Fear of Public Speaking

Transform the Fear of Public Speaking

‘Transformational’ is not a strong enough description for Speaking Circles®. Decades-long fears, pain, and avoidance vaporized in an afternoon. ‘Miraculous’ is more accurate. My profound gratitude . . .

Alyson Kay, Voice-over actress, artist, author

Beyond Fear There Is . . . Your Natural Self

What if, every time you had occasion to speak in public, you knew that you could depend on yourself to be calm, collected, and articulate?

What if you could trust yourself to be completely available to the moment, and thus to the person or people before you—relaxed, spacious, and ready to handle anything?

Imagine how that kind of self-assurance and ease would transform your relationship to public speaking.

Speaking Circles® offer a gentle method for overcoming performance anxiety and self-consciousness at being a focus of attention. Our small group sessions are designed to support you in an atmosphere of warm acceptance and positive regard, helping you transcend fear to discover and develop your natural way of speaking in front of groups.

The skill—and practice—taught at Speaking Circles that guides you to more comfort and poise in front of groups is called Relational Presence. As you learn to settle into a deeper sense of self and feel more secure in your own being using Relational Presence, your innate authenticity and natural eloquence are free to emerge.

This is how you begin to move beyond fear and into the freedom and confidence to bring more of your natural self to public speaking settings. As one Speaking Circles participant says:

If a person thinks they are solely coming to Speaking Circles to become a better speaker, they will be happily surprised with the profound healing that goes along with it. The idea that I can and need to be myself gives me the freedom I’ve longed for.

Amalia Starr, Author, public speaker

How Speaking Circles Support You

Our approach to public speaking diverges substantially from traditional trainings, which can tend to emphasize performance and presentation, with a focus on “getting things right.” Often, these trainings leave people feeling that to be an effective public speaker, they need to incorporate techniques to impress, inspire, educate, persuade, or entertain their audiences.

While that can work for certain people, it can be quite daunting for others, perhaps even amplifying their fears. And for still others, techniques may simply feel disingenuous and unsatisfying compared to being their authentic self when speaking, which can feel quite freeing and deeply gratifying.

The Speaking Circles unique method is gentler on the nervous system. It invites you to:

  • Be aware of your presence
  • Notice the natural connection you have with others
  • Use your voice in a way that feels right for you

And our approach ensures that your listeners will always appreciate you—without you having to do anything for them.

Relational Presence has given me the opportunity to overcome my fear of public speaking in an environment that is warm, gentle, and appreciative of whatever comes out of my mouth.

Steve L., School board speech pathologist

How does all of this happen? By each person following three simple guidelines:

  1. Be an acceptive listener. The listeners are the foundation of Speaking Circles. When a person takes a turn “up front” virtually or in-person, listeners offer them a safe, receptive container. They listen with positive regard—without judgment, expectation, or forced reaction. And after someone’s turn, listeners extend Essence Appreciation, or positive words describing qualities they saw or felt in the speaker.
  2. Be with one person at a time when taking a turn. Relational Presence is a way to simply be with others—with or without words—allowing for a natural feeling of connection to emerge. In turns, participants are not expected to speak from a prepared script, and can choose to be in silence for as long as they like. The only thing that matters is each other’s presence in the shared space.
  3. Hold confidentiality. To ensure the safety and privacy of everyone in Speaking Circles, each participant agrees that whatever is shared or happens in anyone else’s turns will be kept confidential. Your turn up front is your private space, and no other participant will comment on it to you or anyone else (inside and outside of the Circle).

Through these guidelines from our Standards of Support, Speaking Circles Facilitators create a safe, affirming space for your natural, authentic self to emerge as you relax into the listening from your audience. The appreciation you receive after a turn in front of the group will help you recognize and embrace the power of your innate presence.

With Relational Presence, you feel a natural connection with and appreciation for others. A powerful collective presence is often felt in Speaking Circles. And while taking a turn, a clear authenticity emerges in each person. They seem to share what is true and meaningful for them in that moment, and their touching authenticity can further make that collective experience feel significant for everyone. 

This can be your experience at Speaking Circles, too. The safety practiced at Speaking Circles gives you the time and gentle attention to discover how to express yourself clearly in your own unique style, without using performance techniques. And that same sense of inner security and freedom that shows up for you at Circles will carry over into public speaking settings outside of Circles.

Here, four Speaking Circles participants describe the transformation that is possible:

Speaking Circles changed my life. I went from panic to comfort speaking in front of a group, and no longer have any anxiety in social situations.

Lisa D., Retired hairdresser and writer

Speaking Circles have transformed not just the way I feel about public speaking, but also the way I feel about just saying my name and introducing myself in a group. I now enjoy myself when I'm presenting. During my first turn in my first Speaking Circle, I became so overwhelmed with anxiety that I cried and had to sit down. Now I get overcome by and engaged with my material and audience rather than anxiety.

Corrine Bertram, Psychology professor

Speaking Circles are not only fun, they are also extremely deep. Being able to speak and feel that people are present for you has been both healing and nurturing for me. Each Circle has a life of its own—what transpires during a Circle has the power to effect change.

Elissa M., Nurse

Thank you for the window that opened inside me that allowed a lifetime of fear to finally leave. I am now slowly learning to love myself, and I am seeing all the reasons why I was so vulnerable. I didn’t anticipate how powerful and transforming this experience would be for me.

Diane M., Life coach and entrepreneur

An Unshakeable Connection with Yourself 

Speaking Circles Facilitators have been privileged to witness time and again the moving moment when someone transcends fear and blossoms into their natural self in front of groups. The authenticity and presence are powerful and beautiful, and can even be cathartic and transformational for the person in front of the room. 

To achieve this transformation for yourself, all you need is the opportunity to cultivate an unshakeable connection to yourself. The more Speaking Circles you attend and the more you practice Relational Presence, the stronger you will become rooted in your authenticity and connected to your own voice.

In public speaking settings, both in person and virtually, this will allow you to:

  • Express yourself clearly and genuinely
  • Feel the connection with your audience
  • Relax and embrace natural silence, no matter what size group you are with
  • Be comfortable in any situation, able to respond in the moment—even if you lose your train of thought, forget a word, or are distracted by external circumstances

If you have fear or anxiety about public speaking, participating in Speaking Circles is nearly guaranteed to make you feel less of it. The safety of the space and the appreciation from the listeners will naturally make you feel more comfortable speaking in public. And if you don’t have speaking anxiety, you will certainly feel more connected with yourself and others in these sessions.

Speaking Circles invite your true self to show up, to express yourself the way you want, and to feel fully seen, heard, and appreciated for exactly who you are in every moment. A few things that everyone could probably use more of, wouldn’t you agree? 

Speaking Circles Facilitators are ready to support you. Our Find a Facilitator page search will lead you to our global network of Facilitators who conduct in-person and virtual Circles in several languages in a convenient time zone or a location near you.

Information on the science behind the effectiveness of Speaking Circles and Relational Presence for curing stage fright is at Research on Effectiveness. Our Resources page lists readings to guide you.

We answer common questions here, and we welcome you to contact us with specific questions.