Ways To Get Rid Of Public Speaking Anxiety

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated July 24, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

According to The Washington Post, public speaking may be the number-one phobia in America today. It may surprise you to know that many celebrities are believed to have overcome fears of speaking in front of others. Warren Buffett is said to have been so terrified of speaking in front of a group of fellow students in college that he would avoid classes, and he may not be the only famous person who experienced public speaking anxiety. Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, and Harrison Ford may be just a few others. To manage public speaking anxiety, you might prepare and practice thoroughly, set realistic expectations, put the situation into perspective, and remember the purpose of your presentation. It can also be helpful to seek the guidance of a licensed mental health professional in your local area or through an online therapy platform.

Fear Of Public Speaking

For the most part, a fear of public speaking may indicate that we’re fearful of being judged by our peers. When we stand on a stage in front of an audience, no matter how big or small, we may be scared that the scrutiny of the audience could expose our faults and weaknesses and that we might not be accepted. Our fight-or-flight response may be triggered, potentially making us feel naked and vulnerable.

Public speaking anxiety—sometimes called communication apprehension—can also be due to social anxiety disorder. In fact, fear of public speaking is often one of the symptoms of social anxiety disorder or social phobia, as laid out by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Ways To Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety

Here are 12 things you can do to overcome public speaking anxiety.

  1. Don't Expect Perfection

It’s unlikely that anyone could give a 100% perfect speech or presentation, not even the most admired public speakers. Instead of setting yourself up for failure by expecting yourself to be perfect, you might attempt to reduce your public speaking anxiety by being the best that you can be.

iStock/Edwin Tan
Struggling To Get Past Public Speaking Anxiety?
  1. Don't Try To Be Someone Else

Steve Jobs typically used lots of slides and nearly always wore a black turtleneck and blue jeans. He may have been a compelling speaker, but you may be more successful if you tell personal stories and wear a suit, for example. You might watch and learn from the best public speakers, but it generally won’t benefit you to try and be them. You likely have your own style and message, and trying to be someone else can increase your public speaking anxiety.

  1. Put It In Perspective

What is the worst thing that can happen? Everything goes wrong, you burst into tears, you get booed off the stage, or a multitude of other embarrassing things? The chances are that you've been embarrassed before, you may be embarrassed again, and you will likely be okay, just as you likely survived embarrassment previously. Public speaking doesn’t typically define who you are; it can be just a small part of you learning something new.

When you feel nervous and get worried that you’re going to embarrass yourself, you might think about Neil Armstrong, the first man who set foot on the moon. He reportedly fluffed his lines in front of the entire world, and he's still considered a hero by many. He was allegedly so embarrassed that he denied the mistake for years before finally accepting it publicly. But he was still the first man on the moon, and making a public speaking mistake didn't define who he was.

  1. Remember Why You're Doing It

You're likely not standing on a stage in front of an audience to terrify yourself. You're probably there to impress or be loved, either. No, you most likely have information or a message you want to convey; your sole purpose is probably to teach, inform and help. The less you worry about yourself and what others are thinking of you, and the more passionate you are about your subject, the more likely you may be to carry the audience along with you. Positive thoughts and remembering why you’re there in the first place can make a big difference.

  1. Prepare

It can be helpful to prepare your speech or presentation thoroughly. You might complete research, write down what you'll say, and edit and proofread it several times until you're ready to present. Try to make a list of everything you'll need on the day and ensure that any electronic equipment, like your laptop, projector, or interactive whiteboard, is available on the day and in good working order. If you're not handy with setting up electronic equipment, you might get someone to help you on the day. Your anxiety levels may rise if something isn't working or if you don’t have time to get ready.

A Mark Twain quote says, "It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech".

  1. Practice

Gary Player, one of the world's champion golfers, said, "The harder I practice, the luckier I get". The more you practice your speech or presentation, the more confident you may feel, and the more confident you feel, the less performance anxiety you are likely to have.

It’s often beneficial to take advantage of public speaking opportunities on a small scale in order to practice. You might start by giving a talk in front of family and friends. Reassure them that honest feedback is what you need and want, and not flattery and platitudes. Make the changes they've suggested if you agree with them, and practice in front of them again.

You can also ask one of your family members to record you on your phone or tablet so you can study yourself honestly and objectively. Are you using distracting hand gestures or speaking too quickly or slowly? Are you making eye contact with the audience and practicing deep breathing? Make the necessary changes, and then record yourself again.
  1. Make The Audience More Human

Getty/Luis Alvarez

One potential way to make your audience seem more human and less intimidating could be to arrive at the venue early and meet some of them. Mingling and making small talk with your audience may relax you and potentially reduce your fear of public speaking. Then, as you start to talk, you might also seek out their faces and make eye contact.

  1. Start With A Bang, Not A Whimper

It might take you longer to gain confidence if you start your presentation or speech with a soft voice and small gestures. The first words out of your mouth should generally be loud and clear. Try not to worry about being too loud; at the very least, you may simply get the attention of your audience. The stronger your start, the quicker the stress and anxiety of public speaking may fade away.

  1. Don't Be Put Off By A Yawn Or Frown

There are sure to be a few people in the audience who may yawn and fidget. Maybe they had a late night or aren't feeling well; try not to focus on them.

If you glance at your audience and see some frowns, try not to assume that they're displeased; it may be the exact opposite. They may be concentrating on what you're saying, and that could be their natural expression of deep thought.

If you can handle criticism, you might speak to one or two audience members after your presentation to ask them what they enjoyed and what they think you could do better.

  1. Expect To Stumble

We can usually expect some stumbles and bumbles during public speaking situations. The stumbles themselves aren't necessarily important; what is usually more important is how we handle them. Positive thinking can be key when you must speak in public. We can either fall apart at the first little mistake or carry on gracefully. Taking deep breaths, carrying on smoothly, and shrugging off the stumbles—even laughing at ourselves—is likely to be less embarrassing than walking off the stage in tears at the first sign of a mishap.

  1. Take Time To Reflect

When the public speaking event is over, and you survived, it may be time for some reflection. You might start by writing down a few positive things that you did and a few things that you can do better next time. Try not to dwell on the mistakes. You might ask yourself if the experience was as terrifying as you thought it would be and whether you might have less public speaking anxiety next time.

  1. Seek Help

Struggling To Get Past Public Speaking Anxiety?

If your public speaking anxiety is so intense that you feel that you absolutely cannot do it, you may be living with social anxiety disorder or a phobia. This may be especially true if you feel nervous and fearful even when you speak with a small group of friends or family. An online therapy platform can give you the support you need to manage anxiety symptoms, such as a fear of public speaking. Along with the ability to attend therapy sessions from the comfort of your home, online therapy can also be quite convenient and affordable

In addition, online therapy is typically just as effective as in-person therapy when it comes to helping patients overcome phobias and anxiety. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you believe you’d benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional online.

Another solution to overcoming public speaking anxiety could be to enroll in a public speaking class or join a club like Toastmasters, where you can receive the support and advice you deserve to become an effective public speaker.


The following strategies may help you manage public speaking anxiety:

  • Don’t expect perfection

  • Don’t try to be someone else

  • Put the situation into perspective

  • Remember why you’re giving the presentation

  • Prepare your speech and technology

  • Practice your presentation in front of friends and family

  • Make the audience more human

  • Start with a bang

  • Don’t be put off by a yawn or frown

  • Expect to stumble

  • Take time to reflect

  • Join a group like Toastmasters

It can be best to seek professional help if your public speaking anxiety is severe. Online therapy can be an easy and convenient place to start.

Regulate anxiety in a compassionate environment

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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