Seven Ways to Reduce Your Fear of Speaking

This is an excerpt from The Media Training Bible, available in paperback and for the Kindle

Most people experience nervousness during media interviews, and probably for the same reason—they don’t want to make an embarrassing mistake that humiliates them in front of their peers and prevents them from achieving their goals.

There is no silver bullet for eliminating nervousness entirely. But you can learn how to manage your fear more effectively and lose some of the butterflies that hinder your performance.

Here are seven tips and techniques that have helped me—and thousands of our clients—over the past decade.

1. Practice makes perfect

Most people tell us that the single best way to reduce their fear is by getting familiar with their material and conducting several practice interviews in advance. Our trainees also tell us that their fear recedes as they gain more media experience. Therefore, take every opportunity you can to practice with smaller media outlets before giving your first “big time” interview.

2. But you don’t have to be perfect

No one is judging you on a scale of perfection. You’re allowed to stumble over a phrase, say the occasional “ummm,” or forget a word here and there. If you focus on doing the big things well—delivering quality content with passion—the audience is probably going to form a positive impression of you.

3. Just because you feel it doesn’t mean they see it

You’re a bad judge of your own nervousness. Don’t assume the audience can sense your pounding heart or sweaty palms—they usually don’t.

4. Remember, it’s not about you

Stop focusing on your own fears and focus on the audience instead. Think about their lives, their needs, and their concerns. Remind yourself how your information can make their lives better. Try to serve them. It’s not about you. It’s about them.

5. Stay in the moment

If you make a mistake, stay in the moment. Don’t beat yourself up while the interview is still in progress—if you lose your focus, you’ll make additional mistakes and compound your original error. Self-flagellate after the interview ends if you must, but never during the interview.

6. Take long, deep breaths

Adults breathe an average of 12 times per minute. That number goes up when you get stressed, which leads to a reduced concentration of carbon dioxide in your blood and oxygen in your brain. Taking long, deep breaths can help you regain control of your respiration, so try this exercise shortly before your interview begins. Start by slowly exhaling all of the air from your lungs. Next, slowly inhale through your nose until your lungs are full. Hold your breath for as long as you can comfortably do so. Slowly release the air through your mouth until your lungs feel empty again. Repeat this exercise 10—12 times.

7. Flex your muscles

You can also use a modified version of a technique called “progressive muscle relaxation” by flexing—then releasing—different muscles. Sit in a comfortable chair and close your eyes. Flex the muscles in your face for 10 seconds, then relax for 20 seconds. Move on to your neck and repeat the same exercise, continuing on with your shoulders, then your arms, then your hands, then your chest, then your stomach, and downward until you reach your toes.

This post is an excerpt from “The Media Training Bible,” available from Amazon here and for the Kindle here. Readers in Europe can find it on Amazon UK here.