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16 to 28 of 28 PhD Forum Posts

Fear of Public Speaking

User: caiteight - 05 December 2010 15:18

Hi Jen!

I also had a terrible fear of public speaking - TERRIBLE!!! For conference presentations, I would get uncontrollably nervous, wouldn't be able to sleep for days beforehand, felt sick, shaky, tongue-tied, my mind would go blank, my voice would quiver.... ugghh it was terrible. And I know this is such a Nike cliche, but the only way I have been able to conquer it is by DOING IT! Just force yourself, don't think about it too much - take on the teaching you've been offered, and sign yourself up for conferences... make yourself commit to events. Make sure you are well prepared, and then just get the job done. It helps me to think things like "This is just 20 minutes of my life, not that big a deal" and "This time tomorrow it'll be in the past, it'll be gone". Each time I give a presentation, it gets a bit easier. It really does.

Also, I haven't got experience of teaching in a university setting, but I used to be a community & education arts worker, and taught art classes to really diverse groups of people, from children to teenagers to pensioners! What worked for me was remembering that they are all just people - so relate to them that way, just be friendly and make them feel welcome. Be yourself, take an interest in them and ask questions, and chat about "normal" things if you get stuck. It will relax both you and them. The rest will follow.

Another good tip that my old boss gave me is that you cannot control people - people may not do what you want them to do, say what you want them to say, react the way you expect them to react... When you are beginning any kind of teaching it is easy to get caught up in planning a class to death - which often leads to panic/frustration.

So try to be flexible and open to letting the group go where it goes, to some extent. They're just people, same as you - same fears of embarrassment, nervousness, stupidity - all the rest of it. Try to remember that and think about what kind of class you'd enjoy yourself.

Hope this has helped a bit, and GOOD LUCK!!! :)

User: 4matt - 05 December 2010 16:27

I'm naturally a pretty shy person, and don't have much confidence. However, I did quite a lot of voluntary work as an undergrad, which involved giving presentations to fairly large (up to 80ish) groups, and so I don't have much of a problem with it now. However, there are some tips which I think can really help:

1. Don't be underprepared. Make sure you know what you're talking about, to whom, and even what kind of facilities are available in terms of projector, microphone, etc.

2. Don't be overprepared. I think the worst kind of talks/presentations are those where someone has learned their speech off by heart. I usually find myself turning off once this becomes apparent, as learning something off by heart means that intonation and expressiveness, and also body language, disappear.

3. Keep it simple. Just my own opinion, but I think that presentations which use huge amounts of powerpoint animations, sounds, and other "jazz" are superficial and often try to cover up for lack of content. That's not to say animations aren't sometimes warranted, but these groovy ways of making words appear infuriates me. One of my lecturers as an undergrad once told me "Your slides should be your cue cards". Wise words indeed, I think

4. Finally, remember that you're the expert! Whatever anyone says about your presentation, you are the expert on the topic, and not your audience - otherwise, there would be no point in them being there. I remember so many contradictions between what different lecturers have said, that it's obvious that you don't need to be perfect. Just aim to inform as much as you can.

Hope this helps, and good luck!


User: janus - 05 December 2010 23:53

You are not the only one with this problem. My undergrad presentations where a hell and I could spend (more than) an entire semester pining about them. It got better in my first master years, but I would still be way too nervous and scared.

Then I started my PhD and a lecturer retired just before the start of the semester. Somehow I ended up giving one of his master courses. This was actually decided 5 days after the start of the course, so i had 1 day to prepare myself for a 2 hour theoretical lecture! I learned something about students that day: they know virtually nothing about your area of expertise. Teaching is a lot less stressful than presentations with professors, conferences and such. Some tips that are more specific to teaching:

* Know the topic: if you know it, you can talk about it for hours...
* Know your slides: mentally attach to each slide a part of the topic.
* Prepare some examples: students are not experts, you need to make the abstract more concrete.
* Prepare 2 jokes: A joke relaxes everyone and mostly yourself. I try to find 2 in case I forget one or skip some slides.
* Move around: You will be nervous (at first) but moving around is relaxing and makes everything seem more natural.
* Move around some more: To get really comfortable, you should be able to move around the entire room. Do something crazy like going to the door at the other side, looking outside and telling some random students to be quiet; or start messing with the shades on a sunny day; Look over the shoulders of a random student sitting in the middle row and comment on his notes/exercise. The main point is, it is your class and you can get away with walking around and not saying anything (important) for a minute.
* Dress well: I was 1-3 years older than the students in my class, dressing one 'level' above them helped in establishing a student-teacher relation.
* Be interactive: Ask a question and solicit questions from time to time. It is a bit relaxing as you can focus on the question instead of going on talking for 2 hours. It also improves the classes for the students and you can gauge their understanding a bit and adjust where necessary.
* There will be errors: You will make mistakes, your slides/exercises will contain errors and the textbook the students buy that has been used at many universities for years will still contain errors. It's my second year of teaching and this year I have found all 3 kinds of errors I just described. This may seem scary, but it is liberating to know that not a single student noticed them the previous year... As long as you strive to improve yourself, making errors is acceptable and usually goes by unnoticed.

User: TennieV - 06 December 2010 11:12

Hi Jen,

quite a while ago I did a PGR Tips on this issue:
looking at this thread, maybe I should do another one, but hope this helps you anyway! good luck.


User: willg - 01 May 2011 12:48

Hi, I just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone and that almost 75% of all people experience the same fear that you do.

I'm an externally confident person however I couldn't get over my fears either. You probably try and tell yourself to stop being so stupid and just build up the courage to get on with it but it’s not as easy as that.

I have made a website which is designed to help people like yourself and not have to put up with this type of anxiety and stress every again.

Believe me your fear can be overcome and I am proof that it will be ok and you can start speaking confidently in front of a large audience.

I hope this helps you and if you're interested feel free to check it out.


User: Carolemarek - 03 May 2011 20:24

======= Date Modified 03 May 2011 20:27:38 =======

First of all you are not alone. Public speaking is number one fear for most people [apparently]. The clue to finding solution to your challenge is in your words "I just can't imagine getting through it" - suggest start imagining it frequently; imagine you are doing this with confidence, flair, expertise, enjoyment... any other really positive emotion that you can think of.

Getting 'frozen brain' when presenting [or in interviews] is purely about your nerves causing shallow breathing, racing heart and then, when your poor brain does not get enough oxygen it... stops! So, just breeaathe... it may feel like an age to you but to your audience it will seem as if you are just pausing.

Before entering any situation that you are very nervous about, just take some nice slow deep breaths and say to yourself "I can do this" and repeat words often, often, often - promise you that this works!

Yours in positivity

User: Snowdropbooks - 03 May 2011 23:07

Imagine you are having a conversation with just one student, make your public speaking personal, it removes the fear! Speak to one person at a time. Make the content the most important thing in the room, not you. Remove the 'you' from the event. Remove the 'ego' from the event, make the content central not you. This will lead to a loss of anxiety and fear. I've spoken to audiences of 300 plus, but I am really in my head only having a conversation with one person where the only focus is the material and I am simply directing their attention to that material. Ask someone to film you, watch it, study it, cringe, then make improvements. Good luck.

User: CharlotteSmith5 - 30 May 2012 14:52

======= Date Modified 30 May 2012 16:55:04 =======
============= Edited by a Moderator =============

Hi There,

I used to always have exactly the same problem until I read a book called "Taming your Public Speaking Monkeys" by Dee Clayton. It's really well written, and it has helped me to get this into perspective. It makes you think about the voices in your head which tell you that you can't do something or that you're going to mess it up. Then you think of them as monkeys and try to communicate with them and control them. It really works and now I feel so much better about speaking in public. I no longer suffer the crippling doubt that I have always had.

*link removed by moderators*

User: wengazi - 31 May 2012 05:59

======= Date Modified 31 May 2012 09:58:48 =======
============= Edited by a Moderator =============

*Removed by PostGrad Forum team - SPAM*

User: PublicSpeakingIsEasy - 11 March 2014 19:27

Hey Jen,

Nice to know that you're interested to know how to overcome the number one fear of all time. :) I've been able to write much about this subject of public speaking, but here I am gonna share to you two things that I do to help me ease my fear every single time I go on stage. (yeah, I still have the nerves even after many years of experience):

1. Preparation is KEY. I believe that the number one reason why people fear public speaking so much is because they don't feel equipped to do it. They do not have the necessary preparation to back them up. When you're equipped, you're confident about yourself and others.

2. Practice, Practice, Practice. This is a crucial step in preparing for a speaking engagement. Most people leave it all to memory or luck. Not me. I always make it a point to practice AT LEAST 3 times before I go out of the house for my speaking engagement.

I hope that helps.. but if you like to know more how I do it, here is my website:[url=showthumb][/url]
Just check out the things I've talked about there. I'm sure you'll find something that could help you better.


User: LeannR - 12 March 2014 12:05

Make sure you have your speech printed and take it with you on the stage. Of course, you shouldn't just read from it - it would make you sound robotic - but the idea that you can use it anytime you want will really help you stay calm. And make sure you talk a lot on the day of the performance just to work out your vocal chords.

User: marasp - 26 July 2014 22:49

You can take the course 'Talk the Talk' at Futurelearn. It has just started! Recommended. It will work miracles with your public speaking and it's free.

User: allenjackkson - 11 March 2019 12:50

Most people experience nerves setting in when they have to go on the stage and speak publicly. While the fear of public speaking is common, it is not impossible to overcome it.

Here are 10 tips to overcome your fear of public speaking.

1. Practice in front your friends and work on the feedback provided
2. Organize your thoughts and your material to feel relaxed and calm while speaking
3. Rehearse in front of the mirror and pay attention to your body language and movement, hand gestures, facial expressions etc.
4. Breathe in and try to get into the rhythm
5. Opt for a public speaking course by a professional who’s mastered the field
6. Speak about a subject you are passionate about
7. Focus on your material but try to capture the audience’s attention
8. Speak slowly, clearly and concisely
16 to 28 of 28 PhD Forum Posts

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