How to overcome the fear of public speaking

by @raimondiand


The Book of Lists was published in 1977. A team of market researchers asked 3000 U.S. inhabitants what fact they considered to be more scared. It turns out that while only 19% was scared by death, speaking in public scared the 41% of them.

Leaving statistics aside, it seems true that a lot of people feel uncomfortable to give a public speech. Why? Well, because every time you speak in front of people your credibility is at stake. And this does not come without any worries.

If the message you deliver is confused and unclear, then your audience might be more inclined to doubt about you theses. On the other hand, even if you meet the clarity requirement, do not underestimate the importance of catching the attention and the curiosity of the audience. People will be inclined to think that you’re just there speaking for yourself, not really communicating with them.

Understanding how to set the stress and the fear aside is crucial. If you’re a research it’s vital to learn how to deliver a speech and how to explain your research concisely. But it’s also vital to enjoy discussing with others, without being oppressed by expectation of success.

Here I offer some tips that I learnt from a nice one-day workshop.


Love your ideas

Do care about the words that you choose. Words are the tools by which you communicate with others. The simpler, the better.

Be transparent to the audience. Do let other people follow you into the thinking process.

Use slides only if it’s necessary. Knowledge is what you are delivering, presentation is a corollary (and sometimes just a visual distraction)

Work out your speech, but forget the notes on the bus.

Take your time, listen to yourself while speaking. Do care about your ideas because, if you don’t in the first place, nobody will do.

You master the speech because you’re your own ideas: use the fire within and spread outer relaxation.


Respect your audience

Remember that the ability to stand and deliver is essential.

Look at your audience and try to find out what you have in common. You cannot convince anyone about anything unless you first agree about something else.

Do ask questions, listen honestly and carefully, and respect disagreement. If you just want to persuade people, you will only loose credibility.

Try to make complicated stuff simple so that nobody will feel uncomfortable.

Try to deliver fresh knowledge, avoid reading your talk like if it were a paper

Be aware of your voice while speaking; be conscious of your body. They both deliver information, use their powers.

Don’t be afraid of silence, breath, it gives rhythm to your speech and let others relax while listening.

Always look at the audience, you’re not just explaining facts, you’re creating participation around a topic.

Be there for your audience. Use arguments and emotions at the same time. The speech is a gift to your audience, let them feel it.


Thanks to the @UMBokonomen for hosting the Academic Presentation Techniques Course. Thanks to Roberta Wiig Berg, Associate Professor at the Norwegian School of Management, and Frank Jørstad, amazing actor, for the outstanding gift.