Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking

For many of us, the idea of speaking in front of a large crowd can be absolutely terrifying; for some, it may even ensue a nervous breakdown. 

That is why we invited Aaron Beverly, a former semifinalist in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking, to come speak to us on overcoming our fears of public speaking! Our Presentation Bootcamp on March 17 was an interactive workshop on delivering powerful presentations, a skill we all want to master!

Aaron touched on the common fears we have and offered tips on how to overcome them. At the end, he had us volunteer ourselves to give a one minute speech about ourselves and he provided live feedback, emphasizing some best practices when it comes to public speaking. Below are some of the highlights of the workshop:

Why is Public Speaking Such a Big Fear?

  1. Humilation

    • There will be times when things go south.
    • Exposure therapy – The more you are exposed to public speaking, the better you’ll become at overcoming your anxiety.
  2. Being judged

    • Judgement may be something just in your head.
  3. Nervousness

    • Record yourself.
    • Speak in front of the mirror.
    • Listen to music before speaking to calm yourself.
  4. Time pressure

    • Just practice.
    • Structure your presentation. Break down your presentation parts by time.
  5.  Sweating/Shaking

    • Know it’s normal. E.g. if you’re shaking, people won’t know it unless you say it.
  6. Language barrier

    • Speak slower in a steady pace;
    • Articulate by smiling when you talk
  7. Afraid my audience may get bored

    • Sincerity is the key – speak from the heart
    • Start with WHY – what do I want my audience do/think/know by the time I finish talking?
    • How do I want my audience to feel as I speak? (Creating feelings through stories, vocal variety)
  8. Not comfortable with my voice

    • Master your voice through mastering diaphragm breathing
  9. Blank out/anxiety attack

    • KYA: know your audience
    • Practice: know your materials
  10. Competitive environment because of presence of other speakers

    • Be genuine with what we say – other people won’t matter

Public Speaking Best Practices

    1. Humor is awesome to have during speeches.
    2. Eye contact: make sure you’re making connections with everyone in the room.
      • Scan through the room by looking at one person at a time (“direct eye contact”)
      • 5 seconds is good per person
    3. Eliminate filler words:
      • Words that have no meaning: “you know,” “errr,” “hmmm,” “Ahh,” “like,” too many “and”s
      • Eliminate filler words by pausing.
        • Obama is a master of pauses
    4. Use questions – great way to begin the speech
      • Engage & relate to the audience
    5. Open & end your presentations:
      • With a question/strong statement/quote
      • Can even start with a pause
    6. Body language:
      • Channel your energy to purposeful movements
      • Engage audience by moving in the room
      • What do I do with my hands?!
        • Truth Plane – the horizontal plane that extends 180 degrees out of your navel area, to display a sense that you can be trusted.
        • Passion Plane – raise your hands to chest level. This sends your own heart rate up, and your audience will mirror this physical reaction by getting excited with you.
    7. Impromptu speeches:
      • Practice: table topics @Toastmasters meeting
      • Do table topics practices through YouTube
    8. Be ready for Q&A:
      • Predict commonly asked questions, then be ready
    9. Resources to practice speeches:
      • Toastmasters
      • The Moth
      • Take public speaking courses on sites, such as Coursera
    10. Visual aids:
      • PowerPoint:
        • “Text can kill a PowerPoint presentation”, esp. with print-out
        • Text should be in bullet points
        • Best to have pictures/charts


“Different people have different styles when it comes to public speaking. You can advance only by speaking more.”

— Aaron Beverly


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