The Mental Part of Public Speaking

by Stephen Boyd | September 2, 2010

"How can I get over my nervousness in giving a speech? I'm afraid I'm going to pass out." I'm often asked that question when someone finds out I am a presentation skills coach and trainer. I do have tips for alleviating those feelings.

As Tim Gallwey said in The Inner Game of Tennis, "Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game."

I believe you must prepare mentally to lower the anxiety level. Think "successful speech" thoughts. Kind of in the realm of "act enthusiastic and you'll be enthusiastic," by thinking over and over how successful your speech will be, you become more confident that it will indeed be successful with less anxiety on your part.

As you prepare and are on your way to the room where you are to speak, repeat to yourself such statements as "I am prepared for this speech" (if this is true, of course). "I have practiced my speech aloud and know what I am going to say." "This is good material." "The audience will learn from my speech."

Besides positive thoughts that relate to your speech, include a couple of thoughts about your audience. "The audience wants me to do well," or "The audience will learn from my speech."

Don't allow the negative thoughts such as "I'm so scared, I'm going to pass out," to dominate your thoughts. Push them out with "I'm going to have a winning presentation!"

One other encouraging thought about your nervousness. Even famous people regularly experience what you experience. Elvis Presley said, "I've never gotten over what they call stage fright. I go through it every show." There is comfort in knowing that even "The King" always had stage fright.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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