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How to control public speaking anxiety

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

Public speaking is often listed among the top causes of anxiety, but you can totally manage those nerves using your own physiology. You don’t need medication, liquid courage or your favourite lucky charm in your pocket. You already have what you need.

Most of the anxiety during public speaking is caused or exacerbated by forgetting to breathe. Our brain then goes into panic mode about that, which we interpret as panic about speaking.

The average adult has a lung volume of about 6 litres of air.

During normal breathing, when we are not thinking about it, we exchange about 500mls of air during each breath.

However, when we focus and take a long slow deep breath, we exchange at least 3 litres of air.

As we breathe in, our heart rate quickens slightly. When we breathe out slowly it slows down.

Repeating this a few times before public speaking has the following benefits:

  1. Mindfulness – when you are focused on your breath that’s the uppermost thought in your mind. It grounds you and helps you focus.

  2. It floods our brain with oxygen – our prefrontal cortex where we do our thinking and our hippocampus where are memories live. Flooding these areas with oxygen means they are ‘open for business’ and functioning as they should as you speak.

  3. It slows our heart rate down by putting pressure on one exact spot of our vagus nerve.

  4. Our heart rate and blood pressure stabilise.

Deep breathing before giving a speech will prepare you well, and I recommend one other thing. As the moment approaches where someone is introducing you and about to hand over the microphone or podium, take another deep breath, timed so that you are at the start of your outbreath when you begin to speak.

Sometimes a more intensive intervention is needed to reset pre-programmed reactions to public speaking so if you would like help to combat your public speaking anxiety please contact me for 1:1 coaching. I will help you to quit blocking yourself from sharing your message with the world!

Until next week, take care,


P.S. Don’t forget there is currently a special offer of 60% off The Resilience Hub for those of you who have One4All gift cards floating about, waiting to be spent. The offer and promo code is available to view on and is valid until 30th November.

Image credit: Kane Reinholdtsen via


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