Thursday, December 1, 2011

Detailed advice on how to overcome the fear of public speaking

 If you are among the 1 in 5 of us with a fear of public speaking, then you should read an excellent book by a clinical psychologist, Peter Desberg, PhD. Speaking Scared Sounding Good: Public Speaking for the Private Person was published in 2007. You can look inside it at This book contains lots of exercises, stories, and even jokes. Each of the 14 chapters begins with a brief paragraph describing the big idea. They are:

PART ONE: Understanding Your Fear of Public Speaking

1. WHAT REALLY CAUSES STAGE FRIGHT?: Your emotions are a direct result of what’s on your mind. If you think you will give a bad speech, you will be afraid to give that speech. Just thinking about it negatively weeks before the scheduled date can make you tremble. This is because your negative thoughts cause your fear. 

2. IDENTIFYING YOUR FEAR-PROVOKING THOUGHTS: The thoughts that lead to your feelings are not always easy to identify. But once you are able to identify them, they will become the foundation of your plan to control your fear.

3. EVALUATING YOUR FEAR-PROVOKING THOUGHTS: Your fear-provoking thoughts might be based on real-life experiences and may actually be reasonable. On the other hand, they might be the result of exaggeration and/or shaky logic. Identify the thinking process that fuels your fear-provoking thoughts.

4. CONTROLLING YOUR FEAR-PROVOKING THOUGHTS: Reality-testing strategies and positive self-statements can give you a firm handle on your fear-provoking thoughts and can help you get them under control.

PART TWO: Tools for Reducing Your Fear-Provoking Thoughts

5. SETTING GOALS: Set goals that are completely under your control and identify ways to measure how effectively you have met them.

6. LEARNING TO RELAX: Relaxation exercises can help you combat anxiety - your internal response to danger - by lowering it to more manageable levels while making you more alert.

7. DEALING WITH AVOIDANCE AND PROCRASTINATION: Avoidance can lead to missed opportunities in your career and personal life, and procrastination reduces your chances of adequately preparing for a presentation or speech.

8. IMPROVING YOUR MEMORY: Organized information is much easier to remember, especially when the information is personally meaningful to you - and your audience.

9. PRACTICING FOR OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE: After you have thoroughly learned your material, practice under performance conditions. Try to simulate every detail - the minor ones as well as the main ones.

PART THREE: Broadening Your Presentation Skills

10. USING THE PUBLIC SPEAKER’S TOOLBOX: Organize your presentation for maximum effectiveness. State a clear intention for your talk, establish your credentials, and make use of your presentation skills.

11. CREATING THE RIGHT IMPRESSION: Certain strategies can help you be more effective with your audience. Analyzing your audience provides a great deal of information that can improve their impression of you and your presentation.

12. USING HUMOR IN PUBLIC SPEAKING: When used correctly, humor can help you gain the audience’s acceptance and increase the likelihood you’ll be remembered in a good light. Used poorly, it can wreck your presentation. And when used inappropriately, it can even threaten your standing or your job.

13. INTERVIEWING SUCCESSFULLY: The keys to interviewing successfully for a new position are research, preparation, and practice. Take all three very seriously.

14. OVERCOMING SHYNESS: By practicing basic social skills and preparing for social interactions, you can manage the effects of shyness and learn to “sound good” in social situations.

Dr. Desberg is an emeritus professor at California Sate University in Dominguez Hills. Speaking Scared Sounding Good is his third book about stage fright. The other two were Controlling Stagefright : Presenting Yourself to Audiences from One to One Thousand (1988) and No More Butterflies : Overcoming Stagefright, Shyness, Interview Anxiety, & Fear of Public Speaking (1996). His latest funny book is Show Me the Funny.

1 comment:

Sandra Zimmer said...

Hi Richard

Thanks so much for sharing Dr Desberg's book! I like the emphasis on uncovering the neagtive thoughts that trigger the feelings of anxiety.

I wonder if your readers might also enjoy my approach to transforming stage fright and fear of public speaking into authentic presence. My approach has to do with learning to allow emotional energy to flow through the body and out to the audience so that the fear turns into useful energy. I share some of my ideas at my website and my blog Speaking Freely at
My book, It's Your Time to Shine: How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking, Develop Authentic Presence and Speak from Your Heart, is available at

Thanks for allowing me to put my voice into your considerable body of work on this issue. If I cna assist in any way, let me know.

Sandra Zimmer
Self-Expression Center