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  • Tori Hollingworth,

If Fear Controls Your Presentations, It’s Time for a Disruption

For those who suffer from fear of speaking, the good news is that there is a path forward.

Fear of speaking is real. Those who suffer from extreme nervousness are often stuck in a challenging rut of repeated learned behaviors that continue to build, causing more stress as time goes by. Without new ways of thinking, the walls of anxiety grow higher leading to avoidance and sometimes even panic at the thought of an upcoming presentation.

As someone who has worked with many who struggle with varying degrees of speaker stress, I have come to understand that excessive nervousness is most often energy that is channeled in the wrong direction for the speaker. It is my job to empower them to disrupt their thinking by challenging them to change their mental mindset and upend their approach to speech preparation.

The goal for people who suffer from fear of speaking is to “flip the script” and to reengineer their thinking.

How does a speaker begin this process? It all starts with mapping out a client’s history and experiences with speaker stress to identify the triggers and the rational vs. irrational fears associated with presenting. Next, we focus on their process of disruption and together create new ways of coping, both physically and mentally, to prepare before and during the presentation.

For disrupting to thinking, tools may range from visualization to memorizing an opening and close for those who blank out from fear. For disruption during the presentation, tools may range from getting out of the one’s head and refocusing onto the listeners, to recognizing that you as a speaker are there to communicate with the listeners vs. to perform or entertain them (this is especially critical for those who have a fear of being judged).

The long-term goal of this strategy is to channel the nervous energy into a positive direction that works for them as a speaker by making them more impactful, engaging and passionate (and less anxious). The short-term goal is to learn new ways of thinking, adopt new tools and allow me to guide them through the steps necessary to understand how to control the nervousness… and experience success in doing so.

Also, keep in mind a couple of baseline tips:

Worried that you will look nervous? Don’t assume -- Listeners often don’t notice your anxiety because they are focused on the message.

Feeling mentally hijacked during your presentation? Stay present with the messaging by ensuring that the main points are covered and you articulate a clear action to be taken. Practice six times prior to your presentation for familiarity and flow.

Disruptive thinking and preparation must take place in order for the speaker to gain the upper hand in controlling the nervousness versus the nervousness controlling them.

Tori Hollingworth is a public speaking and executive communication coaching specialist for individual, large group, small group presenters and communicators to increase delivery effectiveness and messaging impact. Services include speaking prep, organization, handling visuals, controlling nervousness, messaging and delivery impact. Engagements are highly customized with feedback focused on the speaker’s strengths, areas of improvement, how the speaker looks and sounds, organization, and messaging. Attention is placed on communication impression and tips, tools and techniques to move each individual to the next level of effectiveness. Options include hourly, half-day, and full-day engagements as well as conference packages with a team of coaches for larger needs.

She can be contacted at: or on linkedIn at

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