Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking.

One of the most common fears is the fear of speaking in public. Believe it or not, people tend to be more afraid of public speaking than they are of death! As comedian Jerry Seinfeld once put it, “To the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than having to do the eulogy.”

Why is this the case?

Researchers hypothesize that fear of public speaking might be evolutionary. In the early days of human life, living as part of group was essential to survival. Any rejection from the group almost always resulted in death. When it comes to public speaking, it is believed that on a deep level, people are afraid of being rejected by their audience.

If public speaking makes you anxious, you’re not alone—and you can blame your ancestors for your fear of public speaking. In any case, there are lots of techniques you can practice to help you overcome your fear of public speaking. Some of these techniques are discussed below.

  1. Reframe Negative Thoughts. In anticipation of presenting, people tend to fear the worst. For example, you might ask yourself, “What if I mess up?” or “What if they hate me?” Whenever you find yourself thinking one of these negative thoughts, try replacing it with a positive one. For example, you could instead ask yourself, “What if I impress them? What if I do a phenomenal job?”
  2. Practice As If You’re the Worst. You may know the material inside out, which might mean that you skip practicing or practice very quickly. If this is the case, your presentation may not be as sharp once you get on stage, and you might get nervous once you have all those eyes staring at you. It is helpful to actually rehearse what you’re going to say out loud, perhaps even multiple times, to encode the material in your long-term memory.
  3. Memorize the Sequence of Your Presentation. This helps you build your credibility. Have some note cards with you, but don’t write out your speech word for word. This will make you appear stiff and unnatural, and if you happen to mess up, you might feel even more flustered. Memorizing the general roadmap of your presentation rather than the exact words will make you appear more confident.
  4. Don’t Think of Your Presentation as a “Performance.” Instead, try thinking of it as a series of person-to-person conversations. This will help alleviate some of the anxiety.
  5. Pause and Take Deep Breaths. When you’re nervous, your breath is fast and rapid. Your audience will be able to detect your nerves from your quick and shallow breathing. On the other hand, your audience will perceive you as in control if your breathing is slow and measured. Take some deep breaths before getting on the stage. And remember to pause and breathe between points.
  6. Be Mindful of Your Posture. Returning to the topic of evolution, research shows that holding your body in expansive poses—such as standing with your legs in a wider stance, opening your chest, and uncrossing your arms—increases the level of testosterone in your body, even after only two minutes. Testosterone is linked to feelings of empowerment. Expansive poses can therefore trick you into feeling more confident. Before going on stage, you can practice some of these expansive poses, and while you’re on stage, try to be as open as possible.

South Denver Psychotherapy offers public speaking training. If you suffer from fear of public speaking and are looking for soe extra public speaking coaching, you can attend one of our public speaking workshops. Contact South Denver Psychotherapy for more information.



  1. Martinuzi, Bruna. 11 Ways to Finally Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking. Open Forum.

2. Zandan, Noah. Why Do We Fear Public Speaking? Quantified Communications.