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University of Tennessee
Managing Your Fear of Public Speaking

Sources of Your Anxiety

Internal and External

There are multiple reasons why you have public speaking anxiety and none of them are your fault. Triggers can be internal (within you) or external (due to environmental factors). Whether you lack experience and/or self-confidence or have had a bad speaking experience in the past, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Good speakers respect their audiences and their time. 
  • Consider - what is said (content), how it is said (delivery), and who it benefits (the audience).
  • Balance what you can control (being well prepared and well organized) against what you cannot yet control (such as physical symptoms and self doubt).
  • View each and every speech as a communication opportunity, a chance to share your ideas, information, and personality with others as a beneficial experience. 
  • Realize that public speaking is really “one-on-one” communication with multiple “ones” and most of us feel comfortable speaking with another person.
  • Public speaking is not acting - this is about being yourself, sharing what matters to you with others in a way that is mutually beneficial, and celebrating that opportunity. 
  • Keep in mind that some anxiety/nervousness is to be expected and is normal/healthy. 
  • I suggest keeping it REAL and staying CALM.


R: Respect the audience and the opportunity to interact with them
E: Embrace the opportunity to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences
A: Allow yourself to feel nervous, excited, optimistic, etc. and to harness that energy
L: Learn from each and every public speaking opportunity and speaker.


C: Communicate the commonality of speech anxiety/speech apprehension
    (the most common fear among American adults)
A: Articulate fears and concerns (don’t be embarrassed, talk about your fears)
L: Learn about reasons/causes for physical/mental/emotional symptoms (flight or fight response)
M: Manage speech anxiety though information, self-awareness, and practice
    (put tools in your toolbox, seek opportunities to practice)