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How do I overcome nervousness when speaking in public?



Prepare thoroughly to ensure that there are suitable opening words and a clear framework for the speech tucked away in your mind. This reduces the need for you to look for ideas or words at the beginning of your speech.

Practise speaking and reading aloud (and you thought the reading aloud exercise was a waste of time!—Ed). Have adequate notes and make them easy to follow. If making a speech in familiar surroundings visualise your audience. If not, try to visit the place or find out about the composition of the audience. This will enable you to have a mental picture of the place and the audience.

Be correct in your conversational speech. Master the material of your speech.

Prepare thoroughly thereby gaining confidence from preparedness.

Practise speaking in public at every possible opportunity. Breathe deeply – take your time.
Find responsive people in the audience and talk to them.

Relax as you walk to the platform. Don’t rush but breathe in and out, deeply and steadily. If speaking from the table, do this as you rise. Deep breathing helps counter the butterflies.

Pause – look at the audience and the Chairman for a moment, smile, then begin to speak. If your mind should go blank while you are speaking, don’t panic, but pause. Then repeat the words just used, or summarise that part of the speech already delivered. You’ll find that you can then proceed confidently.

Some useful exercises to help you relax beforehand:

  1. With hands lightly touching the lower ribs breathe deeply feeling the outward extension of the ribs. Ensure that there is no shoulder movement.
  2. Repeat this exercise exhaling as you count from1 to 5. Repeat, increasing one number each time until you can do 1 to 20 without effort.
  3. Repeat the deep breathing exhaling on a humming note of a sustained ‘M’ sound.
  4. Repeat the deep breathing and exhale on a softly articulated ‘S’ sound. See how long it takes to you to complete the exhalation. When you can comfortably control your breathing you should be able to do this for 45 seconds without strain.
  5. Repeat the deep breathing and exhale saying (a) the days of the week, (b) the months of the year, (c) the alphabet.

Adapted from How do I? Australian Rostrum Council 

Rostrum WA is a Not-for-Profit Public Speaking organisation, which helps its members improve their public speaking and meeting skills through regular local club meetings and competitions. 

Rostrum WA has 16 clubs which provide public speaking courses in the Perth Metro and rural area. These clubs are made up of local members who are dedicated to helping people from all walks of life overcome their fear of public speaking to improve their speaking, presentation and communication skills. This is done with the delivery of Rostrum WA’s unique public speaking courses and public speaking training. 

When you become a member of your local Rostrum WA Public Speaking Club you have the opportunity to develop your speaking skills in a safe, supportive and friendly environment.