The three causes of public speaking fear (and what you can do about them)

Fear of public speaking often feels like it hits you out of nowhere. But I’m going to suggest that there are three distinct causes of speech anxiety.

These three different causes of speaking anxiety relate to three different areas of the brain – the Old Brain (it’s called this in neuro’pop’ books but is more correctly called the Hindbrain), Midbrain and the New Brain (again more correctly called the Forebrain). [Note: I have edited this paragraph to make it more scientifically accurate – thank you to Zen Faulkes who commented on my previous description].

My descriptions are a simplification of the science – in particular, the parts of the brain all interact with each other, so it’s not strictly correct to say that just one part of the brain causes nervousness. But I think it’s a useful model which may help you understand your fear of public speaking and work out the best way to reduce it.

brain diagram section

1. Old Brain nervousness

Your old brain is the part of your brain that is constantly scanning the environment looking for threats. Survival is what matters to the old brain.

Many people suffer from ‘Old Brain’ nervousness. In prehistoric times, being part of a group was essential to our survival. So one of the threats to our survival was being kicked out of the group.  What might get you kicked out? Standing out in some way, saying something offensive or stupid, or not performing up to expectations.

Fast forward to now. You’re standing in front of a group ready to open your mouth and your old brain goes (metaphorically):

Oh-oh. This is a threatening situation. If you say something stupid, YOU MIGHT DIE!

It’s no longer true that you might die, but your Old Brain doesn’t know that. Your Old Brain activates your survival system: fight, flight or freeze. When it comes to public speaking the most common reactions are flight or freeze:

Flight - You avoid public speaking if at all possible. If you do have to speak, speak as fast as possible so that you get through it as quickly as possible.

Freeze – You feel stiff and artificial as you speak, your mind goes blank.

Here’s what can you do about this type of nervousness:

1. Accept nervousness

This type of nervousness may happen every time you speak. Accept that nervousness may be your ever-present companion. If you fight your nervousness (eg: say to yourself  ‘I shouldn’t be nervous’  – see New Brain nervousness below) you’ll make it worse. In this post How to use your fear of public speaking to make you a better speaker I’ve written about three specific ways to accept your nervousness.

2. Get used to it

You may suffer from nervousness less as you gain more experience presenting. That’s because your old brain  has gradually realized that this public speaking thing is possibly not that life-threatening. So desensitize yourself – take every opportunity to speak in front of a group.

2. Mid Brain Nervousness

Our emotions are regulated by the Mid Brain. In conjunction with other parts of your brain, your Mid Brain will make you nervous when you’re reminded of a previous nerve-wracking experience. So if you had an experience at school where you were humiliated in front of your classmates, or suffered an embarrassing mindblank in an important presentation, those strong emotional memories may come back to haunt you.

If you can readily identify a previous experience which is causing you to be nervous now, the most important thing to do is rationally evaluate how bad it was. If you continue to tell yourself that it was a terrible, awful experience it will continue to create nervousness for you into the future. So rationally evaluate how awful it was. What were the consequences of it?

Here’s an exercise I use on our courses to help people put these experiences in perspective. You can do this now:

  1. Think of that nerve-wracking presentation experience.
  2. How awful was it on a scale of 0 to 100%?
  3. Imagine, your little finger has just been cut off in an accident!
  4. How awful is that on a scale of 0 to 100%?
  5. And now how awful is that nerve-wracking experience compared to losing your little finger.

Most people revise the awfulness of their nerve-wracking experience from somewhere near 100% to somewhere near 0%. They would prefer to relive that nerve-wracking presentation experience rather than lose their little finger. The loss of the finger helps them to put it in perspective. (If you’re happy to lose your little finger, imagine losing your hand, or the finger or hand of a loved one – at some point you’ll gain some perspective).

The rational reality is that most of the things that happen to us in presentations, are not that bad. They’re nothing compared to the other things that can happen to us in life – like relationship break-ups, loss of a loved one, and serious health issues. The most serious consequences of a presentation going badly are losing a large sale, an election or other contest, or your job (though I’ve never heard of someone losing their job because of one bad presentation). These consequences are disappointing – but not catastrophic.

3. New Brain nervousness

The New Brain is the conscious thinking part of your brain. Most of us have patterns of thinking that contribute to our nervousness.You can reduce your nervousness by exploring your patterns of thinking. This is part of the basis of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

One of the most common patterns of thinking that contribute to the fear of public speaking are demands.

Here’s an example of how they operate. A few weeks ago I was running a training course. I knew that the CEO would be one of the participants. I felt myself get a little nervous as we were setting up. When he walked into the room I got hot and my heart started racing.  Why would I react in this way? I have a demand around CEOs. It goes something like this:

CEOs are really important and I must have their approval.

My demanding thought made me nervous. What was the result? I messed up the instructions for a simple exercise that we do at the beginning of every course and that I’ve done perfectly hundreds of times before!

Here are some common demands people have about presenting and public speaking:

I must be interesting and engaging

I mustn’t leave anything out

I mustn’t waffle

I mustn’t show I’m nervous

I’ve got to be able to answer every question

These demands make you nervous because you can’t guarantee that the demand will be met. To reduce their power, rationally analyze the truth and usefulness of these demands. For example, with my CEO demand I can see that it’s not essential that a CEO approve of me. I don’t demand that everybody approves of me – and it’s irrational to demand that a CEO must approve of me. I can also see that it’s not useful to have this demand as it made me mess up!

In the post The Seven Thinking Sins of Public Speaking I’ve analyzed other common demands and explored how to defuse them.

I get that fear of public speaking can be debilitating, and can have you avoid opportunities in your life. I hope this post has been useful to you in thinking through how you can best reduce your nervousness.

Please let me know what you found most useful by writing a comment below.

You may never have written a comment on a blog before, after all its similar to public speaking – you’re saying something that many people will read. It may make you nervous… accept that and write the comment anyway. Look forward to hearing from you :-).

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70 Comments

  1. Whenever a bit of that “Old Brain” fear arises, I ask myself “What am I really afraid of? If something goes wrong, what’s the WORST that could happen?” It ends up not being that bad.

    Fear of speaking is also something even the BEST speakers have. In all walks of life, those who are considered the “best” are sometimes more afraid than an amateur. One of the greatest basketball players of all time, Bill Russell, used to get physically ill before each game. Mike Tyson has admitted that he was terrified each time he walked to the ring, even when he was the undefeated boxing champion.

    I actually wrote a post about how the fear of speaking motivates me to practice, practice, practice, which I believe is an effective way to quell your presenting fears. You can read it here: http://bit.ly/CjcJq

    • Hi Jon
      Thanks for your input. I think asking yourself “What’s the worst that could happen?” is an effective way to reduce ‘Old Brain’ fear, because it forces you to realise that you won’t die (which is what your Old Brain is telling you.

      I also think practice is really useful and I totally recommend it. However, for most people for it to be effective at reducing fear, you have to be practicing in front of an audience similar to the one you’ll face in your real presentation.

      Also the impact of practice will depend on what you tell yourself about how the practice presentation went. I’ve worked with people who make small mistakes (like we all do)during their rehearsal. But instead of going ‘Oh, that was a mistake – but it’s not critical’ they go into full disaster mode ‘Oh that was awful, I’ll never be able to do this presentation properly’ etc etc.

      So managing your thoughts is just as important as doing the practice.

      Thanks for adding the link to your post – good reading.

      Olivia

      • Hi Olivia,
        Wanted to share what worked for us at a workshop. First we got participants into groups exploring what their worst thoughts and scenarios were around public speaking. Then we put the Fears on a flip chart to show how we are more alike then less alike in our fears. Next we created a 2-3 minute presentation opportunity for each participant. At the end of each presentation, we asked them what their worst fear was, and had they lived it? 95 % said no, of the few who did we asked how they experienced it and all participants realized they not only survived it but reality was not nearly as bad as their thoughts!

  2. Great post, as usual Olivia.

    I would add “Use Visualization” to your list of how to manage the “Old Brain.”

    The old brain’s fight or flight has created neuron pathways of predictable behavior. We get nervous or flood or systems with adrenalin when we experience an emotional highjack. The old brain can’t identify real versus imagined fear and responds with nervousness. It goes automatically to our brain neuron pathways.

    Practice visualizing yourself as the presenter with emotions in check, cool and clear-headed. See yourself delivering your presentation with success. Visualize this several times a day before your present for several consecutive days. It will create new pathways for your brain to think. This will become your predictable behavior.

    Then before you go on stage or start your presentation, see yourself calm, cool and collected and delivering a home-run presentation. Then also think of your favorite place in the world to be and how that place makes you feel. You’ll be flooded with emotions of joy, happiness and peace. It will replace your nervousness and you can walk on stage without an emotional highjack.

    • Hi Jeff
      I agree that visualisation is a useful tool. But I think there’s more to it than just visualising success. That makes you feel good at the time and may make you feel better during your presentation. But it may not always work.

      That’s because while you’re busy visualising your presentation going wonderfully well your mind may go “But maybe it won’t go so wonderfully…”

      Visualising success also doesn’t have you prepare for when things go wrong. Imagine a sports team only visualising success! They’d be in big trouble with an opponent mounting an aggressive defence. It’s useful to think about what could go wrong and prepare accordingly.

      I realise I’ve got quote a lot to say about visualisation – I’ll write a full post on it soon.
      Olivia

      • Olivia:

        Of course you can’t be successful as a presenter if you don’t have your preplanning done, have your presentation prepared and have practiced it. Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy.

        Your post was about nervousness and I was referring to how to use visualization to combat nervousness and an emotional highjack. Obviously, I didn’t explain myself well.

        • Oops – it was me who didn’t explain myself very well. I didn’t think for a moment that you were advocating that you didn’t need to prepare or rehearse – but I can see how you could take it that way. My apologies :-).

          What I was meaning to say (but didn’t) was that there are different types of visualization and some are more effective than others for long term reduction of nerves. I’ve now written a post about this The truth about visualization for public speaking success.

          Olivia

  3. Olivia,

    Great insights. I like how you connected two concepts I knew about (models of the brain and fear of public speaking) in a way that’s new to me. Thanks.

    When you list people’s “musts” about public speaking (“I must be interesting and engaging,” etc.), I think of “shoulds.” And I think of an essay Karen Horney wrote called, “The Tyranny of the Should.”

    Shoulds — I should be perfect, I shouldn’t make mistakes, I should know the answer to any question anyone asks — are rooted in an idealized sense of self that would be undermined by anything less that perfection. Shoulds shut us down. They keep us from being who we really are. Shoulds and the underlying need to be perfect, paradoxically, make us perform more poorly.

    My breakthrough as a speaker came when I made a mistake and realized that people liked me, not in spite of the mistake but because of it. I seemed real to them. They could relate to me.

    Chris

    • Hi Chris
      Thanks for you input. I think musts and shoulds are interchangeable in this context. We’re talking about the same thing. And yes, the quest for perfection is not useful when it comes to public speaking. Audiences prefer us to be human.
      Olivia

  4. Pardon me while I be pedantic for a moment.

    The “common brain model” you describe here is better called a “neuro myth.” It’s Paul MacLean’s “triune brain” hypothesis, and there are a lot of problems with it.

    For instance, it suggests that the entire reptile brain is essentially the mammalian hind brain. This is not supported by modern neuroanatomy. To give an example, in MacLean’s model, the limbic system is characterized as a “lower mammalian” part of the brain. There is evidence, however, that reptiles have a limbic system (Bruce and Neary, 1995; Lanuza et al., 1998).

    Of course, this does not make the advice contained in this post any less valid. Presenters should be much more interested in their behaviour than their neuroanatomy. :)

    References

    Bruce LL, Neary TJ. 1995. The limbic system of tetrapods: A comparative analysis of cortical and amygdalar populations. Brain, Behavior and Evolution 46(4-5): 224-234.

    Lanuza E, Belekhova M, Martinez-Marcos A, Font C, Martinez-Garcia F. 1998. Identification of the reptilian basolateral amygdala: an anatomical investigation of the afferents to the posterior dorsal ventricular ridge of the lizard Podarcis hispanica. European Journal of Neuroscience 10(11): 3517-3534.

    • Thank you Zen for pointing out this research to me and other points of view on the triune brain hypothesis. I will read some more about it.
      Olivia

    • Hi Zen

      I’ve updated the post to reflect your comments. Thank you for letting me know that I was using an outdated model. Olivia

  5. Your notes are very interesting and some of this rings true for me based on my knowledge of neuroscience. Would you share your references with us so I can dig in more detail?

    • Mark Levinson: I did include a couple of references above, but I don’t have any more right at my fingertips. And some of these issues are very technical, so I don’t know of an easy “key” to look into this question.

      I suppose a good place to start might be to look in a university library for a textbook like “Comparative Vertebrate Neuroanatomy: Evolution and Adaptation” by Butler & Hodos (Wiley-Liss).

      I have an unfair advantage. I get to mingle regularly with scientists who do comparative neuroanatomy, because I do some of that myself (mostly invertebrates though). ;)

      I know return you to your regularly scheduled presentation discussion.

  6. Olivia,

    I was doing research about the Triune Brain model of Dr MacLean and the only problem with the model is miss-interpretation. If you review “The reciprocal modular brain in economics and politics”, in Chapter 3 named “MacLean´s Triune Brain Concep: In Praise and Appraisal”, by Gerald A. Cory, Jr. page 13, you will find the “Criticisms of MacLean´s Model”. Once the facts are exposed, the author take down one by one and shows that it is a valid model and not an outdated one. The model is a big contribution and it has been used in many other fields as psychology, economics and ecology.

    I also suggest that “Pardon me while I be pedantic for a moment” guy (Zen Faulkes) do the research.

    Finally I have to say that I enjoy your article very much.

    Cesar

    • Thanks Cesar for contributing your knowledge. Next time I’m in the University library, I’ll check out that book. It sounds fascinating. Olivia

  7. Hi Olivia,

    Your post is very insightful and usefule for me. I have never commented on a blog before and writing this after reading your closing lines. :)
    I realise that I suffer from all three kinds of Brain Nervousness. Something extra ordinary happens to my voice when I am presenting or expressing an idea to senior people at work. It modulates frantically and appears like I am about to burst into tears. I realise what is happening but I am not able to control it.

    I am now trying to accept and start living with it and also try to think before speaking that nothing big will happen if I say/ask something worng.
    But I still hesitate to ask questions, thinking it might be very stupid on my part to ask that.
    Is asking questions same as presentation and have same reasons of being nervous? Please suggest any readings to overcome this kind of fear.

    Thank you,
    Jaya

    • Hi Jaya
      First of all congratulations on deciding to write a comment here. That also is brave.

      Asking questions and making a presentation (and leaving a comment on a blog) are all actions which make you vulnerable to being judged and which make you concerned about what other people think about you. So yes, you have the same reasons for being nervous in each case. This is a good thing because it means you can start to reduce your nervousness about speaking by leaving blog comments!

      I mean this seriously. If you read a few blogs and leave some comments on them, you are making your thoughts public, which is not that different from public speaking. There is a risk that people will think your blog comment is stupid (it’s not a big risk but it’s there which is why most blog readers don’t leave blog comments). So by leaving a comment you will get used to taking that risk and also seeing that nothing terrible happens even if your comment is lame.

      You see, to truly have an impact on your fear, you have to be able to handle people thinking that you are stupid. That is, you have to be less concerned about what other people think of you. For more explanation of this see this post What makes a good public speaker.

      Once you’ve got used to leaving comments, find something else which makes you a little bit concerned about what other people think of you. There are more suggestions in this post 15 baby steps to overcome the fear of public speaking.

      Now to your voice. Have you asked a friend or colleague about your voice? You may find that they say to you “Your voice sounds normal”, or just “Oh, there a slight shake to it, but nothing major”. In other words, what sounds absolutely awful to you is either minor or not even noticeable to someone else (the better they know you the more likely they are to notice, strangers are unlikely to notice. I’ve written a post about this because this concern is so common Anxiety and public speaking: What everyone ought to know.

      If in your case, what happens to your voice is very noticeable to others don’t be too concerned. It is a product of your nervousness, and as you take the suggestions that I’ve suggested above and your fear reduces so will the effect on your voice.

      Finally remember that the aim here is not to reduce your anxiety to zero. That would be unrealistic and not that useful. It’s useful to have some nerves before making a presentation – it makes you prepare! (For more on this see How to use your fear of public speaking to be a better speaker). So get used to the idea that you’ll probably always have some nervousness about speaking and that that’s a good thing. Most successful and effective presenters, speakers and other types of performer do.

      Go well with your speaking, Jaya.
      Olivia

      • Hello, I feel the same way as Jaya and have tried so hard to overcome my nervousness when it comes to speaking in front of others. To advance in my career, it’s very important to be a good communicator.

        No matter how much materials and practices I did, when the actually time to speak, I found my mind kept going back to the same place and then get nervous again. This is very frustrating to me.

        I will check your suggestion links above and continue to work hard at improving myself.

        Thank you!

        Missy

        • Hi Missy
          Thank you for leaving a comment. Well done for deciding to do something about your fear and working on it. Although your fear may not entirely go away, you can reduce it.
          Go well.
          Olivia

    • Hi
      I am in the same boat as Jaya. I am passionate about my work and now I am undergoing training as a tutor so that I could share my skill and experience. I guess with much practice I am going to be good at public speaking. This blog is going to be my on-line tutorials on public speaking. Thanks you Olivia.

  8. Hi Olivia,

    As always, a very informative post (along with interesting comments). I love your version of the ‘science’ behind the brain.

    I train PowerPoint within a Certificate for Business Administration. It is considered an intermediate level, where the class must break into groups, prepare, and give a 5min presentation using PowerPoint. (each creating and delivering one slide).

    The classes (up to 30) range in age from 18-55, and include beginners and experts on the software, with a majority having little if any experience in public speaking.

    I have found that throwing people in the deep end generally works, while explaining they are all in the same boat, both in presenting, and playing the ‘audience’ in the scenario. It is a requirement to gain competency.

    Everyone survives in the end, although there have been a few who have found it very difficult (looking down at notes, not making eye contact and talking quietly).

    I try to impart confidence in all my trainee’s, by explaining that everyone gets nervous. This does not necessarily make it any easier for them.

    While I do find the post useful, for my own benefit, can you give me some simple tips for the class (that do not lead them to overthink the issue).

    • Hi Roger
      This is a difficult situation for people and kudos to you for being concerned about making it easier for them. I have three suggestions:

      1. Don’t just say that everyone gets nervous, let them see it. For example, ask them all to stand up and come to a part of the room where you have a bit of space (or out into the corridor if there’s no space in the room). Pace out an imaginary line on the floor. Tell your participants that in a moment you’re going to ask them to move to a spot on the line. Stand at one end. Ask people to move to that end if they don’t get very nervous about speaking. Walk to the middle. Ask people to stand there if they get a little bit nervous. Then walk to the other end and ask people to stand there if they get very nervous! Most people will stand somewhere near this end of the line. Ask them to have a chat with the person next to them about how they feel about presenting.

      With this exercise they really get the chance to see that they are not alone.

      2. Draw on a flipchart or put up a slide showing the comfort zone and learning zone (My next post will have a picture of this but meantime visualize a circle labelled comfort zone in the middle, with the learning zone outside it). Explain that the learning zone can be challenging and difficult and scary – but it’s also where we learn. If you stay in the comfort zone all of the time you don’t learn much. Let them know that they can expect to feel scared when they’re giving their presentation, but that’s OK they’re in the learning zone. And then ask “what happens if you leave your comfort zone on a regular basis?” Somebody will say “It gets bigger” (draw this on the flipchart or animate it on your slide). This explanation helps frame what they’re being expected to do and let’s them see that it can have a positive outcome – in that they may be a little less scared the next time they have to do a presentation.

      3. Let them practice their presentation in pairs before they have to do it in front of the whole group. This is a good practice to instill them anyway and brings the fear down a notch.

      Hope you find these tips useful.

      Olivia

      • Hi Olivia,

        Thankyou kindly for the very logical tips. I can’t wait to put them into practice. I will let you know how they go.

        Can you please send me the link on ‘learning zone’ as I can’t seem to find it.

        Warm Regards
        Roger

  9. loved reading this….great analysis of the fears and their biological correlates….

  10. I think i have a problem of Old brain nervousness…

    • Hi Ankur

      You are not alone. And you’re totally normal. So many people suffer from this problem. Remember that having some nervousness is useful – it motivates you to put the work into preparing your presentation.

      You can learn to manage your nervousness into two ways:

      1. Start practicing speaking up and/or presenting. This could be just in meetings at work, or when you’re socialising with friends. Or you could join a club like Toastmasters.

      2. Learn how to manage your thoughts – there are a number of posts on my blog that can help you with this.

      Go well
      Olivia

  11. Hey, thanks a lot for this analysis. It is exactly as you discussed. After all , all the listeners can not be satisfied and if one makes mistake, which is not abnormal anyway, you are not going to be killed.

  12. Just saw this post, very good information. I’ve never seen read about or tried the “trick” in #2 Mid Brain Nervousness – I’ll give it shot next time I’m in a public speaking situation. #3 affects me as well (figures of authority), but haven’t found a mental way to overcome it consistently. Looking forward to reading more of your posts and giving them a try. Thanks!

  13. Makes an interesting reading.The usual preponderance of the typical `western` psycho-analytical approach, coupled with an assumption that every one must possess a set of skills, ready for the market!-enough of a reason for further `social anxiety`!

  14. re Prof T.K.S. Murthy

    There is no assumption that everyone must possess a set of skills. As a trainers I acknowledge differences in Learning Styles during delivery and do my best to accomodate them. It is common for many people (especially those over 50) attending a Business Administration course I deliver which includes a session on PowerPoint, to have no skills on a computer and no skills or experience presenting (which they have to do on the day to gain competency). Their ‘personal anxiety’ is clearly visible throughout the day. The discussion here has provided valuable ideas to assist me in helping them get through the requirements with the minimum levels of anxiety. It has been pointed out to me recently that PowerPoint is now being taugh in Grade 3 Primary here in Victoria Australia – ie allowing young minds to grasp the tool at an early age. They are being taught how to use the drawing tools to make cartoons – which makes sense considering the demographic. One can not ignore the fact that your statement is correct only in that this software is a world standard – and maybe we could all just go back to a chalk board, and flip charts, or maybe not. The workplaces of today and the future are driven by a requirement to have a competitive edge.

    I personally would like to think that the Baby Boomers still have a role to play for many years to come – hence the ongoing need to upskill. Rather than have them withdraw from the course or the unit, I prefer to watch the smiles at the end of the day after they have succesfully stepped outside their comfort zones and come away more confident than before. Fear responses and the associated anxiety are very healthy parts of human behaviour are they not?

  15. First of all let me thank you for the pains you have taken to reply to my comment-that could easily have been dismissed as irrelevant in the context of your task on hand – which is perhaps to be focused on the ` need to upskill ` and address a future that is ‘driven by a requirement to have a competitive edge’. But isn’t that itself a massive source of an anxiety neurosis that technology by itself is so helpless to handle? May be all human achievements come at a cost. But are the gains of this technological hoopla commensurate with the price we are paying for it, or are we being overcharged? Science and technology, we were once told, were to be reckoned as boons in man’s hands to overcome his ancient limitations and the fears that go with it. But aren’t the fears and anxieties modern science and technology generating making the old fears look harmless and innocent? I mean why is technology so supremely indifferent to its impact on the human condition? Are some people at least thinking in this direction, or are we all walking down a blind alley – the one laid out to us by scientific-technological-market determinism?

  16. As a Toastmaster with over ten years speaking experience, I have found that nervousness before a speech never completely goes away. It can be controlled, but not eliminated. Thanks for sharing the Old Brain, Mid Brain, New Brain theory. It was very interesting.

    Toastmasters teaches you how to deal with the fear by using methods like “reappraisal” to reframe the situation or using music or breathing to stay present oriented, but rarely addresses underlying psychology.

  17. I felt very less nervous after performing the finger cut exercise and it really calmed me. Great Job :)

    • I’m delighted that you found that useful.
      Go well with your presentations.
      Olivia

  18. well i readed all ur comments and theory of brain but still ur theory don’t have proof…is their any experiment in which u seperated old brain or other and tested result?is their any proof ur different mind functions?

  19. Very well said! This article really helped my suffering from Anxiety and Fear of Public speaking.. thanks again!

  20. I found it your article very interesting. I’m a singer and it seems my stage fright has gotten worse and worse! And I’ve been singing professionally for many years in front of 10’s of thousands of people and sometimes in small intimate rooms. I can say that I’m afraid of “making a mistake”; because I play the guitar as well, I worry that I won’t be able to play my best, thinking it all has to be perfect etc and after reading your article I realize that I do make demands on myself, like I have to play “perfectly” and sing “perfectly” etc. I’m glad I found this and will look at the demands I make on myself. Thank you!

    • Hi Marcy
      That’s really useful that you’ve discovered that. You will need to fight those thoughts and replace them with other more useful thoughts. I hope your stage fright starts to decrease.
      Olivia

  21. i don’t feel any kind of fear or confusion but when i go up for the presentation i confuse it up anyhow!!! what PART of my brains’ fault would be this?

    • Hi Hameeza
      It could be a combination. I suggest you try some of the techniques I’ve suggested and see what works.
      Olivia

  22. How did you actually acquire the concepts to post ““The three causes of public speaking fear (and what you can do
    about them)”? Thanks for your effort -Lakesha

    • Hi Lakesha
      My partner – Tony Burns and I have been working in this field for over 10 years. I have a background in biology, him in psychology and we’re both fascinated by evolution and evolutionary psychology. It’s a way of thinking that we have developed over that time.
      Olivia

  23. I suffer from terrible, terrible public speaking fears that I haven’t found a way to cope with until now. Reading this article gives me hope that I may be able to control my fears some day. Thank you.

  24. I am probably the worst public speaker to ever hit the earth. I honestly think I have a mental issue, since whenever I get in front of people, I feel like I am about to faint. I tremble, my voice shakes, my face becomes a total red balloon and pretty much I cannot stop this. I WANT so badly to be able to speak with confidence.

    What can I do to increase my self-confidence about public speaking? It is a terrible thing to live by, and now of all times I have a class in college where I have to present almost weekly!

    I need serious help, anyone

  25. Sorry for double commenting, but would a little alcohol before a speech help? I have never tried it, but it DOES loosen you up, and then you really don’t care about who you are talking to, how perfect you have to be, all sorts of things racing in your head, etc. Would that help?

  26. i’d like to comment on the last comment from maxx above, I think using alcohol is a very bad choice. before you know it you can become dependent on it. first it’s one shot, then it’s a whole drink, two, etc. and you can have a false sense of confidence. i wouldn’t recommend it. what do you all think? I think positive thinking and practice will help a lot more. thanks!

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  29. I fall in the category of Freez.i am audience conscious.i feel as if they know more than me.i fumble rarely i spoken in official gathering beyond own expectation.your note on the subject is very useful.speaking in a day to day one on one conversation way can help to some an extent in overcoming fear of getting nervous.

  30. I’m considered elderly at 77 years and it seems that the fear of public speaking should long ago have been resolved, but it isn’t yet resolved for me. I’ve had to speak in public over my life time in school, in sales meetings, as high school student body president. Some situations were more traumatic than others. In church I am sometimes called upon to lead the main prayer in our worship service. I am totally stressed for about 10 days prior to the event. I remember my dad in a similar situation and he total froze. Couldn’t say a word. I think that has been my fear for most of my life! It is so unpleasant and last time I really thought I was about to have a heart attack. I’ve considered requesting not being considered for leading prayer, but I know it is so irrational I hate to be a quitter.

    • i really liked this blog, i have to give an online presentation and i am still scared even though no one is even going to see my face. i thought that studying by distance education would relieve my anxiety, but i still experience the same fears in a different way. it is so frustrating to be able to think about it all logically but not shake it off, and so helpful to read the words such as you have written.

  31. Thank you so much, it’s really helpful.

  32. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for providing valuable tips. If one exercise these valuable tips, can perform well in presentations. Thanks a lot, it will help me

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  35. I never posted either, but after reading Jaya comment I had to post. I get so nervouse even when I am asking a question or answering a question. What really kills me is that someone will ask the same question that I did not ask because I thought would be too stupid and will always get “Good question” I get nervouse even if its on conference call, where there is no body infron of me. I hate it..I am glad I am not alone..this blog really give me hope that there is a light at the end of the turnel..

  36. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts
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  37. A very good analysis of stage fear and valuable insights to overcome it.Feeling great to have read it.

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  44. Reading this article and gaining more knowledge about public speaking makes me feel a bit more better and it’s quite helpful, although I do still have a lot of trouble public speaking. Before a certain bad public speaking experience I had, I was able to speak in front of many people perfectly fine, but after that I suddenly developed an extremely bad fear of public speaking and now just introducing my name in front of big group of people is a struggle. It’s so frustrating and I’m trying to go back to the way I used to be. But it’s not that easy! But I will continue to try..

  45. Wonderful idea on how to loss the fear of speaking in public, i really appreciate it, i always have the fear of talking publicily, but your word of advice sticks out for me, this is epic!

  46. I just began having a fear with public speaking. I think it was brought on by some negative experiences. Mainly, a job in which I was demoted. That brought a lot of shame, embarrassment, humiliation, and regret. Right after the demotion, I was made to speak in front of a group. I was still in bewilderment about the demotion, and I was nervous in front of the group, people actually laughed at me. In the new position, I worked with some people who remembered me as the favorite girl on top who no longer was. And they took every opportunity to criticize me, not accept my expertise, and made me feel like crap. Hating my new Position, I become more inward and withdrawn. I have a new job now, but when speaking even on content I know well, I get so nervous my voice quivers and I don’t articulate well. I think a good approach to solve this would be to practice more, build my confidence, by joining a Public Speaking Group.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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