The fear of public speaking may have a geeky name (glossophobia), but the feelings you feel – those sweaty palms, roiling tummy & weak knees – even I’ve experienced strongly, are all too real. I’ve learned to overcome the nerves, with perseverance, and a few great tips about performing, from some of the best in the industry. Keen to tackle this fear & start towering in virtual meetings, with your amazing presenting skills? Read on…

Fear of Public Speaking is said to affects 75% of the world’s population – that means if you have it, you’re not alone! However, the way the world is steadily changing (pushed along significantly, by governments Covid-19 preventative measures), and due to the inexhaustible spirit of commerce, we are being encouraged to adjust, and do things professionally, like present live via virtual meetings.  One positive perspective to consider, about the changing business demands: Now, we are all presenters, doing it live in the virtual world.

Despite now maintaining a really rewarding career that includes gigs as a presenter, global MC, and radio host, I also had this presenting fear starting out. My mouth would go dry, my hands became sweaty, and I was close to tears – absolutely shaking with fear. Did you know: about 75% of all people rank public speaking as their #1 fear, followed by the fear of dying?

It took me years of practice, and finding a speaking coach to work with, which has resulted in my presenting success now. With the world going virtual, there are many people who are now finding themselves in an online world where they must present on-camera, to the board, teaching or selling to customers, or having to present at client meetings. This new aspect of some peoples jobs, is causing fear and anxiety – I know this because I was just asked to workshop a client who needs their team to overcome glossophobia, in order to start rolling out a new virtual concept they have.

So how do we overcome this (sometimes paralysing) fear of presenting?

The award-winning 58-year old designer also advised us to manipulate light for these on-camera moments, by bringing a lamp to shine on you just enough to make you glow. And probably the oddest but effective tip from the Project Runway judging panellist? “…put a piece of white paper or a white tablecloth on the table you are sitting at but make sure it can’t be seen in the frame. It will give you a bit of fill and bounce.

In addition to just hoping that you grow more comfortable with the idea of seeing yourself on-screen over the course of several videoconferences, concentrate on what you can change. For many people, it starts with wardrobe. On the “no” list of professional virtual fashion: stripes and busy patterns, which even Tom Ford says don’t translate well to video. Instead, go with solid, neutral colours for your work armour. Style of dress may also be a concern — though, compared with their colleagues in the office, people who work from home are probably more likely to fret about what to wear. Ford states that in “many workplaces, that stigma [of working outside of the office] seems to have eroded, but if you’re worried about it, then dress up a bit for the meeting”.

·      Look directly at your camera. Depending on the size of your screen and how far both you and your camera are from it, people will be able to tell the difference between you looking at your screen, and you looking at the camera. You naturally want to look at the person you’re talking to on the screen, but only by looking at the camera will you appear to be making eye contact from the other person’s point-of-view.

One of the best pieces of advice I can give you, is to prepare enough for your meeting, that nerves become secondary to your knowledge. I have seen people achieve great presentations, despite having performance anxiety, because they were knowledgeable, or just passionate, about what they were talking about. I thoroughly enjoy Emceeing events across the world, hosting radio, presenting on television, and I really love what I do as a Global Branding Specialist. However, I actually use every tip here, plus one more, to overcome moments of performance anxiety that still creep up on me: I sit in a quiet corner for a moment, close my eyes, and just breathe deep.