All of us are different when it comes to public speaking.
Some people are as cool as a cucumber, and others lose sleep for weeks and almost have a nervous breakdown if they give a speech.
I fall into the second category…but I think I’ve gotten a little bit better at it over the years.
How do you not get stressed while speaking in public?
AskReddit users shared their tips.
1. Fake it til you make it.
“I used to get SUPER nervous before any sort of public speaking event. Shaky hands, sweating, nausea- the whole 9 yards.
Eventually I landed a job as a corporate trainer. I was desperate for a job and $ so I just HAD to get up in a room of 30+ people every day and present the training material and answer questions.
Honestly I just pretended I didn’t care and faked it til I made it. Now, it ACTUALLY doesn’t bother me to speak in front of a group.
If this is a challenge that you are facing, maybe look into local public speaking groups such as Toastmasters.”
2. Know your subject.
“Know what you’re talking about and you’ll be fine.
Don’t be afraid to not know something too.
If someone asks you something you don’t know, just say so.”
3. Don’t care.
“Pretending you don’t care.
Steve Kerr the basketball coach recommends a book called The Inner Game of Tennis. Its theory is that your mind applies brakes that impede your performance (physical or other). If you pretend to be someone that is really good at a task/skill, your mind is less likely to apply those brakes. I’ve applied this to public speaking as well.
Try to pretend you’re someone comfortable speaking in front of others (I like to pretend I’m the Rock – focused and having energy, just not doing the wrestling theatrics).”
4. No one will remember.
“I don’t remember the people that bombed presentations because those aren’t formative memories.
No matter how much I bomb this presentation, no one will remember in a month, especially since they are stressed about their own presentation.”
5. Interesting approach.
“Don’t write a word for word speech. Develop your presentation in the form of questions that you can answer.
That way, when you get off of your plan, or have a question pop up that you didn’t explicitly plan for, you’re already in the mindset of solving a problem rather than reciting a speech.
It allows you to pivot and improvise much more effectively.”
6. It’s important!
“Know what you have to say is important. Tell yourself that you know what you are doing, and that other people need to hear what you have to say.
I’ve attended several research conferences, I notice the boomer aged presenters just DGAF and read directly from cards without looking up once.
If it helps, it doesn’t really matter if you are a subject matter expert with several dozen peer reviewed papers or a student, I think most people get nervous speaking in front of crowds, just remind yourself that it’s okay.”
7. Recognize it.
“It can help if you recognize those physical symptoms (tight chest, sweaty hands, or whatever it is for you) not as something is wrong, but rather your body preparing you for something important.
Your stress response isn’t as scary if you know it’s there to help you be a bada** if something scary shows up.”
8. You got this!
“I remind myself that everyone in the audience is rooting for me. Nobody wants me to bomb- they’re all on my side.
The worst that’ll happen is that people won’t be paying attention, and people who aren’t paying attention are easy to talk at without getting stressed out.”
9. Great practice.
“I was in Toastmasters for several years. It definitely helped me feel more comfortable standing up in front of people and talking.
I still don’t like it, but my body doesn’t completely physically betray me anymore (shaky hands, fast talking, filler words, weird hand movements, sweating, just looking extremely stressed, staring at notes) I mostly don’t have any of those problems anymore.
It was all just practicing being in front of people and getting used to it. I think it’s the best way to get better at public speaking.”
10. Not nervous anymore.
“I was constantly nervous in any speaking situation. It didn’t matter if it was just an informal presentation to my research group or a big talk at a conference. I stuttered and struggled through every talk.
Over the course of a few years, I did public lectures to hundreds of people, I ran a D&D game, and ended up in a corporate job where, at one point, I found myself giving a talk every day for a month.
Now, I’m completely confident in any public speaking situation. I’ll talk about basically anything in front of any group willing to listen.
I totally sympathize with anyone who finds this advice terrifying but you can’t do better than just getting experience. Find opportunities to talk in a formal context, pick small groups or topics you feel really confident in but struggle through the embarrassment until you don’t care anymore.”
11. Practice makes perfect.
“It’s another skill.
Some people have natural talent and some people have to work at it.
The more you do it, the better you are at it. Simple.”
12. Nobody cares.
“Honestly just remembering that most likely, no one is paying attention anyway – especially if it’s school.
Literally nobody cares about your presentation.”
13. Not nervous anymore.
“I used to be super nervous about presenting or speaking. When I was a young adult, I had some serious social anxiety.
Then I became a teacher for adult recreational classes in my field, which involves speaking in front of a group of 10 people every week. After a while, it became normal. Now when I have to present things to a bigger audience, it doesn’t bother me.
Sometimes my work involves dealing with strangers and crowds all day, and that doesn’t bother me anymore either.”
14. No one really cares.
“It’s freeing knowing that no one actually gives a s**t.
It makes me feel more likely to go out there and try and make it enjoyable for people!
It’s okay to even acknowledge, “Yeah, I’m actually a little bit nervous! But y’all seem like nice folks!” To break the ice and be honest.”
15. It is what it is.
“I just say f**k it. What happens happens.
It helps that I have enough self confidence to either do well in something or make up for it later.
The make up for it later part is key because you can be a bumbling idiot and still ask, what do I need to do to make up for this? And then do it as they told you to do it.”
16. Whatever works.
“Just inflate your ego.
Think the listeners are stupid and won’t notice any mistakes.
Sounds rude, but it works.”
17. KNOW IT.
It sounds like a cliche answer but it’s so true.
If I’m giving a presentation, I run through it at least once daily for the entire week leading up to it.”
18. Who’s it gonna be?
“I just pick one person in the audience to speak to.
I pretend that person asked me to explain whatever I’m talking about. It usually helps if the person is already a friend or someone I find attractive.
I find it easy to talk confidently about a particular subject to a friend.
If I choose an attractive audience member I speak like I am on a date (I annunciate more clearly, not afraid to sidetrack to smaller subjects that help explain the broader subject in turn, and I have motivation to impress them).
All of this being said, this does not mean I only make eye contact with the one person.”
19. Nobody’s perfect.
“It helps me thinking that other people (including the audience in front of me) isn’t perfect.
So why should they expect me to be so?
I am doing my job to my best extent and think myself: “deal with it.””
20. No big deal.
“Put things in perspective.
What will happen if you fail or don’t do insanely good?
Nothing… Your life is not in danger. There will be food on your table.
You might waste same time but if you are reasonable prepared the consequences are small and you can only disappointed yourself.”
21. Just keep doing it.
“Honestly, it is just experience.
Speaking in front of people used to scare the hell out of me. Well, I became a tutor for my college and was paid $6/hr to tutor other students 1 on 1.
Well, the tutoring center wanted to start kind of a group tutoring concept for core classes. I was asked to tutor Chemistry and I would have multiple kids in there. For this, I would be paid $9/hr. Hell Yeah!!!!
Well, the room I was assigned was a large lecture hall…should’ve been a red flag, but I was going to make $9/hr!!!!
I get there with no idea WTF to expect, I had no plan. I’m expecting a few kids, maybe a dozen. Kids start showing up, and the room fills…and fills….and fills. I don’t recall how many students showed up for my tutoring session, but it was well over 100….$9/hr didn’t seem so good anymore…
Well, I had no idea what to do so I ask for questions and eventually it began to develop its own flow….. I come to find out later that the Chemistry Professors offered kids something like 5 extra points on their final grade if they showed up to my tutoring sessions….figured that out when kids started asking me how I was taking attendance so they could prove they were there…
Anyway, after that I realized some things about public speaking.
If I am being asked to speak, chances are I am thought of as an expert. People are there to listen to my thoughts.
It is OK to say the words “I don’t know”.
Preparation is important. If I am able, I write a speech or presentation word for word as well as make an outline of taking subjects. I practice reading the speech word for word and review my outline.
After that, I can either use the speech I wrote or I have researched the topic enough I can basically freestyle my speech using the outline to keep me on point.
You often will have that one asshole who likes to make others look bad by asking obscure or difficult questions. To deal with them, I most often use the phrase “You know, that is an excellent question. I have to look into that and get back to do. Please give me your email at the end!”
Usually the nod will stroke their ego enough to get them to shut up. If they keep asking dumb s**t, their coworkers will usually glare at them and set them straight.
Stories are usually helpful. Why’d I share my story above? Because it helps you relate to what I faced. It kind of makes a person say “Holy S**t, that was probably frightening as hell” but at the same time give a hint that one can make it through it.
With experience, you begin to learn to read people. You can tell if people are hanging on your every word or you can tell if people are bored as hell.
When people’s eyes are glazing over and jumping out the window begins to sound like a better option than listening to me, I’ll give a Cliff’s Notes (are they still a thing?) version of what I was going to say and get the f**k off stage.”
22. Works wonders.
“Bring this attitude with you: you do not owe anybody s**t.
Get up there, say whatever you intended to say. That’s it.
Doesn’t matter what they think of it. Doesn’t matter if they agree. Doesn’t matter if they understood. Doesn’t matter if they liked it. Doesn’t matter if they like your face, how you talk, what you wore, how you stood or how you composed yourself.
Doesn’t matter; you do not owe them s**t. Just do what you intend to do.
The reason we get nervous, I think, is because we’re so worried about how we’re perceived. Because we think the audience deserves something. They don’t. You don’t owe the audience s**t.
This one works wonders from me.”
23. A few things.
“Couple of things that worked really well for me:
Dressing up. At least personally, when I throw on a suit and tie, I feel unstoppable. Knowing that I at least look nice can take the edge off the fear of not doing well.
If you can, try to memorize (or at least be VERY familiar) with the first paragraph or so of your speech. Maybe you don’t have time to prep for the whole thing, but if you can start off strong, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable for the rest of the speech (plus you’ll have made a good impression on the crowd already). (Note cards help)
Take some time and watch some TED talks on YouTube. Find somebody who’s presenting style you vibe with, then try to model your style after them.
Don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t know something. If your presentation has a Q/A and you get asked a difficult question, it’s WAY better to just say “I’ll look into this and get back to you with an answer” then to just flounder and try to BS something.
Hope this helps!”
If you have any public speaking tips, we’d love to hear them.
Please share them in the comments.
Thanks in advance!