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4 Steps to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

A speaker stands facing the audience. She is anxiously adjusting her ear piece as she prepares to speak.

Most people would rather die than give a speech. Unfortunately having a common fear doesn’t make it less terrifying. The good news is that with some work and dedication, you can overcome public speaking anxiety and master this essential skill.

How to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety Step-by-Step

Trying to overcome public speaking anxiety all at once can feel like an impossible task. It’s easier if you break it down into manageable pieces for practice. Here’s how: 

Step One: Master the Mirror

First, we need to overcome feeling self-conscious or embarrassed. We are our own harshest critics. Practice your speech in front of the mirror until you’re happy with it. This is a low stakes way to begin to overcome public speaking anxiety, since there’s no one to judge you except yourself.

As you practice, try to think about how the audience would feel. Are they engaged? If not, how can you make it more educational or entertaining? If you find it hard to speak and think about the audience at the same time, record yourself and watch it back. 

Step Two: Practice in Front of Friends

When you’ve mastered your speech in front of the mirror, gather together a few trusted friends or family members to act as a supportive audience while you practice. Be clear about what you need when you enlist their help. Are you looking for constructive criticism or are you just trying to build your confidence? While it’s okay to need their support at first, don’t shy away from constructive criticism once you’re comfortable. 

Bonus tip: Gradually increase the number of friends and family in the audience. 

Step Three: Visualize Success

Find a dark, quiet space and calm your mind - your bedroom is a good choice. Visualize walking into the space where you will speak, staring out into the audience and beginning your speech. Imagine yourself delivering your speech in the best possible way. 

Filler words? Not a single one uttered. Eloquence might as well be your middle name. You step out from behind that podium and gesture gracefully while maintaining eye contact with your audience. At the conclusion of your speech, the crowd explodes into a standing ovation. After this performance, you’ll have to add “Expert Speaker” to your resume. 

Tailor this visualization to your real life circumstances. The key to visualizing success is to make your imagery detailed and specific. Don’t be afraid to imagine scenarios where something goes wrong, but you recover well and still deliver a successful presentation. 

Step Four: Try Again!

What happens if your speech didn’t go as well as you’d hoped? The short answer is: not much. The sky won’t fall, buildings won’t crumble. Remember, every great speaker has given a bad speech at some point, probably more than once! 

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” - Robert F. Kennedy

Resilience is your best tool to overcome public speaking anxiety. Be willing to falter and try again. You don’t have to be perfect immediately. Allow yourself the grace to fail and try again. 

Get Support to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

At LeadYouth, we help learners overcome public speaking anxiety to become compelling speakers and inspiring leaders. Our experienced mentors include debate winners and championship speakers. They have faced the same challenges on their path to becoming great orators. 

Start your one-month trial membership to get full access to all of our public speaking, emotional intelligence, and leadership courses.


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