11 Rules for Public Speaking with Social Anxiety

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Public speaking with social anxiety is a common issue. Forbes suggests roughly 80% of people feel anxiety before public speaking. 

Presenting is more common in our everyday lives then one might think. People present at work meetings, a comedy open mic, or simply just
introducing yourself to a group of friends.

Learning to perform in public can be an exciting, and rewarding process. To present like the greats, it’s best to start with the  11 rules they followed.

Check out my story on how my social anxiety improved my public speaking skills. 

This may be helpful to those that get in their own way; however, many people such as myself learn from and prefer clear-cut directions and specific examples. Here’s practical advice that you can take into effect from today.


1. Keep your Chin up, Literally

Have you heard of the saying, “If you keep your head down you might as well frown” No? probably because I just made it up on the spot.

A Strong posture inspires confidence and reduces stress. Always keep your chin raised above your Adam’s apple, and/or collarbone. It might feel like you’re over tilting your neck in bourgeois fashion; that’s completely normal.

The use of eye contact is a powerful way to connect with your audience. Avoiding eye contact. away from your message, especially in more intimate settings. 

Poor body language makes you lose confidence in your self. It’s been proven that proper posture helps anxiety.


2. Pace Yourself

Speaking too fast is a symptom of public speaking anxiety. Most people fear silence, no matter what kind of presentation it is. Silence is your friend.

Give the audience time to digest your thoughts, then listen to them. Believe it or not, humans are terrible multi-taskers

Slow and steady is the key to digestion. Even people that eat quickly, digest less of their food compared to the slower eaters.

An added bonus is giving you more time, to compose sentences. Avoiding this rule can give results lower than your potential.

For example, proposing an idea to improve efficiency at a company meeting. You’ve practiced all week for this presentation. Perfecting key points, and preparing responses to possible questions.

After the meeting, you feel confident that this proposal will help the company, and move you closer to a promotion.

Unfortunately, there is no action taken on your proposal. Even though you presented all the benefits of your plan. Because they did not digest(fully understand) what you said.

You might notice that the best ideas are not always listened to. They don’t even make it from point A to point B. Doesn’t matter how great an idea is, or how funny a joke is if nobody understands it.

The key to this is to pause after every 1-2 sentences. Helping listeners  digest what you’re saying. Resulting in them take their time to see the benefits of you’re proposal.

This is a great example of pacing done by stand-up comedians. Chris James for example.

Realize that the audience only laughs after he pauses. A longer pause results in stronger laughs.


3. Memorize

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If you have time prepare for a presentation in advance, that’s what you must do. The best cure for public speaking anxiety is knowing what you’re going to say in advance.

What does this look like?

List your topics, and put them in order e.g. If you’re selling a car, prepare a mental list of what you’re going to discuss

Step 1: Talk about Exterior

Step 2: Talk about Interior

Step 3: Discuss maintenance

Step 4: Discuss Payment

I write down a similar list and review it a few times before every presentation. Extremely helpful, especially when I first started.

Why? Because having a mental plan/list your insurance. Forgetting what you were going to say isn’t that big of a deal. You can always improvise on the spot. humans everyday natural conversations.

Forgetting what you’re going to talk about is completely different. This results in stalling, and giving you no room to improvise and can completely derail a presentation.

That’s why Experienced public speakers, such as comedians never need to stall.


4. Practice the Speech Before Hand

Figuring out when you’re ready. How does two-time NBA champion Stephen Curry know when he shot enough 3 pointers during a warm up before a huge game? When it feels natural and effortless, to the point where he doesn’t need to think about the steps.

You should be able to present your future presentation off the top of your head. Even if you didn’t sleep for 24 hours straight. I’m not saying that’s a likely scenario. However repeating from memory is much more difficult under with social anxiety.

Practice is important, because it lets the logical mind take over. Preventing public speaking anxiety from making you forget the most important points.

Like when you realize you got an answer wrong, a moment after completing an exam.

Even if you pull it off, with less practice. Memorization helps bring more emotion to the speech.

Practice at game speed. Set a timer and recite your presentation at least 5 times in a row without needing major pauses or errors. Even when you get nervous, you’ll still be able to present off muscle memory.


5. Speak with Purpose

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Why are you speaking? Do not speak without a clear objective. This leads to rambling. Going from topic to topic leaves listeners confused, and disengaged. 

Your words are currency, they won’t be taken seriously if they’re easily accessed.

The less you speak the more value your words hold because they are a rare commodity. Thinking does not mean being quiet. 

Before you speak, think to yourself: Is this funny, informative, positive? Do I think this comment will add any type of value? Don’t get caught up in what other people think, confidence comes from within.

As long as you believe the words that come out of your mouth are important, that’s what they become.

We’ve all been guilty of over complaining or whining. The worst habit of all, oversharing just to fill the void of silence.

People are interested when they realize you provide more value with words.

Encouraging more positive conversations for the socially anxious.

Example:  Speaking with Purpose

For example, let’s say you’re speaking to a girl at a bar, make a mental note.

“I’m going to introduce myself to that girl at the bar. Ask a couple Questions about her life, get her number and ask for a date.”

Let me break down the key points of this example

1. The opener

The most important part of speaking is starting off strong. First impressions last. If you know what you’re saying at the beginning, the audience will have confidence in what you need to say, and let their guard down.

Once people are hooked in, they tend to stay along for the ride. Have you ever watched the first season of a show? Then continued to watch the continuing seasons even though they weren’t nearly as good?

2. Objectives

Having objectives allows you to have productive conversations. It’s easier to act appropriately when you’re given guidelines. The example above had four objectives: Introduce yourself, ask questions, get number, ask on a date.

Now, you can’t get lost in a conversation because you know what you’re talking about.

3. Closing Statement

The most important and simple skill that many people lack. Everything in the world is given to the closer. Without closing: You can’t turn an interview into a job, turn a conversation into a date, turn a presentation into a proposal.

We always appreciate a good closer.

Nobody’s favorite movie with a terrible ending,

This might seem unnatural, but I assure you it’s not. Human’s are a tribe species and communicating with others is key to thriving in society. The more people you know, the further you go. Do you think that the smartest people get the best jobs? unfortunately nope. Always Remember, as soon as you’re interacting with other people, everything is personal.


6. Don’t know what to say? Ask the Audience a Question

You’re in the middle of a presentation, mouth dry, brain foggy, you don’t know what to say. Don’t worry, presenting is a difficult job, the hardest working talk show hosts, speak for 4- 5 hours a week.

Try asking an open-ended question, instead of a yes or no question. This engages the audience while giving you time to recollect your thoughts.

Example of questions a presenter might ask when giving a presentation about teenage sleeping habits to a class of teenagers.

Presenter: Why do you think teenagers don’t get much sleep?

Presenter: How should we get teenagers to get more hours?

Presenter: When should we open schools and why?

Presenter: What is a good sleeping environment?

The trick to open-ended questions is asking a question that can’t be solved with one word. Questions that can lead to a story. Never get scared to expand on a question.

Another trick is to make a statement and then asks somebody’s opinion

e.g. pt.2

Presenter: What issues does the younger generation have, that we might not know about?

Teenager: I feel like we barely get enough sleep.

Presenter:  Many students argue the stress of completing homework while doing extracurricular activities makes it tough to make time for sleep.

Presenter: What do you think about that?


7. No caffeine: Soda, Energy Drinks, Coffee

Caffeine is a stimulant. Making it difficult to relax and control the pace of a conversation. Because it raises heart rate and makes you jittery.

For those that are already anxious, this could make your sentences incoherent and lead to a higher risk of panic attacks.


8. Look the Part

When you look good you feel good. If you woke up the next day saw yourself in Dwayne Johnson’s body. How would you act? More confident no?

When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you do great.

For those that don’t have the money, don’t worry. Here are the necessary tips that work for everyone:

· Haircut

· Clothes: good fit, no stains, no wrinkles (strongly recommended)

· Brushed Teeth

· Clean Shoes

· Smell pleasant: Deodorant, Showering, cologne(If applicable)

Don’t forget to wear appropriate attire for the occasion, you want to feel like you fit in.

If you still need help finding a dressing style, this is the greatest advice ever given to me**. Find a TV show character that you admire and copy their dressing style.**


9. Come Prepared

Coming prepared means being prepared to deal with unforeseen circumstances like a corrupted file, or heavy traffic.

Make sure you back up all your files to a cloud-based service. Allowing you to present from any device. During my presentation in high school, I nearly failed because my computer decided to update mid presentation.

Try to have your presentation props and/or PowerPoint set up the day before to ensure it works. Also, set it up 5-10 minutes before time to present (if applicable).

I can’t tell you how many times this helped me when I realized 5 minutes before a presentation I forgot to add my name.


10. Get Feedback

You finally got it over with. Now all you want to do is go home and curl up into the fetal position. Now, here comes the helpful part.

Try asking for feedback from an honest friend or co-worker that was watching. This is important to do as soon possible while the memory is still fresh in their head.

They’ll share your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll be great at presentations in no time if you keep improving one step at a time.


11. Nobody cares, or Notices

Lacking Self-confidence

Are you worried about making a fool of yourself or screwing up?

Nobody cares. Don’t believe me? Tell me the last three presentations you watched that made you give a negative judgment towards somebody else. Don’t remember right?

When people aren’t positively affected by an event, they tend to forget it. After dealing with work, family, paying bills. People just don’t have the time to think about your presentation.

Presentations are remembered when they are exceptional. The truth is if you can get somebody to remember your presentation. You did a great job.



Thanks for reading. Comment any other presentation tips you have.

Interested in learning more about public speaking. This is the most helpful book “How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking” I’ve used to improve my public speaking skills. You can find it here(affiliate) or here.


1 Comment

  1. […] Seinfeld talks about the most common fear in the world. Speaking in front of people. You can check out my post about overcoming public speaking anxiety here. […]

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