Speaking Anxiety – Why It Happens & How to Release It

In the speaking world we often say,

“You don’t ever get rid of the butterflies. You simply learn to put them into formation.”

Some highlights on speaking anxiety (the video clip above, which is part of Speak So It Matters – The Online Speaking Course, has more for you):

Speaking anxiety often arrives on scene early. It is stealth.

We may not even realize that it is sabotaging us from the beginning – from the moment we learn we have a speaking opportunity. It’s a mean cycle, really, because early preparation is the very thing that helps us be most successful in our speaking. Successful speaking experiences are one of the fastest paths to decreased speaking anxiety over time. If we sabotage ourselves from the beginning, we not only affect this upcoming speaking event – but also the others that will come after it. See how this can snowball?

The key is to recognize and understand your speaking anxiety so you can address it from the moment it arrives on scene.

How do you address this speaking anxiety?

  1. Recognize that feeling heightened energy in your body about speaking is normal (in fact, it can be beneficial to your speaking). It is believed that speaking anxiety is actually a natural part of our biology (watch the video to hear more about this as well as the benefits of what some call “speaking anxiety” and others call “anticipation.”)
  2. Make a plan for releasing some of that extra energy in your body the day of your speaking. You can do this through moderate exercise such as through a brisk walk, a not-too-strenuous run, or yoga.
  3. Use positive imagery to put yourself in the right mindset for success. Imagine yourself in front of the room, delivering your presentation with confidence and clarity. Feel the satisfaction and thrill of a job beautifully done as though it is real and happening in the moment. You will carry some of this energy into your preparation and your delivery if you do this often enough.
  4. Practice many, many times. Nothing beats practice for supporting your own successful speaking.

Also know this: that extra energy in your body actually fuels a far more exciting speaking delivery, if it is channelled well. We will talk more about how to use your body when speaking so that it “dances” with that extra energy (usually not literally… but maybe sometimes :) ).

My favorite anxiety-reduction strategy is this:

I remind myself often that this is not about me.

It isn’t about me being perfect or amazing as a speaker. It’s about THEM – my audience. It’s about how I can serve them with what I know. From this place of service, my heart opens and my fears fade as I focus on making a difference for them. 


The thing about our stories

For the last ten years, I had this story that I wasn’t capable of quitting alcohol.Close-up of female hands holding teacup in front of opened book

I knew my life would be better without it. I knew it wasn’t serving my most beautiful vision for my life – the one where I am vibrant when I wake in the morning, completely present when I talk with my husband in the evening after the girls are tucked in bed. I knew I was using it to numb out – to take the edge off of what often felt like too many little (and big) things to do.

And yet, even with crystal clarity about the ways in which using alcohol was keeping me at distance from my vision for my life, I had this powerful story that I simply couldn’t give it up. That the edge-softening experience my evening wine brought me – the permission (and physical assistance) it gave me to relax – would always overpower my desire to live this cleaner, more present life.

I tumbled around with this struggle for a while. About three years, at the peak of it. Waking up angry at myself for making choices that I absolutely knew weren’t in service of my vision for my life.
Then, one day, in spite of this persistent story that I wasn’t capable of quitting –  I decided to “not drink for a little while.” I called it my alcohol sabbatical. That night, instead of pouring a glass of wine after work, I made myself some tea.

I went that whole night without having my ritual evening glass(es) of wine. To my absolute astonishment, I did it again the next day. And the next.

Pretty soon, that story about me not being capable of living my evenings without alcohol changed. I had this new story – the one where I wasn’t drinking for a bit, where I was “taking a break” from alcohol.

My alcohol sabbatical is coming up on three years in September. I really like the way I feel. I like not drinking. My life is more vibrant and peaceful. I get along with my amazing husband way better than I did before. I am peaceful and present for my daughters in the evening because I’m no longer hurrying to get to my glass of wine. I am living in congruence with my vision for my life and I love that.

Here’s the thing: alcohol may not be your issue. I know lots of people who have a glass of wine or a beer at night and all is well in their world. They are happy with that. Alcohol is not the problem for them. Instead, maybe…

  • You have a story that says you aren’t capable of getting up on stage and delivering a speech that moves people.
  • You tell yourself you aren’t ready to offer your services at rates that will sustain your business.
  • You believe that you can’t handle all that it takes to have a full and lucrative career and care for your family or your health.
  • You can’t imagine ever figuring out how to fit exercise into your life given the overwhelming list of  things you really must do to be successful in your work and family life.

Or maybe your stories and the beliefs those stories feed are different than these.

Of this I’m sure, though:

There IS a story at the base of whatever is happening in our lives. There is always a story.

Stories are powerful engines. They drive behavior. They energize and they deflate us. This is why, if we want to make a real difference in the world and feel peaceful inside while we do it, we MUST shine a light on the stories that are driving our lives.

We must look clearly and openly at them, the ones toward the surface (“I’ve got way too much to do, I’m not organized enough for this life I lead.”) and the deeper ones (“I’ll never be good enough to make a living doing this work.”)

As you may know, I have created some clear, actionable frameworks for doing great work in the world and crafting and delivering awesome presentations (Speak So It Matters™ and Soul Power to Your Message (my book) are both expressions of these frameworks). I’m proud of those frameworks and know that, when applied full-heartedly, they are excellent guides for brilliant speaking and contribution.

Yet – here’s the secret underneath these frameworks – and all other “frameworks” and “programs” and “systems” you see out there in the world: None of these programs work if we aren’t doing the foundational story and beliefs work to support them. Our stories and beliefs are the underlying, fundamental drivers of all of our behaviors and choices. Which means, they are the wings upon which our future success soars. So, what does it take to turn these stories around?

Turns out, it’s really quite simple:

  1. Shine a light on the stories that drive our behavior
  2. Look at how those stories are serving our vision for our life (or not)
  3. Actively question those stories – play with them, reframe them, hold them lightly, try-on their opposites – and allow the most peaceful and powerful stories to lead

No, I didn’t say “easy.”

The truth is, though, we really do get to decide what stories we buy into.

We decide which ones we play over and over in our mind. We also decide which ones we want to release – both in our minds’ movie-playing experience – and in our day to day action choices. (In the case of alcohol, I had to both begin a story that said I could live without alcohol and I had to create a daily action story that included tea and quiet-time as my end-of-day treat.)

I’m not going to pretend that this stuff is easy. While it is simple in process, our stories become habitual movies in our brain. We’ve got whole deep neural pathways built to keep them in motion. We need support and reminding sometimes to help us build those new pathways for the more-empowering stories in our brain.

Here is what I know for sure, after almost three years of increased peace and freedom from changing just one of my stories: It’s so worth it. Ridiculously, unbelievably awesomely worth it.


My whole life really did change when I changed that story about alcohol – and then took daily action on a new story.

If you are ready to release the stories that are blocking you from getting out there powerfully as a speaker and thought leader, your stories beliefs are the most powerful place to start.

In future posts, I’ll share with you many of my favorite tools for revealing and transforming our beliefs and stories. Stay tuned!


How to decrease your public speaking anxiety

Your hands get sweaty. Your throat tightens.

Your gut turns into a knot. Your head is too full and too foggy to think clearly. Your heart is racing… no, you aren’t about to step into a Nascar vehicle, or being chased by a large black bear. You are preppin’ to step on stage.

I have spoken in front of a room full of people hundreds of times. Hundreds. I am very familiar with this feeling.

For a long time, that’s exactly how I would describe my physical experience before speaking. Things have gotten better for me, after hundreds of presentations, but I still remember… and I still get hints of that anxiety when the stakes are high.

I still totally get it.

The cool part is, I am also powerfully aware how immense the public speaking opportunity is. I have felt the energy in the room shift in meaningful, positive ways because I got on that stage. I have heard the inspired stories of those who took extraordinary action because they were inspired by my speech. Those stories, that energy shift, my own little way of changing the world via the stage is why I am so compelled to get up there. I don’t engage in public speaking because I want the fame or notoriety.

I get on stage because it is a powerful medium for change.

In order to keep getting up on those stages, in spite of all of that anxiety, I had to gather some power tools for dealing with all of that public speaking anxiety. That’s what this post is about.

I want to give you my favorite tools for decreasing public speaking anxiety.

Today, I’ll share my three very favorite speech anxiety strategies: 1. breathing, 2. positive visualization, and 3. audience connection and rapport.


You probably know that our minds are inextricably connected with our bodies. Consciously pulling in a deep belly breath – the kind that makes your belly button push outward – and then releasing all of that air and then some, slows the mind. That process of pulling in breath, distending your belly, releasing the breath deeply, automatically decreases your physical anxiety sensations. Use it anytime you are nervous. It’s amazing.

Positive Visualization

Did you know that you can actually increase your “experience” with positive public speaking events by simply imagining yourself delivering that fabulous presentation? Research has indicated that our imagination of a particular event can actually increase our effectiveness at such an event in real-life (here’s one description of such research.) This means that when you actively close your eyes and imagine yourself delivering a brilliant, amazing presentation, you are that much closer to delivering that brilliant presentation in real-life. We also know (from other smart researchers), that positive visualization significantly decreases anxiety. I often spend at least a few minutes each day I prepare for a presentation, imagining myself on stage delivering a riveting, engaging public speaking presentation – totally connected with the audience, watching their heads nod in agreement, smiling – and it makes me actually quite excited to get on stage and have that experience. Try it!

Audience Connection and Rapport

Speaking of watching the audience nod their heads, smiling… there is nothing more effective for decreasing any public speaking anxiety I might be experiencing than feeling genuinely connected with my audience. When I spend a solid amount of time thinking through what they need, what I can share that will truly make their lives better, I feel awesome getting up on stage and adding that kind of real value for them. Spending that time thinking about them, caring about their lives and needs, and then delivering my speech or training with that approach make me feel really great. It makes me forget that I am “on stage” and allows me to just dive deeply into making a difference in the world.

I have a list of great strategies for decreasing public speaking anxiety that I would be happy to share with you.

Click here to download the list: Strategies for Decreasing Public Speaking Anxiety (no opt-in required.) Let me know which are your favorites.

And please, if you have other strategies that aren’t on that list, share them in the comments or send them to me via email so I can share them with our community.

Thank you, jjjj56cp, for sharing this cool black bear photo for all to use and enjoy.

Why Your Soulful Business Needs Your Inner Peace

Bear with me while I share a little about myself and my business (it’s with you in mind, of course.)

I’ve been in business for myself for over four years. It has been one hell of a four years.

In that four years, I’ve:

  • Rebranded four times (yep, FOUR.)
  • Changed my focus at least four times
  • Revamped my website at least five times
  • Written and produced a content-rich, super useful multi-media program under a brand I changed almost immediately, rendering the lovely program unusable in its current form.
  • Produced a DVD home-study workshop based on a live workshop I facilitated again under a brand I no longer use. The whole thing, in its current form, is also unusable.
  • And, of course, plenty more… (but let’s not belabor this too much… hmph.)

Why am I telling you this? What does this have to do with you?

Well, I have a hunch you may have experienced (or be experiencing… or starting to experience) some of what I have experienced in my own journey as a soul-inspired business person.

It’s part of the plight of those of us doing the somewhat “squishy” work of changing lives with our message. There are so many ways we can approach our work in the world, so many different kinds of people we could help. And often, we want to help them all.

You start digging in and it can get really messy – very confusing. And really quite anxiety-provoking.

I spent so much of my time in my first few years searching for the “right” way to grow my business, my gut tied into a knot wondering if I was making the “right” decisions, choosing the “right” tagline, creating the “right” offer, producing the “right” program. I bought marketing programs, hired coaches with big promises and spent so many conflicted hours trying to be present with my daughters while I was totally obsessed with what “to do next” in my business.

As passion-driven business owners, we start to think that intense anxiety is “normal.”

Maybe you know what kind of anxiety I’m talking about…

This is the kind of anxiety that makes you feel stuck yet urgent, uncertain and antsy. The kind that makes you take action – any action – just to ease that inner edge, to release some of the tension.

The kind of anxiety that makes you listen too intently to what others think you should do, to forget that you are the expert on your life and your business.

The kind of anxiety that muffles your inner knowing.

And that Inner Knowing is your greatest business mentor.

You need your Inner Knowing clean, clear and carrying a megaphone.

But here’s what I’ve learned this year…

it doesn’t have to be so hard.

It’s true that it isn’t easy. There is a lot to “figure out” and trial and error are a normal part of that learning process.  But the angst – the anxiety and fear – that part doesn’t have to own the process. In fact, now I know that…

Anxiety absolutely must not drive.

What’s the antidote to this dangerous creature that may be wasting your time, money and precious life as you try to grow your soul-inspired business?

Inner Peace.

Inner Peace. Peace. Peace, inside. Ease, flow… knowing, trusting, centered faith.

When you really give yourself the grounding – the time and space – to calm your inner world, to listen deeply, and to remember that you have what you need right now to do the next thing (even if the next thing is to seek guidance or support from a great coach or program)… everything changes.

You take your power back.

You remember why you made this bold, beautiful move of stepping out on your own into your business.

You give yourself the precious thing that we are all looking for underneath all of the other things we do (business and personal)… Inner Peace.

When you let go of that unnecessary anxiety… When you let your heart, your clear mind, and your peaceful spirit guide your business, you’ll make decisions easier.

You’ll know what to do sooner (and when not to do anything yet.)

You will save time, money and precious energy.

You’ll preserve your spirit.

You’ll help more people, sooner and more powerfully.

I want so much to do what I can to help you get that inner peace you need to do your great work in the world. I created this Stuckness Cleanse program for just this purpose. It is full of my favorite, most effective de-stuckifying exercises, fed straight to your inbox every day for 10 days. It is a multi-media program, with emails, videos, mp3s and worksheets – all created to take very little time yet have profound effect on your sense of ease, peace and forward motion.

To your deep Inner Peace, dear friend…

(In case you missed it above, here’s that link to the 10-Day Stuckness Cleanse (there’s no cost, just my warm wishes for your ease and peace): http://www.themessageyoucametoshare.com/stucknesscleanse/)

 Much peace and thanks to Tamari 09 for this peaceful, spirit-bursting image.

Peace and Presence

What if Inner Peace isn’t actually a “project”?

It just occurred to me. Maybe this Inner Peace thing is the opposite of a project. In fact, it’s feeling more and more like a
An opening.
A letting go.

As I venture through Project: Inner Peace this summer, I realize that I actually have access to Inner Peace immediately, anytime I need it. It is just there, underneath a noisy, messy layer of thinking and doing. I’m amazed at its consistency and availability.

It only takes one move, one shift in my heart and mind.
One peeling back of a layer.

The process of accessing it feels like a parting of velvet curtains, an opening… into an ease and calm that is as solid as any personal state I have ever known. More solid and certain than any level of anxiety I have ever experienced, even during my three day panic attack.

And the move that brings forth this grounded, centered peacefulness?
Presence. Pure, focused presence.

windowbranchbypreconsciousEye-300x200Try it right now. Right this instant, shift your focus from reading and analyzing this post to simply noticing something beautiful in your environment – the curve of your coffee cup and the colors that mix on its exterior (we can make anything beautiful with presence)… the quivering leaves on the branch that brushes against your window… the sound of that brushing branch in the space of the room in which you sit… Feel the bottoms of your feet on the floor and the place where your shoulders rest onto your back.
Inner Peace. It’s just there waiting.

For me, it’s still fleeting. I lose my focus regularly and quickly, but I’m learning how to bring it back when I need it.
Simple Presence.

Now you – tell me how you cultivate presence? Do you have ways you stay present, when distractions begin to pull you away?

Grateful photo credit here.