Retrain Your Brain to Feel Confident About Public Speaking

John Krautzel
Posted by in Management & Business

Psychologists frequently use the phrase "retrain your brain" to help you reconsider scenarios and situations in your mind. The process works for dieting, smoking, breaking bad habits and rehabilitating after neurological trauma. Using these types of techniques can help you overcome your fear of public speaking.

An article by business consultant Jeff Shore for Entrepreneur magazine expounds on a neurological bag of tricks to make public speaking tolerable and even enjoyable. Shore points out that people who shy away from talking to groups of people do so purely out of an illogical, irrational fear of a worst-case scenario. Retrain your brain to think of best possible outcomes rather than the worst.

Start with what is called the "experience simulator" in your brain. This is when your mind plays scenarios over and over in your head relating to possible outcomes after taking action. Think of it as a game simulator. If you use strategy A against an enemy in a video game, how does it work to beat the bad guy? Try strategy B instead to see what happens in your mind before you open the boss battle at the end of the level. The same type of strategizing happens with regards to public speaking. You replay your future experience in your head over and over. In some cases, fear of failure creeps into the scenario before success.

Shore points out that in real life, public speakers rarely live up to your dire predictions. The people on stage with the microphone may sweat a little, but in general, they are calm and composed, and they engage with the audience even if they stumbles on some words. A public speaker rarely, if ever, fulfills your worst-case scenario of losing bladder control, turning completely mute and fainting on stage.

Instead of thinking that you will be the one that earns the YouTube title of "worst public speaking video," turn your negative thoughts into positive scenarios. Imagine the applause you receive from your peers. See and hear people laughing appropriately at your witty remarks. Think of your significant other, or your family, in the front row beaming at you proudly. Create a reality by imagining a synthetic reality first. Focusing on good outcomes alters your confidence and creates an attitude that wins the day.

Of course, there are practical ways to improve your public speaking prowess. Start small by talking to a group of three or four people. Speak to your family at home first, because these are people who already value you no matter what. Make presentations at work in front of a select few people. Volunteer to present data to people within your peer group. Branch out later to larger gatherings of people with whom you are unfamiliar to get more and more confident. You do not have to become the next great orator, but gradually expand your comfort zone to improve your overall moxie at work.

No one expects you to have the public speaking skills of Abraham Lincoln or the ability to rally the troops like Sir Winston Churchill. Overcoming a fear makes you a better person and better employee in the long run. Try retraining your mind for success instead of failure, and see how far it takes you down your career path.


Photo courtesy of num_skyman at



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  • Deborah Thornton-mathis
    Deborah Thornton-mathis

    This sound real good

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Brett - so sorry for what you have been through. Granted it is hard to rise above our beginnings but not impossible. It's good that you have someone to talk to about this. But don't get sucked back into negativity. You can rise above it. Sometimes just changing your surroundings is enough to change your thought patterns. I wish you all the best.

  • Brett Andrew
    Brett Andrew

    This article sounds good, but putting it into play is quite another story. i dont mean to sound negative. Life is not created equal for all, what I mean is I had a horrible childhood from parents who didnt care then and to this day still do not. This life created and chose me and made me be who i am. I did not learn positive influence or learn how to effectively communicate in speech with others. Since then I have been in numerous relationships where its better to just leave my mouth shut. i try getting past these barriers but cant block them out or change, its not that i have a fear or talking... i just dont know what to say. I know I am doing good here, somewhat. I have other issues as well such as concentrating and memory. I know see a psyc. to get over this LOL! not sure what the question should be here.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Mary-Catherine, don't let the lack of tools keep you from applying. The job posting is the company's "dream sheet" for that particular position. They may never find a candidate that has ALL of the qualifications but they try. So, if you are still qualified for the position outside of those two skills, I say go for it. You just convey to them that you are a bright person who can grasp new concepts and tools quickly or something along those lines. Good luck.

  • Mary-Catherine G.
    Mary-Catherine G.

    I am seeking a new business analyst job but it seems my barrier to entry is always one of two issues. Either a) I don't know the tool or b) I don't know the industry. Why are either of those so important? Knowing the underlying concepts is more important than knowing the specific tool. I am quite a bright person and coming from a development background, I can pick up on how a tool works quite easily. Skills from Excel, Access, SQL Server, Oracle, ReqPro, Visio and so on transfer quite easily.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    With all of our modern technology, try doing a video. Get a friend to tape you while you "give a presentation". This way you can start to conquer your fear and also see if you need to make any changes to your mannerisms and presentation. It's a real eye opener. I remember the first time I was taped while giving a training session. It will certainly help you see what needs to change. Good luck @Kevin.

  • kevin Daly
    kevin Daly

    I found that speaking into a recorder & having someone point out weaknesses listening for the weakness then recording the speech until both the critic & I felt I could deliver the speech properly worked best for me.

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