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Beat that Fear of Public Presentations

Fear of speaking in public can take many forms. People may experience any of the following symptoms: fast pulse, shallow breathing, muscle spasms, nausea, sweaty palms, blurred vision, or a dry mouth.

In today's business world, meetings dominate. Presentations, formal or informal, are expected. Countless factors influence our discomfort when presenting. "Do I have to stand up?" "Who'll be in the audience?"

Delivering outstanding presentations is a learned skill. Great speakers are not born, they are made. Anyone who addresses audiences can be coached in this skill!

There is good news and bad news. The good news is that you can do many things to reduce your anxiety prior to making a presentation. The bad news is you may never overcome all symptoms entirely.


Is there any way to combat this fearsome ghost in the closet? Take heart! Here are ten strategies that work! Pick any one and use it.

1. Consider it healthy to be nervous. Stress is not a negative force; it is a life energy force. The right amount of stress inspires us to give our best performance. We never do our best when we're under no stress.

2. The words we use influence our attitudes, and our attitudes influence our behaviour. Do not allow yourself to think self defeating thoughts, e.g., "I hate making presentations. I'm really no good at this type of thing." Negative self talk produces negative performance.

When my heart is beating faster and there are a few butterflies in my stomach I tell myself "I'm excited." Think positive messages, "I know what I'm talking about. They want to hear what I have to say."

3. Calm yourself by visualizing a place that has a tranquil effect on you. Can you see yourself sitting on a porch as the sun is setting, sipping a glass of wine? Stay there for a few minutes and breathe the warm evening air. You will become very relaxed using this method of visualization.

4. Arrive early. Being rushed aggravates anxiety. Be kind to yourself. Get to the room ahead of time. Check out the facilities and the audio-visual aids.

5. Work the room. Mix and mingle. Do not sit by yourself before you present. Speak with friends and strangers alike to familiarize yourself with the audience. When you stand up to speak you will see friendly faces looking back at you.

6. Memorize the first 100 words of your presentation. For many people, it's the first few minutes that are the worst. Then you are off to the races. So go for it!

7. Go through a dry run. Sport psychologists take our Olympic athletes through dry runs in order to improve their performance and anxiety. See yourself standing at the head of the room smiling at the group. See yourself looking down at your notes and go through your entire presentation.

8. Breathing exercises work well for all of us. When people feel anxious they tend to take a deep breath and hold their breath. In public speaking, distress often causes people to breathe shallowly and run out of air while talking. The heart begins to pound and they sound short of breath. Breathing exercises are good reminders for us to speak slowly. Deep breathing will calm our minds and our bodies. When doing any breathing exercise focus on the exhale.

9. Bring water to the lectern. Fear of public speaking has some physical symptoms that are common. One of them is dry mouth. Drinking water during your presentation will slow you down, allow you to catch your breath, and alleviate dry mouth. Your speech will sound more pleasant to the listeners.

10. Practice. Practice. Practice. Many people underestimate the number of times you need to practice a presentation in order to sound polished. Practice means out loud, standing up, with a listener. Practice 13 times, not 3 times.


Each time you present, consider it an opportunity to further your own reputation. Do not pass it up. Stretch yourself to do your best. You can learn many ways to make yourself and your presentation shine.

Attack anxiety as you would any other hurdle that needs to be overcome. These and many other strategies will work. Give them a fair chance. And for good measure, don't forget your rabbit's foot.

Workplace Today ©

Bina Feldman is a corporate training consultant and communication skills expert specializing in personal & professional development.