How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking: 3 Tips

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Hi, I’m Daniel Kingsley. I was a professional speaker as a barrister for 17 years, and since 2012 I’ve been teaching public speaking through my company Presence Training In that time we’ve helped hundreds of people to overcome their fear of public speaking.

So, here are my top 3 tips to overcome the fear of public speaking: The first tip is instead of treating the audience as a mass, you actually speak to them one to one. So you’re actually with one member of the audience for anywhere between 3 and 5 seconds.

And you’re seeing them and allowing them to see you. Then you’re with another member of the audience, again for 3 to 5 seconds. So you’re actually turning this into a series of one-to-one relationships with the audience.

So I’m speaking to this person over here…and now I’m back speaking to you. And you don’t need to speak to every single member of the audience, provided every section of the audience is included, but you’re always speaking to people with this sense of speaking one to one.

And this is a deceptively simple technique, but an incredibly powerful technique. It was pioneered by Lee Glickstein, who invented the Speaking Circles (R) method, he was one of my teachers, and he has been using this for 30 or 40 years to help people to overcome their fear of public speaking.

It’s a small thing that makes an absolutely huge difference. So the eye contact is gentle eye contact. We’re not staring, we’re not quite even looking, it’s a bit more relaxed than that. It’s gentle eye contact.

You’re seeing the person as a human being, but with very relaxed, gentle eye contact. One way of doing that is by using your peripheral vision to soften your eye contact. So the person appears nice and sharp, but around them, you can see the periphery.

And that’s a nice way to ensure that your eye contact isn’t too intense for you and it’s not too intense for them. And so you’re with each person for anywhere between 3 and 5 seconds. So, I’m with somebody over here now, for a few seconds…and now I’m back to this person in the audience over here.

My second tip is to ride the wave of adrenaline that starts any public speaking event with the phrase “and it’s OK”, which is something you’re telling yourself on the inside, you’re coaching yourself on the inside “…and it’s OK”.

The reason this is important is that we all get adrenaline at the start of standing in front of an audience. From the most experienced speaker to the least experienced speaker, we all get that wave of adrenaline, we all get that nervousness.

The question is, does the nervousness get in the way of giving a good speech, does it send us off into a spiral of panic, or are we able to ride those nerves – ride that adrenaline. And if you can ride out those first 2 minutes, everything else tends to flow from there.

So, you’re going to get that spike of adrenaline, you’re going to get those symptoms, which will be different for everyone, for me it tends to be a bit of a dry mouth, or a fast heart rate – other people might have a shaky voice or they might feel like they’re going red.

By the way, the audience almost certainly can’t see these things, they feel much worse to you than they would to an audience. And provided you’re OK with what you’re feeling, the audience will be OK with what you’re feeling.

That’s the trick. So the way to be OK with it is actually to coach yourself on the inside – “…and it’s OK”. So, I might say, to myself on the inside: “My heart’s beating quickly, and it’s OK.

My mouth’s a little bit dry, and it’s OK”. I’m not saying I like it. But the contrast to that is somebody saying: “My heart’s beating quickly – Oh my god! My heart’s beating quickly! What am I going to do? Maybe I’ll forget my words!…OK, that’s made me feel more nervous, my heart’s beating even more quickly now”.

And you can see how that spirals into a vicious spiral of panic. So whatever’s happening, inside your body, especially if it’s stuff you don’t like, which it probably will be in the first 2 minutes, to do with that wave of adrenaline, you’re just coaching yourself on the inside, “…and it’s OK”.

This is a small thing, but it’s a small thing that when you learn how to do it for yourself, changes absolutely everything. My third tip is even simpler, but nonetheless just as powerful. And it’s to feel your feet.

Whilst you’re speaking to the audience, whilst you’re looking people in the eye, whilst you’re saying “and it’s OK” with whatever’s going on in your body, feel your feet. A lot of us get trapped in our heads, when we’re public speaking starting to worry about what an audience is thinking about us.

And a very good antidote to that is to bring ourselves out of our heads, and back more into a felt sense of our bodies. And the first and quickest way of doing that is simply by feeling your feet on the ground.

Just feeling the sensation of your feet on the ground, and you may be doing this every 3 or 4 seconds while you’re speaking. You don’t need to stop speaking in order to feel your feet. You can also be feeling anything else that’s going on inside your body.

And again the more things you can feel inside your body, if you can feel things other than just your feet, the more in your body you’re going to feel. And if you can actually feel comfortable with what’s going on in your body, even if that stuff is uncomfortable, if you can allow yourself to be OK with it, you’re going to feel comfortable in your own skin.

If you feel comfortable in your own skin, you’re going to feel confident. And if you feel confident, the audience will experience you as confident. So those are my top 3 tips to overcome fear of public speaking.

Number 1 – we’re breaking down the audience, speaking to them one by one, as individuals, seeing and allowing ourselves to be seen, with relaxed eye contact. We’re not worrying about what’s coming back from them, we’re just seeing and allowing ourselves to be seen, one person at a time.

Second tip – we’re feeling whatever’s going on, especially in those first 2 minutes, and if it’s uncomfortable, we’re telling ourselves “and it’s OK”. My third tip – feeling your feet on the floor as you’re speaking, and anything else you can feel inside your body, brings you out of your head and into a sense of potentially feeling comfortable in your own skin in front of an audience.

These three tips are 3 of the very most powerful tips that I use with my participants, and I’ve seen them make a massive, massive difference, time and time and time again. And if you practice just these 3 methods, they are going to make a massive, massive difference to your fear of public speaking.

Of course, there are many many more techniques. If you’re interested in more techniques there’s a free guide on our website you can download, there are more techniques for overcoming fear of public speaking and connecting with your audience, there are more techniques in the blog that is published on our website, and there are more videos on our YouTube channel, where you can subscribe and find out even more about authentic public speaking and how to connect as a real person with your audience.

And of course, if you’d like to come to one of our workshops, you’re extremely welcome too. So I’ll see you next time for more videos on authentic public speaking.

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