10 Public Speaking Anxiety Tips for Petrified Presenters

Ed Darling
10 min read

What you’ll learn:

  • Practical tips for lowering public speaking anxiety.
  • An actor’s technique for feeling calm on stage.
  • How to shift your perspective on public speaking.
public speaking anxiety tips for professionals

Long term public speaking anxiety tips.

The long-term solution to public speaking anxiety is found in facing your fears, and earning your confidence.

But in this article, we’re going to cover some public speaking anxiety tips to help you in the short-term.

I could have done with these tips in my 20s, when I was struggling with severe social anxiety.

Any time I was in the spotlight I’d experience uncontrollable panic. It turned public speaking into my greatest fear. In fact, even a simple conversation or phone call could trigger my nerves. It took a lot of trial and error, but eventually I was able to conquer my fears.

I ended up pushing further past my comfort-zone than I could imagine – going on to perform as a professional actor, speaking to large audiences, and training others to speak in public.

Ultimately, overcoming public speaking anxiety can require some ongoing training and practise.

But if you have an impending speech, presentation or interview, these techniques will help you to curb your nerves, and stay calm under pressure.

Warm-up before your speech by chatting with people.

One of the worst things anxious speakers can do before a presentation is hide themselves away. 

In the hours before a speech, it’s best to warm yourself up by talking with people. If you were speaking at an event, that could mean chatting with the organisers, introducing yourself to the other speakers, or even mingling with the audience.

The more people you converse with people beforehand, the less daunting it will feel to address all of them together. It’s perfectly okay to take some time alone to centre yourself and collect your thoughts, but show up being as open and outgoing as you can.

Make the stage “known territory”.

As an actor, I learned to always make a point of walking around the stage before a performance. It allows you to gauge the amount of space you have, get a feel for the venue, and visualise the theatre filled with people.

Doing this transforms the stage from “unknown ground” to “familiar territory”. 

I follow the same habit whenever I’m speaking. Whether it’s an auditorium or a training room, I’ll arrive early in order to walk around the space and familiarise myself. When you feel more at home somewhere, you will naturally.

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  1. Confident Mindset
  2. Compelling Content
  3. Engaging Delivery
Take the scorecard to find out how ready you are to speak in public – and receive a report that’ll tell you exactly what to work on.


Memorise your introduction for a confident start.

The first minute of a speech is the most challenging. 

It’s when your adrenaline is at its peak, and when the audience are forming their first impressions. Get it right, and you’ll naturally settle into the rest of the speech. Mess it up, and it can be difficult to win back your confidence (and the audience). 

One of the best public speaking anxiety tips is to guarantee a strong start by committing your introduction to memory.

This is done firstly by memorising your lines, and secondly by rehearsing your delivery out-loud. Think of this rehearsal as making a mental “groove” of your delivery. After a certain point, the groove becomes so well formed that it’s almost impossible to go “off-track”. 

Once you can deliver your introduction from memory alone – you’re good to go.

Use audience interaction as a pressure-valve.

For severely anxious speakers, having a room full of people stare at you can trigger a nervous nuclear-meltdown. The panic keeps on building until the pressure gets too high and you freeze up or have to leave the stage (I know because I’ve been there!). 

Scientists are smart enough to fit nuclear stations with pressure valves. If things get too “hot”, they release the pressure and cool things down.

In the same way, it can be a good idea to have our own ‘pressure valves’ when public speaking. One of the easiest ways to do this is through audience interaction. That could be asking a specific question, asking for a show of hands, or instructing people to discuss in groups. 

Audience interaction is a great tool for engagement, but it also allows anxious speakers a few moments to compose themselves. If you’re worried about having a meltdown half-way through your presentation, have some audience interaction planned and ready for deployment.

Focus on what you're there to give, not get.

Let’s step away from practical public speaking anxiety tips, and look at perspective.

A major source of people’s anxiety around public speaking comes from having the wrong perspective about what their role is. Nervous speakers tend to focus on what they need from the audience: praise, approval, acceptance, buy-in.

This immediately puts them in a dis-empowered position. They need something from the audience, and view the speech as their opportunity to get it – which automatically leads to worrying about “not” getting it. 

Charismatic speakers don’t need anything from their audience. They’re not concerned with getting praise or approval. Instead, their entire focus is on what they can give: an insight, an idea, an emotion. 

Focusing on what you want to “give” your audience puts you in a position of power. 

It’s one of the most powerful public speaking anxiety tips out there. Be clear about what you’re there for, take your ego out of the equation, and use that intention of serving others to drive through any nerves or doubt.

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The simplest public speaking anxiety tip: have water on hand!

Okay, back to practical public speaking anxiety tips. 

If you’re speaking for longer than a few minutes, always have water on hand. I’ve been hit by the dreaded “dry mouth” half-way through a speech to 200 people. All though it didn’t derail me, it definitely got in the way of me enjoying the experience.

It felt like I was giving a speech in the Sahara desert!

Avoid large glasses, hot drinks, or anything that you’re likely to spill down yourself. A standard bottle of water is best.

Place it somewhere you can reach if needed, or keep it in your back pocket if the stage is large.  

For extra points, time your sip right after a rhetorical question or poignant point where you would naturally pause anyway.

Let your body use the adrenaline.

Most of the physical symptoms of public speaking anxiety are produced by adrenaline.

The body is flushing you with stress hormones to fight or flight yourself away from perceived danger. This energy needs to go somewhere, so harness it for your performance. 

That means moving around the stage, gesturing with your arms, and projecting your voice. Rather than letting that nervous energy spill-out in the form of shaky legs or a nervous twitch, direct it more intentionally. 

This is especially useful if speaking on a stage, where you have room to move. If you’re sitting down it’s less applicable. In which case, it’s best to try to calm your nerves in other ways – like with our next public speaking anxiety tip.

Learn concious breathing to control your nerves.

For public speaking anxiety, concious breathing is the foundation of control.

People underestimate the power of breathing because it doesn’t work the way they think. Breathing wont immediately eliminate your nerves, or remove your butterflies. It works on a more subtle level. 

Think of an anchor keeping a ship in place, despite the storm still raging above water. In the same way, your anxiety might feel very real on the surface, but underneath, the breathing is doing its work to keep you grounded and secure. 

If you struggle with excessive nerves that feel uncontrollable, learn to practise conscious breathing and make it a habit before any speech or presentation.

Share the lime-light with impactful slides.

If you’re uncomfortable being the centre of attention, powerful slides can be helpful to both you and your audience. 

We feel more relaxed when the attention is taken off us a little. An impactful slide-deck can help to do exactly that. It draws the gaze of your audience, even as they listen intently to your message.

The more captivating the better. 

You can even plan a short video, a prop, or other media for the same dual-purpose of engaging the audience, and easing your nerves.

Pause for thought, pause your anxiety.

A dead give-away for nervousness is speaking too fast. 

People with this tendency often find it extremely difficult to simply slow down. The adrenaline makes them speak as if they’re on fast-forward mode. It means their message gets lost, and the audience gets confused. 

The solution is to learn the power of pausing – I mean obama-level pausing for at least 3-5 seconds. It feels daunting to try this when you’re already nervous, but doing so will allow you to feel more calm and in control. 

The best place to start is at the beginning of any speech or presentation. Pause before you speak and take a breath. Then pause again after your first line. Start off slow and steady, and you’ll be less likely to end in a sprint.

Final public speaking anxiety tips: this isn't something you have to live with.

Anxiety can be a huge challenge when speaking in public, but it’s something that almost all speakers experience. 

If you keep voluntarily facing your fears and improving your skills, ultimately your nerves will begin to reduce. 

So don’t lose hope, and never feel like you’re helpless to improve the situation.

In the meantime, use these public speaking anxiety tips the next time you need to speak or present. I hope they make your journey to confidence more comfortable. It can take energy and commitment to overcome anxiety, but the rewards are well worth it. 

If you need further help, reach out and get in touch.

charismatic speaker scorecard

Discover Your Charisma Score!

The Charismatic Speaker Scorecard benchmarks your ability to speak in an engaging way, and identifies opportunities to improve based on three key areas:
  1. Confident Mindset
  2. Compelling Content
  3. Engaging Delivery
Take the scorecard to find out how ready you are to speak in public – and receive a report that’ll tell you exactly what to work on.