Learn to deal with the fear of presentations!

By Jarle Nordaas 8. May 2023

Do you find it uncomfortable to speak in front of a group of people? You are (un)fortunately not alone! Luckily, psychologist Jarle has some advice.

It is possible to learn to deal with your fear!

One of the things people fear most is giving a presentation or speaking in front of a group. For example, presenting something to the class or giving a speech at a wedding.

Eight out of ten people get stressed by speaking in front of a group

As many as eight out of ten people report stress and discomfort related to situations that involve giving a presentation in front of a group of people.

You may feel anxious beforehand and sleep less well the day before. For some, these fears have a major impact on their lives. If the consequences are that the fear becomes so great that life is affected in a negative way, this is referred to as a phobia.

Fortunately, it is possible to learn how to deal with presentation fears in a positive way!

What is the fear about?

If you pick apart the fear of speaking in groups, it seems to be about two factors: fear of the fear and fear of being judged negatively by others.

The fear of the fear

Fear is a basic emotion and its task is to alert us to potential dangers. Fear activates a number of biological systems: heart rate increases, breathing changes and adrenaline is secreted in the body. Attention is focussed on what you fear and you experience an urge to escape the situation you are in. The digestive system becomes de-prioritised and you may experience discomfort such as nausea. It is also common to experience a feeling of dizziness or unreality when experiencing fear.

The fear of speaking in front of groups seems to be related to a fear of experiencing fear and the possible consequences of doing so in front of a group of other people. For example, that you will not be able to handle it, or that others will notice that you are nervous. This can lead to a focus on oneself and one's own symptoms, which in turn reinforces the fear.

Fear of negative judgement

Typical anxieties in social situations often centre around being 'weird, stupid or boring'. These concerns can be exacerbated by physical symptoms and the fear that this will be visible to others, such as trembling, blushing, sweating or getting an iron curtain. You may become self-conscious and try to avoid appearing nervous.

You may do things to hide your nervousness from others, such as avoiding eye contact or hiding your hands in your pockets. You may also become very focussed on exactly what to say or how to say it because of the fear of what others will think. This leads to increased discomfort and makes it difficult to focus on what you really want to convey.

How to overcome fear?

Before the presentation

1. Recognise your own fears.

Try to notice the thoughts that go through your head. Maybe you are thinking "it will be awful", people will laugh at me, people will notice me and think I am weak, people will think I am boring or "I will totally panic and not remember anything." Perhaps you imagine different negative outcomes in your head and get mental images of yourself as a shaky wreck in the situation? These thoughts are rarely helpful to pay much attention to.

Try to notice if you worry a lot. Worrying is often an attempt to be better prepared, but instead increases the stress in your body and makes you more focused on what you fear about the situation. Be active in cancelling worries when you notice them. It often starts with a "what if...".

2. Practise what you want to get good at.

If you want to get good at something, you actually have to practise it specifically. If you are going to give a presentation to others, it is of course a good idea to have a good overview of what you are going to talk about, but how do you prepare for the presentation itself? Do you memorise sentences over and over again for fear of forgetting something?

Being prepared in this situation is not just about having an overview of what you are going to talk about. If you can, you may want to practise giving the presentation in front of friends, your study group or family. It is very likely that you know several people who worry about speaking in front of others. Nothing is better than working together to practise difficult things and supporting each other along the way! You can also practice speaking out loud on your own as if you were speaking to an audience or visualising yourself doing the presentation.

During the presentation

Allow yourself to be nervous and don't try to control your discomfort. Look at the people you are going to speak to. Say hello! Don't fear the silence. Allow yourself to take your time, even if your mind doesn't necessarily!

After the presentation

Brag about yourself afterwards! Be proud that you went through with it even if you were nervous. Don't get hung up on small negative details afterwards. Things will never be perfect anyway.

Talk to someone!

And – perhaps most important of all: Talk about it! With a friend, a family member or with a psychologist/therapist on campus.

Find psychologist/therapist on your campus here...

... or book an appointment if it is your first time with us.

Good advice from SSN Health
Girl wearing I am bad ass ring

After the presentation, give yourself credit for the accomplishment!


Jarle Nordaas


Jarle is a trained psychologist and has specialist expertise in anxiety and OCDs. Through several years of practice, Jarle has gained broad experience in most topics. Conversations can be about challenges related to low self-esteem in social settings, worries and negative thought patterns that can make different areas of life difficult and stressful. In conversations, he focuses on mastery when it comes to studies, social situations or in general how you feel about yourself.