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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

By Michelle Yozzo Drake

We've all heard about the infamous study that discovered people fear public speaking almost as much as they fear death. Anyone who has stood in front of an audience, sweating and stuttering, feeling exposed, and looking out into a sea of faces, knows why. Public speaking is not for the faint of heart.

I've been a professional speaker for over twenty years, and even I feel those butterflies in my stomach sometimes!


The trick is to learn how to manage that fear and channel it into energy that will work for you, not against you. Remember: no one should ever allow that fear to keep them from excelling in their career.

And that includes you, Jeff from Oakdale, Connecticut...

Hi Michelle,

I just got a big promotion and with the end of the year coming, I've been asked to give a presentation in front of the whole company about where we've been and where we're going this year. I really don't want to give this presentation. With my new responsibilities, I'm feeling a little bit overwhelmed.

What can you tell me to help me get out of giving this presentation? I really need to not do it. What are the words that I can say to my boss that'll get me out of it?

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Well, Jeff, you're not going to like my answer because it sounds to me like you're letting fear control your career. Are you really willing to give up an opportunity to be able to show your organization what kind of a leader you are because you're afraid of speaking? The kind of professional growth that can come out of an opportunity like this is tremendous. The thing that you really need to focus on is "what are the tools to manage my fear" versus "what can I say to get me out of this." The exposure and personal development that will come from overcoming this fear is something that's priceless to you. Your boss is really doing you a favor.

So the big question here is not how do you get out of it, but how do you manage the fear and make the best of it. There are some simple steps in being able to prepare yourself to be able to hit a homerun with this presentation:

First, you need to make sure that you understand the perspective of your audience, the information that you need to deliver, and how that information is going to impact your audience. Will they be receptive to it? Will they be stunned by it? Will they be informed by it? Will it cause some concern or unrest? Understanding the impact that your message has on your audience will help you figure out how you're going to approach this opportunity to speak.

Next, you need to remember that this is not about you. This is about you making your audience feel comfortable. Think back to a speaker that you've listened to that was uncomfortable or afraid. Were they torture to listen to? I suspect that they were, so what you want to do is focus on "how can I put my audience at ease?" It will set you up to be able to give a presentation that you won't fear and one that you wouldn't even mind listening to yourself!

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Once you have these things under control, you need to be able to practice. If you don't practice the words out loud, then when the time comes, you're going to be in a little bit of trouble. You'll get that "stuck on the tip of your tongue" feeling just before you speak and that can result in mispronunciations or feeling like you just can't get the words out. You know the old saying, Jeff: Practice makes perfect.

I want you to be a success. I want you to overcome the fear. The butterflies are going to be in your stomach, and you're going to be nervous. But you can push yourself past this fear and set yourself up for success - not only in this presentation but in the other challenges and obstacles that land in your path.

And whatever you do, Jeff, DON'T try picturing the audience in their underwear! I don't know who came up with that idea, but it doesn't work...and it can be really disturbing!

Good luck!


For more FREE tips on advancing your career and navigating the workplace, sign up for my FREE e-zine "Lipstick Leadership" at LipstickLeadership.com today! And check out the products I've developed to guide you toward the success you deserve!



I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. Henry David Thoreau