Your chest is tight -- your heart is pounding -- your stomach is turning -- your breathing becomes rapid -- and you feel like you could pass out…
No, you’re not having a heart attack. That’s the feeling you get when you find out you have to present in front of a group.
If you are an introvert, you have probably felt this way at some point in your life.
Nowadays, social anxiety and the fear of public speaking are among the most common disorders that people face, especially us introverts.
While there is much more to overcoming social anxiety and the fear of public speaking than just reading a few tips and techniques, it can be a good a place to get started.
There are many helpful tips from public speaking coaches and experts that can be found online. But in order to show you, the introvert who has crippling social anxiety and a deathly fear of public speaking, that it is possible to overcome, we have compiled actual tips and techniques that have worked for other introverts like you.
So, instead of just taking the word of a naturally charismatic and confident public speaker on what tips work, we want you to see first-hand all of these other success stories of how people with the worst cases of public speaking anxiety were able to overcome their fears using a few simple techniques.
The following list includes actual quotes from individuals across various online platforms sharing their experience of how they overcame their fear of public speaking.
1. This isn’t going to sound particularly helpful, but the only thing that worked for me was just doing it until it stopped being scary. Join a class where you have to participate, community theater, toastmasters or something like that, and just keep trying until your voice doesn’t tremble and your heart stops beating out of your chest. Start a little bit at a time. Maybe challenge yourself to answer one question in class. And then when that stops being scary, challenge yourself to make one comment. And when you can do that, keep going.
2. I went to a high school that might as well have been called Powerpoint Presentation Academy. 90% of our schoolwork revolved around working on a project to present to the class. It gave me a lot of practice and helped me become decent at it. Despite having social anxiety, I got used to public speaking. I haven't completely overcome my fear of it though, and I don't think I ever will. I think everyone's at least a little nervous to have all attention on them. But there are a lot of things you can do to ease the intensity of the anxiety.
I still feel very anxious while presenting, but whenever it bubbles up I remind myself that it's extremely likely that the audience won't remember any mistake I make at all. Out of all of the class presentations I had to sit through, I couldn't really tell you about any of them from memory. It's very likely that your audience will almost completely forget about your presentation as time passes by. Even if they do remember it, they won't be nitpicking every mistake you made like your social anxiety makes you do. They'll probably just remember that they saw you give a speech and that's it.
During a public speech, I usually just stare at the back of the room and try to zone out. This really helps me, and makes me feel a lot less like eyes are on me. It also looks like I'm making eye contact with the audience, which is what I was taught to do a lot in school because it helps the presenter appear more confident.
Finding something to fidget with can also help ease the anxiety. If you can get a small fidget toy you can play with discreetly in the palm of your hand or in your pocket, it definitely helps. Even a little torn piece of paper works. It gives your body something else semi-relaxing to do other than give the speech.
3. I took drama class my senior year. Forced me to interact with strangers. Act, do improv, and perform in front of an audience. I guess I had a fairly mild case of SA. It was a great experience. I still have some problems going to parties and strike up conversations but it's still pretty mild.
4. I just read my speech a lot of times in front of a mirror which helps me in the real situation.
5. Joined the debate club in college. Went from shy introvert to garrulous ham.
7. For me, it was learning by doing and embarrass myself to the point that I don’t care anymore about what people think of me. If I mess up, I mess up. I’ll live.
Learned that last year in a class I took at my school. It was all about public speaking, research, interpretation, all that fun stuff. I was so stressed out that I was on the verge of tears and crying at the same time during a 10-minute speech. Still passed with a high A. So it’s all good. Lost a lot of my dignity and pride, but it’s all good. That experience taught me a lot about life in general.
We embarrass ourselves, we get over it. Life still goes on. It is definitely easier said than done. But in order to get to that point of not giving a beep, I feel like we have to go out and try it.
8. Speak in public. Repetition is key to getting over it. Start in small groups and work your way up.
9. Karaoke worked for me. It looked like so much fun I was brave enough to do it. I kept at it, and after a few years the fun completely overpowered the fear. It helped me so much with overcoming crippling social anxiety. It's not gone 100%, but it is very manageable now.
10. Break the ice and go for it. As the Nike saying goes "Just do it".
11. It's the same for everything in life, riding a bike, driving a car, playing a musical instrument in front of an audience. It will mess with your mentality for the first time but once you do it a few times, you'll see there isn't anything wrong with it.
12. Become extremely confident in your first two sentences. I have found that when I start smoothly, the rest of my speech goes a lot better than if I had an awkward beginning.
13. The only things that helped me was:
Make sure you know your speech and/or the topic well
Just do it. Once you get the ball rolling it's much easier
I was in a position that I had to talk to a lot of people and I didn't have a choice. After you just take the first step, it mellows out and you get comfortable.
14. Practice, practice, practice! In front of a mirror (record yourself), to your pets, family, anyone.
15. Just do the dang thing. The more you do it, the easier it gets. You have to force yourself out of your comfort zone sometimes.
16. Rehearsing a lot. It really helps me to just practice, practice, practice- that way I’m sure what I’m going to say, how I’m going to say it, and when I’m going to say it.
17. Practice your breathing, and try to keep it calm. Don't expect too much at once. Practice your speech or presentation several times in front of stuffed animals or some friends/parents/random strangers in public. I won't say you'll get over it, but after several tries it will get easier. Or at least that's what worked for me. Good luck (remember everyone is nervous about these kind of things, and no one will remember if you messed up a bit, for they'll be too worried about their own mistakes.
18. I have to practice it over and over. I treat it like rehearsals for a play
19. Practice. It’s really the only way. Practice by yourself, in front of a mirror, in front of a couple close friends, in front of a lower stress level group of people. If you have an opportunity to join a “toastmasters” group it may be worthwhile, as they are all about practicing public speaking.
20. It helps me to realize that the people I'm talking to don't care about me as a person. They just want information.
21. Practice, practice, practice. The more you know your speech the less you’ll mess up. If possible have visible cues prepared to remind you what to say (notecards, PowerPoint, screen in the back, etc.). If there is a friend or family member that you’re super comfortable with ask them to come and sit towards the front so you can look at them. You could practice your speech to them. When preparing focus your speech around a couple main points. Be concise and to the point. Don’t rush but say what you need to say and get off the stage. Just talk. All you’re doing is having a little chat. The fact that other people are there doesn’t change what you need to say. They are not judging you. Even if for some reason they do you will never see them again. You can pick one person out of the crowd that looks friendly and focus on talking to them. Don’t worry about anyone else just talk to that one person.
22. Practice your speech. It's like an actor learning lines - if you know the words almost automatically then you won't be so nervous about thinking what to say. Also try doing it in front of your friends or family first.
23. First, if you're worried about going blank, print cue cards that fit nicely in your hands in large font, double-spaced so they are very easy to read, even in a panic.
Don't make eye-contact if it's uncomfortable for you. Just stare at middle of the back wall. This will give the audience the impression you're connecting with them, even if you can't look in their eyes.
Practice in front of a mirror so you get used to the idea of being stared at and see your facial expressions.
In 4-h, we had to start public speaking as young as 9, and at that age I would line up stuffies and practice my speech to them. You can do that or practice with friends. Either way, you want to fill out the room and practice moving your eyes around the audience so you aren't staring in the same place the whole time. Your friends are a lower-pressure audience for you to begin to overcome your anxieties with as well.
Finally, annotate your speech with reminders to pause and take a breath. Speaking too quickly will ruin your speech and could also trigger anxiety, so just take it slow, even it feels glacial to you. When you're giving a speech, everything is in slow motion, but the audience is still seeing you in real time. No one will notice anything if you need to pause to breathe.
24. I’m in sales. It took me a long time to get over the fear. Preparation is key. Make a script if you need to and practice it. I even gave presentations to my wife back in the day. That was way more awkward than real life because she had no clue what I was talking about. That made the real thing even easier.
The more you do it the easier it will get. I have zero fear anymore. It used to be paralyzing. Like wanting to quit my job and find a new career paralyzing. Feels good to have overcome it. You will too.
Know that the anticipation is worse than the actual event.
I’ve used meditation before as well and it was very helpful.
Try to harness the attitude that you are going to show them what you’re capable of as opposed to being afraid of messing up.
Try to be excited rather than anxious. Those feelings are almost identical, but excitement is empowering and anxiety is paralyzing.
25. Practice. Basically, in graduate school I had to teach several small classes. I also had to present in front of my fellow students in classes on a regular basis and run lab meetings every month or two. And, I gave a couple of speeches in front of large scientific meetings. After five years of that, nothing phases me. I can wing a presentation or run a work meeting with only a few minutes of preparation and no fear.
Essentially, stage fright was brutally taken from me by force in graduate school.
It must have been a special part of my program, because I have lots of colleagues who still cringe at the idea.
26. Preparation! Just going over what I was going to say and any potential questions I could anticipate.
27. Speech classes are available. I took one each in high school and college. As an introvert, it helped 100%.
28. Joined the drama club in Jr high. I went from terrified & unable to speak in public to merely feeling nervous butterflies & actually got good enough at it to win some competitions by my senior year.
29. In my public speaking class my professor gave me tips on how to overcome.
You don't have to look the crowd in the eye while speaking look at the brick wall at the back of the room. The audience won't be able to tell the difference.
Know and believe what you are talking about it projects confidence which will make the speech easier to do.
Be prepared if you can't make a speech straight up notecards and power points are your friend. Just don't read off them verbatim use them as a map of what you are going to talk about.
Lastly just relax before going up drink you some water take a breath and you will be fine.
30. I had a teacher tell me something that was really helpful. When you're talking in a group/presenting/performing music/public speaking, focus on the task at hand, that is, the message that you're trying to communicate. What happens when you get anxiety is that you stop thinking about your message and you start thinking about what the other people think of your message. You start looking at yourself from their point of view, and you imagine how you would judge you if you were them. That's not your job. It's their job to judge you, and it's your job to communicate and do your best. Don't do their job for them, because it gets in the way of doing YOUR job.
BTW I'm a music teacher, and I've had all those problems, eye contact, nervousness, etc. I just kinda threw myself into it anyways and the problems diminished a ton with practice.
31. A great way to help your charisma is to talk in front of a mirror. You can talk about whatever you want and try to think of subjects that you would talk about with other people. That way you can see your expressions and see that you don't look silly
32. I found my fear of speaking in public was largely because I was afraid I would be seen as fake or didn't know what I was talking about. So most of what I do to combat it is make sure I have a thorough understanding of the topic at hand.
33. I took a public speaking class. We went over all of the usual reasons someone might be afraid and a big one that came up was lack of preparedness/sounding stupid. So the teacher recommended brainstorming and practicing your speech. One important thing is to not practice too much (or it'll sound over prepared) or not to practice within 2 hrs of your presentation, because then while you are presenting you will be comparing to what you said before.
Another thing I realized is that it's helpful to present about a topic you feel comfortable about. Some people feel more at ease talking about comedy while others prefer more serious topics.
34. Realize that you're talking to a group of people. They're just people. They have their own thoughts, fears, and insecurities. Few people are sitting there and consciously judging you negatively (and the ones that are don't matter). If you have something interesting or important to say, they'll probably be grateful to know it. If you are required to speak (like in a class or a work meeting), they probably don't want to be their either. If you can relate yourself to those other people in your mind, then they cease to become the scary crowd of unknowns and are just a bunch of people in a room.
35. By knowing every detail about what I am speaking. Then just forcing myself to do it. In my head I look at them as if they are children, and I have to teach them something. It's really just finding something that works for you, and practicing it. College really forced me to get over a lot of it.
36. Pick one person in the crowd... act like you are explaining your topic to them. Treat it like a normal conversation. If you can have handouts or PowerPoint slides use them. They provide a distraction for the audience and takes some of the spotlight off you. They can also help you remember what you are discussing by providing cues. Move around the room if possible and don’t be afraid to point things out on the slides. I’ve been in the navy for 8 years and I brief several times a week. I still get a little nervous but that’s okay... it keeps you on your toes. Oh and if you don’t know answer to a question- admit it, but look up the answer and follow up with the person.
As you can see, many people have their own unique ways of overcoming their fear of public speaking.
And while some of these methods might not be what public speaking professionals advise, these people are proof that you can still find success in a way that works for you.
But one thing you might notice is that the most recurring techniques include practicing and stepping out of your comfort zone and just doing it!
Which I know as an introvert, getting out of your comfort zone and speaking in front of a group is easier said than done. But as you can see from this list, it has worked for many people before you. So if they can do it, you can too!
Find what works for you and practice as much as you can.