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University of Tennessee
Managing Your Fear of Public Speaking

Building on What You Know: In Their Own Words

Over the years, I have asked students to complete a brief survey about their anxiety. Students who completed the survey either attended a speech anxiety workshop or were enrolled in public speaking classes specifically for speech anxious students. When you read the following list, think of how many of these statements sound familiar and how they can be corrected. Following are selected responses to certain prompts (the majority of the statements listed have been mentioned by many respondents):

What are your biggest fears about public speaking?

Fear of...
  • Failure
  • Blanking out
  • Mispronouncing words
  • Audience not paying attention
  • Talking in front of a group
  • Feeling so nervous at podium,
    I can’t speak
  • Forgetting everything
  • Not being loud enough
  • Looking and sounding ridiculous
  • Not making sense
  • Being boring
  • Not getting my point across
  • Mumbling
  • Looking nervous
  • Voice shaking
  • Appearing unprepared
  • Not accomplishing goal
  • Making a mistake
  • Audience perception
  • People knowing how nervous I am
  • Sounding stupid
  • Forgetting some facts that I know
  • Being center of attention
  • Saying the wrong thing
  • Messing up
  • Shaking
  • Everyone judging me
  • Repeating myself
  • Forgetting what I should say next
  • Everyone staring
  • Turning red
  • Being laughed at
  • Making eye contact
  • Sounding misinformed/unprepared
  • Not making sense
  • Uninteresting topic
  • What to do if something goes wrong
  • Losing my place
  • Having a panic attack
  • Forgetting everything I had intended
    to say, just like I practiced
  • Rejection, people thinking I am stupid
  • Losing my train of thought
  • Sweating, red face
  • How to break the ice
  • Not conveying the message like I practiced
  • Sounding unprofessional
  • Finishing too early, not making time
  • Stuttering
  • Losing my place, stumbling over words
  • Physical signs of nervousness, everyone knowing I am nervous
  • Not being understood
  • Losing my audience
  • Leaving out important information
  • Having people pay attention/having them not pay attention
  • Embarrassment
  • Questions from audience
  • People judging me
  • Saying “um”
  • Trembling voice
  • Not being able to finish speech
  • Bad grade
  • No organization, messing up the order
  • Keeping my thoughts straight
  • Being judged negatively by the audience
  • Losing control
  • Lack of audience interest/attention
  • Failure
  • Humiliation

What tips/tricks have you found to deal with your anxiety
that you would suggest to a friend?

  • Being prepared
  • Just do it and get over yourself
  • Using nervousness as excitement
    and energy
  • Rehearse
  • Think positive and have fun
  • Find a “happy place”
  • Know that what you are feeling is normal
  • See it as an opportunity to positively
    affect someone's life
  • Prepare well
  • Positive self talk – I will do well
  • Practice
  • Use breathing techniques
  • sleep the night before
    and eat something before
  • “What if...” positive things
  • Familiarize do not memorize
  • Tap foot
  • Realize that other people
    feel the same way
  • Try to speak in public more – in class, etc.
  • Keep breathing
  • Think about reaching the audience,
    not what I’m feeling
  • The more speeches I give, the easier it is
  • Imagine myself doing a great job
  • Deep breathing and muscle relaxation
  • Have faith in myself
  • Know that everyone makes mistakes
  • Relax
  • Smile more often
  • Go early
  • Have notecards
  • Speak louder than normal
  • Like what you are talking about
  • Realize that the audience
    wants you to succeed
  • Slow down
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Positive visualization
  • Take your time
  • Regard your speech as having a conversation with someone