Public speaking - how to overcome nerves and build confidence

public speaking
In the latest part of our series on public speaking, we discover the techniques that the experts use to conquer their fears

A few years ago, Ripley’s Believe It or Not store in Piccadilly Circus conducted a survey of 2,000 people on the subject of common phobias.

Not surprisingly, fears around mortality dominated the top end of the list.

The number one fear was ‘losing a family member’, third was ‘being buried alive’ and fourth was ‘death’. However, it may surprise some of you to learn that number two was ‘public speaking’.

Every month, Speaker Express hosts a club night at 116 Pall Mall. It is a chance to hear from their members about how they managed to not only overcome their fears but also to discover how it can have a positive effect on your personality and your career.

The ability to successfully convey your message to a room of five or 500 people is an invaluable tool when it comes to doing pitches and growing your business.

In the latest part in our series on Public Speaking, we discover the techniques that professional speakers use to tackle nerves before they have to face that fear head on...


Annik Petrou - Co-Founder, Speaker Express

"Before getting on stage, I think about the bigger picture.  I refer to my life as this big canvas and every speaking gig I do is a flick of paint on this masterpiece I am creating. Over the years, the little early 'screwups' won't be visible anymore. No matter who you are and what you do, there will ALWAYS be someone who doesn't like you, and that's okay. If you have a message that will solve someone else's problem than it's your responsibility to get out there and speak up so they can find you."

Freddie Daniels - Toastmasters President

“In 2004 I was asked to present for 30 minutes to 300 marketing professionals. I had never presented to more than 50 people before, the subject was new to me and the presentation was at a conference in New York, an audience I didn’t know. As the event got nearer, I got increasingly stressed. Fear was surging through my body and I could barely sleep. A week before, I told an experienced presenter about my predicament. He laughed: ‘I used to feel like you. I have learned to ask myself “What is REALLY the worst that can happen?” Write down your answers. It’s not nearly as bad as you make out in your mind.’

“As I wrote down my answers, I saw that I had overblown the consequences of this presentation. I knew my subject as well as anyone there. I had slides that would help prompt me. Even if I missed a bit out, they would never know. And it isn’t the greatest crime to answer a question with, 'I don’t know but I’ll find out the answer '. The best way to counter these overwhelming emotions is to engage the logical parts of our brains. Interrogate yourself continuously with the question ‘What is the worst that can REALLY happen?’

Elliot Kay - Co-Founder, Speaker Express

‘For me, especially if you’re new to this, it’s that old cliche of practice, practice, practice. Practice what can go wrong. In my mind I would think ‘what if somebody shouts out? How would I respond? And I would literally be talking to a wall, dealing with tricky situations. It’s a bit like driving. The more you practice, you become more aware and become unconsciously capable and then the more capable of dealing with things if they go wrong.”


Illy Sebah - MC, Speaker and Trainer

"I never ever (EVER) start speaking on any stage until my feet can physically feel the carpet. This grounding techniques allows me to immediately feel present in any room that I’m in and reminds me to not focus on the ' voices in my head' that make me nervous. It’s a simple, but very effective technique that has helped me stay grounded whenever I am delivering a speech or hosting an event.”

Annie Kaszina - PhD, Coach, Speaker, and Author

“When I’m about to get on stage, there are always two things that unsettle me: first, worrying how ‘they’ will judge me, and second, going into ‘earnest’ mode. Both are guaranteed to make me freeze. So, here’s what I do: I never go on stage alone. Before I go on stage, I take a couple of minutes out to connect with my inner child – my minime, a funloving, cheeky exhibitionist – and my Higher Self, the one with all the wisdom. I visualise us doing this wacky thing of putting our hands on top of one another. Then, I don’t even think about feeling wobbly because it’s like the two of them have got my back, and I’m free to just deliver our combined best.”

Hayley Quinn - International Speaker, Author & Presenter

“I press both big toes simultaneously into the ground. This contracts your inner leg muscles, sucks your tummy in, shoulders back and you feel literally more grounded and you have great present posture all at once. "

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Did you know you could hold your meeting, training course or conference at 116 Pall Mall?

Our Business Centre has 15 modern meeting rooms and this year, we launched the IoD Academy – a state-of-the-art training facility on the third floor, providing six additional rooms perfect for corporate hire in the heart of the capital.

Make an enquiry for more information.