Category: Presentation Skills Training


Stage Fright: taking the bull by the horns (rather than the tiger by the tail) 

Picture the scenario. You’ve got a big speech to make. Or maybe you’re delivering a presentation to a group of colleagues. Either way, you want to make a good impression. 

But you’re worried that you’re going to screw up. You might fluff your lines, or get the tone wrong and come across like Alan Partridge. Or, perhaps worst of all, you open your mouth and nothing comes out. 

Stage fright is a universal problem. Everyone from political leaders to rock stars, to Oscar-winning actors suffer from it – and company CEOs are no different.

At its heart, stage fright is about the fear of failure. The fear of not being able to deliver on a promise, and thus being judged harshly by your audience. This is what happens in a key scene from the movie 8 Mile, when the character played by rapper Eminem, Jimmy ‘B-Rabbit’ Smith, ‘chokes’ during a rap battle.

Eminem gets stage fright

Eminem chokes on stage

It may also be riven by imposter syndrome – the feeling that you’ve been ‘getting away with it’ for too long, and that this could be the moment when the veil is lifted and you are exposed in front of an audience.

get used to stage fright

Get used to stage fright

The key to overcoming stage fright is preparation, and while there is a wealth of advice online and in print about how to reduce the effects of stage fright – from the psychology profession, from the acting world, from business, and even neuroscience – a few simple guidelines could help transform your approach to public speaking. 

You could take a lead from another of Steve Coogan’s creations – obnoxious sales rep Gareth Cheeseman – and give yourself a pep talk in the mirror. But is yelling ‘You’re a tiger – RRAAAWWR!’ really going to damp down that sense of rising panic?

Fight or flight

What all techniques for addressing stage fright have in common is that they seek to control the ‘fight or flight’ response that often accompanies scary or stressful scenarios.

On a purely physical level, as you step out in front of an audience, your body is likely to be producing the hormone adrenaline as part of that fight or flight response. Adrenaline will make your heart beat faster, may cause your palms to become sweaty, and could also make you feel light-headed or dizzy.

As the publication Psychology Today notes, this form of social anxiety affects about 1 in 4 of people who are contemplating public speaking. It can cause additional symptoms ranging from a dry mouth, to feelings of nausea, breathlessness, changes of vision, stuttering, and even facial tics or shaking limbs. When talking, your voice might also rise in pitch and you may end up talking too quickly.

It’s not uncommon for sufferers to end up racing for the bathroom ahead of a performance. And in addition to the physical manifestations of stage fright that can afflict you during your delivery, there are psychological challenges: time becomes elastic, where a few seconds can feel like hours; your mind goes blank, you can’t remember what you wanted to say; some people even feel like they’re having an out-of-body experience.

Get used to Public Speaking

Get used to public speaking

As neuroscientist Anwesha Banerjee argued in her TED Talk from 2019, one way to effectively manage stage fright is to get into the habit of confronting it. 

By continually focusing on our fear of public speaking we are engaging in ‘negative reinforcement’, she says. The only way to halt this process, and dial down the fear, is to confront rather than avoid this stimulus. Instead of trying to avoid stage fright altogether, get more accustomed to it. Overcoming that negative reinforcement is not about ‘getting over’ stage fright or expecting to banish it, says Banerjee, but is instead about getting used to it.

‘Playing Scared: A History and Memoir of Stage Fright’

In an extract from her 2015 book ‘Playing Scared: A History and Memoir of Stage Fright’, published in Prospect magazine, journalist Sara Solovitch details her attempts to overturn a lifelong fear of performing (in her case, on the piano) in front of an audience, while exploring the origins of stage fright.

The anatomy of stage fright

The anatomy of stage fright

Solovitch quotes another neuroscientist, UCLA professor Michael Fanselow, who also advocates “exposure therapy” in order to “get into this positive feedback loop”.

Having given herself a year to explore various therapies to help her beat stage fright, Solovitch gives a piano recital. When she finally overcomes her reservations to listen to the recording of the concert she says: “I was surprised. I heard some lapses, yes. But I also heard expressiveness. I heard assertiveness. I heard a voice. What I heard was me. I was not a professional, and I was hardly perfect. But I was striving for excellence, and sometimes I attained it.”

This is a perfect example of what overcoming stage fright is about. It’s not about becoming a world-beating orator. It’s not about delivering a perfect performance. It’s about being able to express yourself in your own voice, share your knowledge and experience, and get more comfortable with yourself as a speaker.

Overcoming Stage Fright

Overcoming Stage Fright

As this article from entertainment trade magazine Back Stage notes – the great majority of performers on stage and screen have experienced this fear, and many live with stage fright their entire careers, but have found ways to cope with it. Equally regular public speakers such as company CEOs can find strategies to manage their fear and keep overcoming it.

At Dynamic Presenting, we believe some of the lessons taken from the world of professional acting and performing can be some of the most effective in tackling stage fright. Here are some the key methods for dealing with stage fright.


All of the guides to public speaking and overcoming stage fright you see will emphasise the importance of preparation and practice. Actors rehearse, rehearse, rehearse what they are going to say and do onstage or onscreen for weeks before a performance. Make sure you are well prepared and know your material thoroughly. You don’t need to learn your presentation word for word, you just need to know the salient points and the order in which you want to deliver them. That will give you a structure for you to then talk naturally around those key points.


Focusing on your material not only reiterates confidence in your knowledge and abilities, it takes the focus away from the abstraction of an audience to the specifics of what you want to say. If you are thinking about what you want to share with your audience, you are less likely to fixate on what they think of you and your delivery. If you have rehearsed your delivery of it, you’ll be less likely to stumble over difficult passages or to rush your delivery.

Don’t kid yourself you can wing it. Some people are able to extemporise at will on any given topic – they’re typically in the minority. The more you ground yourself in substance of your presentation, the less likely you are to be lost for words or afraid of how you might be received, 

Some commentators also stress the value of getting to know the space and even the audience before you deliver an address. Certainly, being in a familiar environment can help with nerves, and as former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss demonstrated, knowing how to get out of room as well as getting into it can be very useful. And knowing that you have friends and allies in the audience can give you courage. But focusing on your material and rehearsing your delivery of it are paramount.

Liz Truss gets lost leaving the room

Liz Truss gets lost leaving the room


Another universal theme in tackling stage fright is visualisation. Preparing for the worst, while aiming for the best will improve both your confidence and resilience. Visualise yourself giving a hugely successful performance. See yourself relaxed and smiling before you take the stage, then confidently walking to the microphone, and calmly delivering your address as the audience listens intently to your message. It may sound hokey, but practicing that visualisation can help to instil the sub-conscious belief that the outcome is going to be overwhelmingly positive.

Equally, expecting the worst can be a powerful psychological aid to overcoming fear. You will probably make mistakes. But what’s the worst that could happen? You fluff a line or mispronounce a word and maybe somebody in the audience laughs. You can acknowledge the error, even make a joke of it, or just correct yourself and move on. If you can see yourself in advance, bouncing back from your mistakes, they will seem less momentous in the live performance.


Actors and singers always undertake breathing exercises before rehearsals and before performances.

When we are feeling stressed or nervous we tend to breathe more shallowly, breathing in sharply and then not breathing out properly. This can result in you feeling lightheaded due to a lack of oxygen. Equally, when we are panicked we can end up hyperventilating – breathing too quickly and too deeply, so that you end up exhaling more carbon dioxide than usual, which can also produce lightheadedness or a feeling of shortness of breath.

It sounds overly simplistic, but training yourself to breathe slowly and deeply, using your diaphragm, will help with both physical and mental relaxation. 

Before any situation where you are potentially feeling anxious or apprehensive take 15 minutes to sit somewhere quiet and do some deep breathing to calm your nerves.

Equally, taking a few deep breaths before you step up to make your speech can make your feel calmer and more relaxed, and if you find yourself getting anxious during your presentation, or you find your mouth is running away with you and you’re gabbling rather speaking, taking a moment to draw a slow, deep breathe, can anchor you and give you the space to recover your poise and begin again.   


If you’ve done all of the above and you are still wracked with nerves ahead of a performance, trying changing your state. Doing some physical exercise – star jumps, yoga moves, walking or jogging along a corridor – will get you breathing more deeply and may get the adrenaline flowing. This can reduce the chances of feeling breathless or experiencing an adrenaline spike at the moment where you are getting ready to perform. 

Making an adaptation to your current state can help you focus, snap you out of any feelings of fear or helplessness, help regulate your breathing, and calm any physical tremors.

If you’ve prepared well, your material should be at your fingertips, and your notes will help structure your delivery. Rather than sitting there thinking about whether you can remember it all, talk to someone on the phone about something completely different, chat to someone in the room, remind yourself that you are already an effective communicator and that you know how to connect with an audience.

As the quote that is often, but perhaps spuriously, attributed to Mark Twain goes: “There are two types of speakers: those who are nervous and those who are liars.”

So rest assured that whenever you speak in public, there are many before (including some of your audience perhaps) who have felt the same way. 

If you practice the four techniques above you will feel less fearful and much more relaxed and confident. You might never completely lose the sensation of stage fright, but the more often you confront that fear, the more you experience the satisfaction of having successfully engaged with an audience, the less anxiety you feel and the more relaxed you will become about speaking in public.


Relaxation techniques for public-speaking

Relaxation techniques for public speaking

Posted on 12th October 2017 in Presentation Skills Training, Public Speaking

I read with interest in the news this week about BAFTA award winning actress Olivia Coleman’s stage fright. Who would expect an established experienced actress to be frightened in front of an audience? Performers always look so confident on stage, that’s their job right? Her anxiety was so strong that she undertook cognitive hypnotherapy to help her get over her nerves on the first night.

“Willy [Olivia Williams] is having a chat and a coffee, I’m back there squeezing my knuckles and going through the things of [chanting] circle of love, circle of love, breathe out love”. 

Stage fright or nervousness before or during a performance is more common than you think. Thank goodness more and more celebrities are now opening up about how they have dealt with stage fright and anxiety.

This should reassure the regular person in the work environment who is apprehensive of giving a presentation or key note speech. Its natural to feel nervous the last thing you want to do is fail in front of an audience.
I remember Emma Watson’s big speech at the United Nations. She did brilliantly, she spoke passionately from the heart and her speech was extremely well received by everyone. She did however admit being very nervous saying to Elle Uk ‘I was very nervous. It wasn’t an easy thing for me to do. It felt like: ‘Am I going to have lunch with these people, or am I going to be eaten? Am I the lunch?   

Most of us who are in management or leadership positions can’t get away from speaking in public. We need to present our ideas, talk to our teams, persuade, inspire and sell on a regular basis. So you’ve got to get over it or at least find a way to deal with it!

Q What can be done to overcome and or deal with stage fright / performance nerves?

Take lessons from professional actors and performers

Relaxation techniques for public-speaking

Relaxation techniques for public-speaking

Actors and singers always undertake breathing exercises before rehearsals and before performances.
When we are feeling stressed and nervous we tend to breather shallowly. We breathe in sharply and we don’t breathe out properly. After a few breaths the lack of oxygen in our body exacerbates our nerves. It sounds simple but all you’ve got to do is BEATHE deeply and diaphragmatically and your body and mind will relax. Before any situation where you are potentially feeling anxious or apprehensive take 15 minutes to sit somewhere quietly and do some deep breathing.
Visualise yourself in that performance being hugely successful. See yourself relaxed, smiling, confidently walking that stage as people listen intently to your message. Practice, practice practice that visualisation until your sub-conscious believes that is what is going to happen.
Actors rehearse, rehearse, rehearse what they go to say and do for weeks before a performance. It’s all in the preparation. Make sure you are well prepared and know your material well enough. You don’t need to learn your presentation word for word, you just need to know the salient points and in which order and then talk naturally around those key points.

If you’ve done all of the above and you are still wracked with nerves. CHANGE YOUR STATE. Move your body. Do whatever it takes to change your focus. Bend down and tie your shoe lace. Go to the bathroom and make some shapes. Walk down the corridor deep breathing. Talk to someone on the phone about something completely different. Do some star jumps, yoga moves, whatever it takes to change your state from being frozen thinking about your nerves.

‘There are only two types of speakers in this world – 1. Nervous 2. Liars’ 

Rest assured that the majority of the planet feel the same as you when speaking in public. If you can practice the four techniques above I promise you will feel less fear and hugely more relaxed and confident. The less fear you feel the more your confidence will improve. And as you experience yourself wowing your audience you will lose your anxiety until you are totally relaxed speaking in public.

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

Communicating with facial expressions

How to use facial expressions to communicate with your audience.

We naturally use the muscles in our faces to express how we are feeling and have some thousands of unique expressions that we use every day. Very often we are not in control of our facial expressions as they happen extremely quickly, immediately in sync with how we feel or what we are thinking.

As a public speaker / business presenter you must be aware of your facial expressions as part of your non verbal communication techniques. They can seriously enhance what you are saying, change the way the audience feels about you and change the way you feel about a situation.

All of our facial expressions stem from one of the six basic human emotions:

  • Joy – (happiness) – symbolized by the mouth turning upwards and the eyelids closing
  • Surprise – symbolized by the eyebrows arching and the eyes opening wider
  • Sadness – symoblized by the lowering of the mouth corners, the eyebrows descending and the eyelids drooping
  • Anger – symbolized by eyebrows lowering, lips pressing firmly and eyes bulging
  • Disgust – symbolized by the upper lip raising, nose bridge wrinkling and cheeks raising
  • Fear – symbolized by the upper eyelids raising, eyes opening and the lisp stretching horizontally.

From these basic emotions we create our own adaptations and variations of these expressions which are all totally personal to us. From large expressions through to micro-expressions, our faces can communicate so much about how we feel. We are very good at noticing even the subtlest of communication in each other so it is very hard to hide how we are feeling.

If we can learn to take control of our expressions as well as learn to read them we can control the outcome of a situation better.

Learning to read micro-expressions to develop emotional intelligence

Being able to read micro-expressions is the key to heightened emotional awareness. Spotting micro-expressions will give you an edge in any social or business situation as well as helping you see these expressions in yourself. When you recognise these expressions in people it will enhance your empathy towards them and will help you to see the human side of them. You’ll then know the best way to respond to that person in order to make the situation as beneficial for both parties as possible. The key to noticing these micro-expressions is the ability to be truly present and focus on truly listening (with eyes and ears) to the person you are talking with. If you are focused you won’t miss a thing. If you’re distracted, looking at your phone, thinking of dinner plans for the evening, worried about what they are thinking about you, you’ll miss it all.

Learning to use facial expressions to enhance your story-telling

We all know how boring it is to listen to somebody talk with a monotone voice and a deadpan expression. Using facial expressions to tell stories and to explain things to colleagues enhances the experience for the other person. As the person speaking it is your job to entertain, inspire, encourage, warn or whatever the objective is of your speech / presentation. Raise your eyebrows as you deliver the great news that sales are up by 30%. Half close your eyes and look down as you tell the bad news that the company didn’t win the pitch. Look sad when you are telling somebody they are losing their job. Without the right expression you can give the wrong impression. If you do feel joyful making them redundant you need to put on a sorrowful face to make them feel as if you are truly sorry for the situation. Control your expressions to control the message.

Learning to use facial expressions to change the mood in the room

The brilliant thing about controlling your facial expressions is that you can control how you are feeling. Smile and you will feel happy. Frown and you will feel cross. Sneer and you will feel disgust. How often have you walked into a presentation or interview where the person opposite you or people in the audience are staring coldly, or frowning or looking hard at you? This inevitably makes us feel uncomfortable, unsure and more nervous. By smiling at them and by softening your face you can change how YOU feel. Watch as the person opposite you slowly but surely changes they way they look at you to be more friendly and warm, which will in turn make you feel at ease so you can wow them with your presentation.

By learning to control your facial expressions particularly in circumstances where you have the opportunity to prepare, you can totally control the situation to your benefit.

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

public speaking fear

Public Speaking Fear – How to Beat it…

Public speaking fear is also known as Glossophobia, a fear which so many people seem unable to cope with. Sheer terror is what many of us experience when faced with the prospect of any form of public speaking or a formal presentation in the workplace. Red face, red neck, sweaty hands, sweaty brow, trembling knees, tense shoulders, dry mouth, palpitations, short breath… The symptoms are pretty varied.

Fear of Failure

Many of our clients have been sick with worry days before a presentation or speech. The fear of failure – in this case often a fear of what others think – is a very common theme. Attaching this much importance to how others view us can be likened to the definition of ego in traditional Eastern mindsets – holding on to things as opposed to allowing everything to flow. Hold on tightly, let go lightly. It’s the latter part of that maxim we struggle with.

The great news for those who panic is that no planes will crash and nobody will come to harm as result of a mediocre speech or presentation. Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever died as a direct result of a poor quarter end financials presenation.

Also, nobody in your audience, be it a team brief or major keynote speech, wants you to fall flat on your face – everyone is supporting you and wants your speech or presentation to be brilliant – perhaps knowing this can strangely add more pressure to the prospect of a public speech for some people.

Vital to have a Key Message

The absolute, most important thing to have nailed down before opening your mouth is a key message. This equates to a need to communicate, a call to action, what you want your audience to think, feel, do differently as a result of your speech/presentation. It is the single most important component of your performance. In theory, you should be able to deliver an entire presentation with just one slide – your key message.

What is a key message? A short statement or question, using everday language that should be news to those hearing it. Deliver in person with the appropriate verve, passion, wit etc as befits your particular message and you’re well on your way to beating the onset of panic. At any fleeting moments of doubt or fretting about what others think, simply return to your message and all will work itself out.

Haven’t got a key message..? Then you haven’t got a speech or presentation that can ever work properly which makes it easier for nerves, panic and self-doubt to set in before and during the event and you really would be much better off emailing those boring slides…

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

Elevator pitch effectively

Elevator Pitch… How to Pitch Your Idea Effectively…

The elevator pitch strikes many of us as fairly hackneyed and cliched these days. Perhaps we still find it too salesy and pushy as a speculative approach to a potential investor or client who we’ve just bumped into and best left to Americans who generally don’t have the same fear. They, when compared to us Brits at least, can happily steam ahead with their elevator pitch whenever they want. Or so it seems.

There are various approaches to making a favourable impression within just a couple of minutes and that after all is the best you can hope for in a short space of time. So perhaps that should direct your thinking with respect to an elevator pitch.

3 Approaches to the Elevator Pitch

Some choose to give a mini, condensed presentation complete with introduction, middle and ending all within two minutes. A lot for the listener to take on board, can feel stilted and really what are the chances of them remembering all the information that you tried so keenly to cram in.

Others go straight to the heart of the issue knowing that time is pressing in the perfect elevator pitch. This has the advantage of stripping away that which is largely unnecessary given the context but unless very careful in the initial approach, you could come across as overly direct and robust.

Possibly a more effective approach is to establish a two way conversation. After all, dialogue succeeds where monologue fails. This approach favours beginning a natural conversation where you introduce yourself and give just the headline of your idea, project, whatever and then ask an open question and use whatever time there is, regardless of how little, to listen. Remember that it doesn’t need to be over the top flashy or a dramatic performance. Read your audience in the moment – how are they feeling right now? Tired or energised? Adapt your energy to match them and you’ll have a much better chance of being remembered for the right reasons.

Dialogue Succeeds where Monologue Fails…

Do this all in an unhurried manner. In other words aim to have the most effective beginning to a fuller conversation. Far easier for you to do and much better for the recipient. This way, if your idea or pitch was truly of interest, you’ll leave them wanting to know more – which is exactly what you want.

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

investor pitching for social entrepreneurs

Investor Pitching Skills for Social Entrepreneurs

Dynamic Presenting provided a series of workshops on investor pitching for social entrepreneurs. Sartaj Grewal advised entrepreneurs with social, educational and community based business ideas on how best to pitch to potential investors and win start-up funding. The focus was on communicating personal stories and emotional selling.

Village Capital – Pitching for Investment

Village Capital is an incubator program, started in 2010, which has been run in New Orleans, Boulder, Mumbai and San Francisco. It has been cited as “#1 Trend to Watch in 2010” on; featured in Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine and Beyond Profit. So far, the program has incubated 82 entrepreneurs selected from over 500 applications and developed amongst other skills, their investor pitching ability.

The first European Village Capital, was hosted at Hub Westminster, as a twelve week program designed for entrepreneurs to accelerate their for profit social businesses. In workshops focused on fundraising, marketing and designing for impact the 16 participants will develop the core skills needed to attract investment and scale their businesses as well as receiving mentoring and coaching from our team of experienced advisors.

At the heart of Village Capital lies the belief that entrepreneurs benefit from building peer networks for review and support. The program culminates in peers selecting two entrepreneurs that receive investment prizes of £50,000 each.

The next Village Cpital Programme for Spring 2012 will be announced shortly. For enquiries email

Nominet Trust Accelerator

Nominet Trust’s project partners can take advantage of our Accelerator Programme delivered by Merism Capital

The programme delivers a seminar series which includes topics such as “scaling up a social enterprise” and “pitching for investment”. Project partners also benefit from access to mentors and experts who can help them address specific challenges facing their organisation.

The sessions are led by a variety of speakers with specific expertise in different areas. Spring 2012 sessions are:

  • The Impact Investment Landscape
  • Measuring Social Impact and Value
  • Assessing different business models
  • Investor pitching
  • Company structures and due diligence
  • Growing pains
  • Marketing
  • Exit strategies from the investor and organisational perspective
Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

Public Speaking - Steve Jobs

Public Speaking – Famous Quotes from Renowned Speakers

The prospect of a public speaking engagement can be a real terror for many of us. Here are some words of wisdom from those who have been there and done it time and again and with style.

“People judge you by your performance, so focus on the outcome. Be a yardstick of quality.

Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” — Steve Jobs


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw

Public Speaking Bill Gates

“What I do best is share my enthusiasm.” — Bill Gates

Public Speaking - Steve Martin

“Some people have a way with words and other people … uh … not have way.” — Steve Martin

Public Speaking - William Safire

“Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.” — William Safire

Master of Arts - Michelangelo

“If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” — Michelangelo

The paralysing fear of public speaking…

…or glossophobia as it is otherwise known ranks highly among the demons that we truly fear. It may be soothing to know that nearly all successful and impressive speakers have at one time or another also succumbed to that fear. It seems a natural human predisposition that evolves after a certain point in childhood – in other words it is learnt and adopted behaviour.

In order to counter this fear, time must be invested in effectively collating information, structuring content and crucially rehearsing the final delivery of any speech, pitch or presentation. It really is a piece of theatre so think of yourself as a showperson putting on a spectacle for an audience that really, desperately needs entertainment – not too hard to do when we think of how many dull, stolid business presentations we all sit through on a regular basis.

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication