Overcoming the fear of public speaking

Many talented people with expert skills or knowledge would rather die than stand up and speak in public. However, a simple four-step programme might be all that stands in their way of speaking out and being heard, writes Eugene Yiga.

It’s been said that people fear public speaking more than death. Not so for Monique Rissen-Harrisberg, founder and CEO of The Voice Clinic. Over the last three decades, the company has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals, from politicians and CEOs to television presenters and sports stars.

“The key is to find a balance between projecting confidence and enthusiasm whilst retaining integrity and sincerity in all forms of communication,” she says. “It’s about developing a voice that inspires others while projecting a professional, confident, and commanding presence.”

Here are four key tips that can change your life too.


1. Do you mumble, speak too quickly, slowly, or softly?

If you mumble, people assume you are lazy and inconsiderate. If you speak too softly, you’ll appear hesitant and unsure of yourself. What’s the solution?

“The quality of our voice accounts for 38% of our communication message,” says Rissen-Harrisberg. “We are assessed according to the tone, pace, pitch, and clarity of our speech. One needs to speak with a deep, resonant, and clear voice that projects strength, warmth, clarity, and authenticity.”


The key is to find a balance between projecting confidence and enthusiasm whilst retaining integrity and sincerity in all forms of communication.

2. Do you need to improve your accent?

We tend to speak the way our friends and family speak, as those are the people who have the most influence over us when we are young. But in today’s world, it is essential that we are understood, and that whatever language we are using should be true to its rhythms and flow.

“When one is speaking English, one needs to be familiar with the formation of both consonants and vowel sounds in order to understand how the language should be articulated,”
Rissen-Harrisberg says. “The flow of speech and neutral vowel is also essential to effective English pronunciation.”


3. Do you need to upgrade your presentation skills?

Whether it’s the structure and content or the delivery and style, most people could improve their presentation skills. What’s the best way to avoid death by PowerPoint?

“One needs to pay particular attention to the introduction and conclusion of the presentation, and also one’s dress and image,” Rissen-Harrisberg says. “One also needs to learn various tools of the trade, such as ‘hooks’, opening statements, participation strategies, and many more tricks to keep an audience interested in what you have to say.”


4. Are you terrified of public speaking?

When one stands up to address an audience, this is often accompanied by ‘butterflies in the stomach’, an increased heart rate, breathlessness, perspiration, and a feeling of being out of control. How does one deal with these unpleasant feelings?

“An adrenal response often produces a fight or flight response,”
says Rissen-Harrisberg. “One needs to turn the ‘flight’ (wanting to remove oneself from the situation) into a ‘fight’ (seizing and making the most of the opportunity). One needs to turn fear into enthusiasm and energy by focusing on skills and techniques instead of bowing down to nervousness and anxiety.”    

  • By Eugene Yiga