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Do you fear public speaking? These tips might help you

Public speaking is frightening, but setting the right practice and adjusting your mindset can help.

[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

When hosting a political event in Berlin, Katharina Hicker was the youngest person in the room among high-level politicians and stakeholders. Although she knew she would be just fine once she started speaking, she feared the first impression. She was advised to “let the moment linger,” which involved taking a deep breath and assessing the situation before immediately panic-talking. 

Today, she has led teams at Careem, Google, and McDonald’s and serves as managing director of Castleforbes Communications, and is the co-founder of The Coach HQ and Speakeasy. 

Similarly, Rachel Pether, Hicker’s partner at Speakeasy and a TV host, watched countless videos on YouTube to improve her public speaking before her close friend advised her to be her authentic self. 

For many, speaking in front of people leaves them with a racing pulse, shallow breathing, and weak limbs. It is a nerve-wracking experience, but it doesn’t have to be, you want to fix them.  

Hicker and Pether, who provide online and in-person courses for public speaking, tell us what got them to where they are today. 

So, calm your nerves with these effective tactics. 


Begin by asking yourself why you are looking to excel in your communications skills and draw an alignment with your personal or professional goals. If you understand the motivation, you will continue to commit and push yourself. “Your ‘Why’ factor can inspire others, share knowledge, advance your career, or build confidence,” says Hicker. 


You can prepare yourself both physically and mentally by working on your mindset and focusing on the aspect you are good at first before moving on to the areas of improvement. 

Flipping the negative into positive affirmations is also a good mental practice for public speaking.

“Practice gratitude. Instead of being nervous, be grateful for the opportunity to share your views or experiences. Tune in to what you’re telling yourself about public speaking and make those messages more positive,” says Pether. 

Hicker also provides insight into the best ways to prepare yourself – know your audience. “Understand your audience’s knowledge level, concerns, and circumstances. Tailor your content accordingly and connect with them before the presentation.” 

Using breathing techniques to calm nerves and then amping yourself up by engaging in something energetic for 1-2 minutes before walking on stage is also helpful.


Let your true self shine through. Hicker notes that audiences appreciate genuine and relatable speakers and that authenticity fosters a deeper connection. “Sharing your personal experiences, stories, and lessons learned makes your content 10x more memorable,” she adds. 

Comparing yourself to others won’t help if you only bring yourself down in the process. “While there is value in thinking about what you like/dislike in other people’s presentation styles, authenticity is key,” says Pether.


“Your words make up 7% of the overall impact you will have on your audience. Most rely on body language, tone, pace, rate, and facial expressions. To elevate your public speaking, enhance your key message, and make a long-lasting impression, you must master your non-verbal cues,” says Hicker. 


Be open to feedback from those around you, and practice in front of them so they can provide you with notes you may overlook. Pether also recommends recording yourself on camera and on only audio to listen/watch back and provide awareness of areas of improvement. “It can be painful at first to watch/listen to yourself, but it will make you aware of things such as filler words or poor body language. Once you’re aware, it’s easier to eliminate.” 

Being an active listener is adjusting your communication styles, enhancing your skills, and adapting to audience preferences. “Communication is always a two-way street, and listening plays a crucial role in building credibility and ultimately influences how your audience thinks, acts, and feels,” adds Hicker. 


Confidence is a tricky skill, especially for people with stage fright. The simple answer to this conundrum is to just go for it and remind yourself that “action begets confidence, not the other way around,” says Pether. 

Most of the time, it can be helpful to dive into the root of the lack of confidence. “My approach is centered around addressing and acknowledging fears and ultimately transforming these fears into a performance driver. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should your audience?” adds Hicker. 


Some things are out of your control. However, write up a list of potential issues and their potential solutions to keep yourself on the safe side should the unexpected occur. 

Hicker suggests that humor can be a safety net. “Use humor or engage the audience. If you face technical issues or forget what to say, use humor to lighten the mood. Alternatively, involve the audience by asking questions or seeking their input.” 

Pether says it’s important to be prepared for technical difficulties. “There are always last-minute changes at live events. I’ve had all the lights in the auditorium go off, microphones not working, accidentally sworn on stage, and fallen down the stairs. To overcome these – be prepared and keep your sense of humor.” 

“Life is not perfect, and no one expects you to be either. If you make a mistake, gracefully acknowledge it and move on.”

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Suha Hasan is a correspondent at Fast Company Middle East. More

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