How to turn your fear of speaking into an advantage

Facing a crowd to deliver a presentation or make a pitch is almost unavoidable in professional circles, but you needn’t let jitters overwhelm you. Make them work for you instead. Here’s how.

Many people fear public speaking, but it’s essential to professional success.

Entrepreneurs and other business leaders must be able to face a crowd and make a pitch, present an idea or close a deal.

Still, fears persist: We might forget what we were saying, start coughing uncontrollably or trip while approaching the stage.

Even seasoned public speakers experience performance anxiety. However, veteran speakers know how to use it to their advantage, transforming that fear into energy.

Here’s what to remember in wrangling presentation anxiety:

1. Recognize that fear is normal.

Feeling scared means you care and want to do your best.

If you don’t recognize and redirect it, fear can manifest itself in physical ways. It can change the way your brain works, causing you to lose concentration and stumble over words. It can cause you to tremble and fidget and can make your heart race, which won’t help your presentation.

Everyone feels fear: actors, musicians, athletes, soldiers—anyone who takes on a challenge. You won’t be able to use these tips if you’re beating yourself up over your anxiety. You’ll just make yourself even more anxious.

2. Reframe your fear.

Consider this scenario: Two friends go skydiving for the first time. One can’t wait to jump; the other chickens out. Why such drastically different reactions to the same event?

The person who can’t wait to jump is thinking about how exciting the ride down is going to be; the fearful person is convinced the parachute won’t open.

By looking at your speaking gig from a different perspective, you’ll have a new emotional reaction to it. You must transform your fear into excitement by anticipating a positive outcome. Feel it in your bones, so your adrenaline rush will come not from jitters but from excitement.

3. Focus on what the audience needs.

Maybe you’re focused on what the audience will think about you. You’re certain they’re judging you, waiting for you to screw up.

Try a different perspective: What do they need help with, and how can you help them? When you know you have knowledge the audience needs and experience that can better their lives, you’ll be excited to share it.

4. Be authentic.

So many speakers focus on being perfect instead of being authentic. The audience doesn’t give one hoot if your PowerPoint presentation freezes, but they will care if you’re trying to be something you’re not. They’ll sense it and tune you out.

If you show up as your real self, people will know you’re human—and they just might relate to you better.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Center for Mindfulness, said, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

You might not eliminate the fear, but you can use it to your advantage.

Ashish Arora is the co-founder of You can find him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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