchored in your mind, making it easier to remember them.

Present online? Try all the devices and all the apps you need. Then... be prepared to improvise, because you know that technology sometimes plays unpredictable tricks! And the rule to improvise well is to prepare 100 times!

Mental images

The visualization technique is a widely used technique in sports.

Many skiers, before presenting themselves at the starting gate, simulate the race course with their eyes closed, going over the entire downhill course by performing in their minds the most appropriate movements to succeed at their best.

You can use this technique too!

Imagine yourself on stage giving your speech, imagine people listening attentively and nodding...focus on the feelings of well-being you find on stage as the words come out smooth and clear. Imagine the applause at the end and the satisfaction you will feel.

And if the stage is virtual, the people are not. Think of their smile and smile.

Any success, before it happens in reality, happens in our heads, so create an image of how you want your success. It will help you face that moment with the right determination.

"Any success, before it happens in reality, happens in our heads."

Listening to music

Music is banned in some sports competitions because the effect is similar to that of doping, it makes you feel less fatigue and can help your performance.

So why not listen to your favorite music before facing a speech?

From classical to relax you to rock to give you an edge: as with mental imagery, put yourself in the best state of mind to carry out your speech effectively.

Preparing at the speech venue

Another helpful tip is to go to the place where you will give the speech, before the live broadcast. Test all the tools, how the slides work, video start, sound, internet connection, etc... Walk the stage if you can, rehearse the speech, expand your comfort zone.

Familiarize yourself with the stage, look for the posture and position that makes you feel at home. And if you are really at home because you are presenting in videocall, don't neglect the stage setting around you.

"Familiarize yourself with the stage, find the posture and position that makes you feel at home."

No one knows what you have to say

One important thing to keep in mind is the fact that no listener knows what you are going to say, so don't worry about forgetting something or not saying it in the way you wanted, the audience doesn't know, just keep talking confidently and carry on with your speech.

Answering questions

One of the fears that most affects people who have to make a public speech is that of questions, an age-old fear that we carry with us from school quizzes.

First consideration: the better prepared you are, the better you will be able to answer questions and objections, even anticipating your interlocutors' doubts.

Secondly, when you receive a question, before you give an answer make sure you understand it exactly, make a paraphrase of what was asked, that way you will be sure that you have understood well what was asked and - in addition - you will give the right attention to the interlocutor.

Finally, remember that you don't have to know everything, consequently if you don't have the answer admit you don't have it. you can apologize and offer the opportunity to respond later.

If presenting online, be prepared to take advantage of the features offered by the system: at the beginning of the presentation you can ask listeners to mark questions on the chat so that you can avoid interruptions and only answer the most interesting questions at the end.

Questions are a sign of the interlocutor's attention, as well as an opportunity to elaborate on certain topics.

Last but not least

All these suggestions can be very helpful, however, the best way to overcome one's fears is to face them.

So, the most important tip is to take every opportunity to challenge yourself, because the more you do it, the more confident you will become!

"The best way to overcome one's fears is to face them."