Arachnophobia (fear of spiders), acrophobia (fear of heights) and social phobia (including a fear of public speaking) are among the ten most common phobias we experience. Fear of public speaking can range from slight nervousness to fear and panic.

Stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld once joked, ‘the average person attending a funeral would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.’ However, no matter how reluctant we may be, public speaking is something we’re often asked to do during our academic, personal or professional lives.  

The good news is with preparation, practise and persistence, you can overcome your fear. 

When preparing your presentation, it’s important you: 

  • Understand the assessment task
    • What are you being asked to do? 
    • How does this assignment fit in with the learning outcomes and aims for the course? 
  • Know your audience
    • Who is your target audience? 
    • What do they already know? 
    • What do they need to know? 
  • Understand your purpose 
    • What is the intention of the presentation—to persuade? inform? entertain? 
  • Be familiar with context 
    • What is the situation and environment of the presentation? Online or on-site? 
    • What technology will be used? 

Finally, it’s important to recognise that being nervous when public speaking is normal. In fact, this elevated state can work to your advantage by increasing your alertness and energy. You do need to keep these nerves in check though. Some strategies to manage anxiety include: 

  • Practise, practise, practise. 
  • Visualise yourself being confident, calm and successful. 
  • Use mindfulness strategies, such as deep breathing. 
  • Be present-focused; that is, avoid thinking of the outcome.

Find out more about video, in-person and online presentations.