Getting to the Root of the (Fear of Public Speaking) Problem, Part V

In previous blogs I discussed four sources of the fear that many have regarding presentations:  first, a negative, repetitive pattern from the past, such as a parent putting you down;  second,  a traumatic experience, such as fellow classmates laughing at you because you stuttered; third, personal insecurities; and fourth, being shy or from a culture that does not value eye contact.

The last source of presentation anxiety that I have discovered in clients and students comes from procrastination. Perhaps you feel it’s  “a pain” to write out what you’re going to say or  you’re super busy and figure you’ll get to it eventually. What ends up happening is you have put yourself in panic mode.

The emotional side of the brain likes easy, fun, new and no stress;  it doesn’t like hard and stressful, especially at the last minute. This creates a strong sense of uncertainty and a threat to your status if you think you might not pull it off.

The best advice is to start early—two weeks ahead if possible. Draw a mind map for yourself that contains your thesis statement, purpose, and main points. From there, spend a few minutes each day developing your subpoints and collecting support information. Allow sufficient time to learn the material and rehearse, standing up with aids.

It only make sense if you start early you will be more relaxed, organized and able to have fun! And your brain will thank you! If all else fails, go to my site under “learning resources” and purchase the fill-in-the-blanks informative speech and/or persuasive speech template.

Future blogs will deal with physical and mental methods of  reducing the anxiety.

Marsha Freedman

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Getting to the Root of the (Fear of Public Speaking) Problem Part IV

The fourth reason—and perhaps the most logical one of all— accounting for the fear of public speaking,  is a culture difference.  If you come from a culture that values looking away from another person as a sign of respect, as in the Asian culture, you may feel uncomfortable with a group of people staring at you.

It is important to understand that, in this culture, when the audience is looking at you and paying attention, it is a positive sign you are doing well.  To get more comfortable, rehearse your presentation with a small group of two to three people, then five to seven, gradually moving up to a larger group. Small gradual changes will make this transition easier for you.

Practice looking at each person for 10-15 seconds, then move on to the next person. Typically, each person will give you a signal to move on. It may be a nod, a smile, or a blink. Think  “one set of eyeballs” at a time, rather than looking at the entire group. This technique should help make it easier for you, as most people don’t have difficulty with a one-on-one conversation.

If your fear of speaking comes from discomfort making eye contact, these tips should prove to be helpful. If you are shy, the same tips apply. Keep in mind that making eye contact with the audience not only increases your credibility, it shows the audience you are confident and care about them. It will definitely be worth the effort to improve in this important area of non-verbal communication.

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Getting to the “Root” of the Problem, Part III

In the previous blogs, I addressed two common sources of presentation anxiety:  first, a negative, repetitive pattern from the past, such as a parent putting you down,  and second,  a traumatic experience, such as fellow classmates laughing at you because you stuttered.

A third source of anxiety is personal insecurities. You may think you are too fat, too thin, too old, too young, that no one will pay attention to you, or they will think you are incompetent. Understand that we all have insecurities; you’re not alone. However, those who become successful speaking before groups have faced their insecurities and resolved them in some fashion. As an example, if you think that you are too young and no one will take you seriously, rethink this.

You’re the speaker, so you must have some experience or knowledge that no one else in the room has; give yourself permission to succeed. Next, say to yourself, “I know at first that people may be judging me based upon my age, however, by the time I wrap up my presentation, they’ll be thinking differently. I am confident in my abilities and have great information to share.”

The key to dealing with your insecurities then  is to face them head on and come up with a logical plan for dealing with them. Once you do this, you will be more relaxed and able to actually enjoy speaking before groups.

Marsha Freedman
Express Yourself Communications, Inc.
Trainer, coach, professional speaker

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Getting to the “Root” of the Problem, Part II

In the previous blog, I mentioned that one of the reasons for fear of speaking is a traumatic experience from the past, such as stuttering as a youth. In this and the next few blogs, I will be addressing other causes of anxiety.

I am currently working with a coaching client who grew up with a mother who was always negative. Whatever my client did, she was always put down. Twenty plus years later, she still has the image of her mother speaking disparingly to her replaying over and over in her mind.  My client was transferring what happened years ago to any potential speaking experiences—avoiding them at all costs—thinking that her audience would, like her mother, put her down.

Once we realized what she was doing, we had to reframe her views about public speaking. My client has worked in her industry for 14 years, works for a highly reputable institution, and has every reason to feel proud to present the institution’s services. It will take time and perseverance to change the old way of thinking, but she is determined to not let the past determine her future.

Marsha Freedman
Presentation Skills Trainer, Coach, Professional Speaker


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Getting to the “Root” of the Problem

Today, I was digging out two old philodendrons that had never grown from my yard. As I hacked away in the South Florida heat — silly me, doing this at noon — I realized the roots were resisting my efforts and were buried much deeper than I had originally thought.

In my work as a presentation skills trainer and coach, I sometimes notice that my clients’ fears of speaking in public —much like my philodendrons— have deep down, hard to reach roots that are holding them back. Sometimes the “root” of the problem is a negative, often embarrassing, situation from the past. The mind keeps playing the scene over and over, leading the mind to think the event will repeat itself. Tony Robbins calls this a negative anchor. A anchor is great for keeping a boat in place but not so great for a person who wishes to speak before groups.

A client of mine who expressed a fear of speaking — once we went back in time —discovered that his negative anchor was stuttering in elementary school. He was now in his 40s, but the thought of people laughing at him — much like the kids did in school —kept him from speaking in public. Once this bit of ancient history was uncovered, he was able to face the present task of speaking and did so, quite successfully, that same day!

If you have a fear of speaking, perhaps something in your past is weighing you down. Try to get to the root of it, either on your own or with a counselor, and you may discover  “smooth sailing” ahead!

Upcoming workshop at

Marsha Freedman
Presentation skills trainer, coach, professional speaker

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Brainpower for Improved Speech Delivery

I recently read the book This Year I Will by MJ Ryan. It explains how the brain works and clarifies why so many of our efforts to change habits fail. It turns out that our amygdala, part of the emotional brain, often hijacks the thinking brain. This explains why we may think, “I need to lose ten pounds. I will not go to Dunkin’ Donuts for two weeks and I will not eat chocolate chip muffins” but then we do exactly what we promised ourselves not to do. The emotional brain does not like change; it likes fun, easy, new and stress-free. It searches for pleasure/pain and safety/danger.  Eating chocolate chip muffins brings me a lot of pleasure, so my emotional brain wants me to continue this habit. In order to break this habit, I have to replace the muffins with something I also enjoy: looking great at my son’s upcoming wedding.

What does this have to do with delivering a presentation? Everything!

1. Rehersing many times with your visual aids will make it EASY once it’s time to deliver live.
2. Planning for audience involvement and some appropriate humor (not joke-telling) will make it FUN for you, as well as the audience.
3. Learning ahead of time about your audience—their needs, fears, possible objections, knowledge level, demographics—will help you customize your presentation, connect with the audience and minimize any outbursts. Result: you will feel like you are in more control or SAFER.

Understanding how the thinking brain and emotional brain work can help you to be more successful at delivering a presentation and winning over your audience.  Learn more by reading MJ Ryan’s book or doing research on the brain. It’s “food” for thought!

Marsha Freedman
Presentation and interpersonal communication skills trainer, coach, and professional speaker
 or toll free: 888.474.5233

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Psychology of Color in Presentations

"Changing the world one presentation at a time"

When preparing a PowerPoint presentation, have you ever stopped to consider the psychology of the colors you selected? Kevin Lerner of the Presentation Team wrote an extensive article on this very topic. He claims that the colors you choose will impact the emotional response of your audience. I believe that this is an important fact we need to take into consideration. Do we want to spure our audiences to take an action, such as donating blood or  “going green”? What if our purpose is to motivate our sales force to reach their monthly goals? The use of the appropriate colors could prove to be very useful…. Read Kevin’s full article at (By the way, he is very talented at designing PowerPoints; I have used his services several times.)

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