The Secrets to Reducing Your Anxiety When Giving a Speech

Sweaty palms, beads of perspiration, shortness of breath, heart thumping faster…

…does this sound familiar when you are called upon to speak in public?

Do you get butterflies in the pit of your stomach before you get to the podium?

You’re in good company, as there are very few speakers who don’t experience some anxiety or nerves before speaking. And I include many of the world’s best know orators in this, like Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln.

What can you learn from great speakers that might help you to calm your nerves and maybe encourage those darn butterflies to at least ‘fly in formation’?

1.   Be prepared – put the hard yards in before you stand up to speak

Don’t ever turn up at an event or meeting and hope (read ‘pray’) for divine inspiration – expecting that words will pop into your head and that it’ll be alright on the night!

It’s astonishing how many people imagine they can get away with winging a speech because:

  1. They believe it may seem more natural/authentic, or
  2. They got away with doing this once and think they can repeat this miracle.

Rubbish. This doesn’t work and your lack of preparation will be obvious to almost any audience.

In reality, 90% of a good speech is made before you stand up and say a single word and there is no such thing as an outstanding orator who doesn’t practice extensively before speaking.

Just as a golfer who wins a major, or a surgeon who performs life saving surgery, is likely to have spent tens of thousands of hours honing his or her skills – practice really does make perfect and inspire greater confidence.

2.   Don’t try to memorise your speeches

When asked what they fear most about public speaking, most people admit they worry about losing their place, forgetting their words or looking foolish amongst their peers.

And how do many people respond to these fears? They try to memorise their speeches…

…and this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

While you must know your material and the key points you want to make, do not try to memorise your speech.


Think back to when you may have asked you to memorise a poem or something else at school – if you were nervous about remembering this, chances are you rattled it off at mach speed in an effort to be done as quickly as you can.

Now think about trying to memorise a speech that may be 30 or even 40 minutes long. It’s going to be a lot of work, isn’t it?

You bet. And most speakers who rely on memory speak far too fast, as they worry about missing bits of what they wanted to say.

The problems with this are:

1)   The faster you speak, the less opportunity there is for an audience to keep pace with you.

2)   If you struggle to remember parts of your speech (even if you manage to recall things eventually), your audience will likely notice your discomfort – and if people see you aren’t comfortable, they’ll tend to share your view!

3)   You’re cruising for a bruising if, despite your best efforts, you forget parts of your speech.

If you’ve ever had the experience of losing your place in a speech, it can be a really unnerving experience, as 2 seconds seems like 20 and 10 seconds like an hour!

Don’t put yourself under such pressure. Your audience doesn’t expect it and you’re not doing them or yourself any favours.

It’s perfectly alright to have notes you can refer to, which encapsulate key points you want to make – just so long as you don’t read your speech

What fears do you have about speaking in public?

Over to you now – let me know what your greatest worries are about speaking in public and I’ll aim to discuss these in future blogs.

Also, what are the most important lessons you’ve learned over time that help you to calm your nerves before you speak?


your next steps

Discover how to share stories that motivate and persuade

Arrange a business speaking consulation today!

arrange a consultation
Work with Eamonn O'Brien Today

Stop procrastinating.
Start speaking memorably.

If you’ve ever wished to be a public speaker who inspires, now is the ideal time to get started.

get started now
Call +353 1 531 1196