I am a software engineer at a top multinational corporation. I have extreme stage fright, to the extent that I cannot speak in a group.

Whenever I go for a meeting, my situation is like kaato tau khoon nahi - fluttering or pounding heart, tremor in the hands and legs, sweaty hands, facial nerve tics, dry mouth, erectile dysfunction, dizziness and feeling like I have a fever. My heartbeat rises from 74 to 110.

My condition is very very bad. Lots of people have stage fright, but not to this degree. Nobody in the world can be as phobic as I am. I would rather fight with a lion than give a presentation.

I can't explain my fear to anyone at work. Because of the phobia, I'm considering resigning or searching for other jobs that do not require communication.

I am a Java developer. I have good technical knowledge. I am a very positive and optimistic person, but because of my terrible communication, people can't see that.

How can I best overcome my fear in meetings, or explain my problems to management so that I can get help?

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    Not the right platform for this kind of question indeed. Maybe this helps: ted.com/talks/joe_kowan_how_i_beat_stage_fright – sroes Apr 4 '14 at 12:19
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    Excellent edits, @starsplusplus. Splitting ideas into paragraphs and then asking a question at the end makes it more clear to answerers how to approach this. – jmort253 Apr 4 '14 at 13:35
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    The only way to get good at public speaking is to do public speaking. The first step is to accept most people get nervous when they are speaking in front of people. Once you understand this you simply have to do it. Eventually you learn not to really care and it becomes second nature. – Donald Apr 4 '14 at 15:39
  • Most of us have been in the same situation. A lot of people on SE are way more introverted than "normal" society. Practice with a small group of friends. Get feedback from the group. Work to implement it. Pretty soon, you will be great in front of them. Then the transition to another group is fairly easy. You can also see a doctor about medication if you can't get past your anxiety. – Adam Zuckerman Apr 4 '14 at 16:57
  • A phobia isn't the same as normal, even severe, stage fright. If you have a phobia, no rational suggestion is going to help, because it's not a rational fear. The general advice for a phobia is to get professional help. I'd make this an answer, except it isn't an answer. – thursdaysgeek Apr 4 '14 at 19:23

Please don't resign your job because of this. That would be wasteful both for you and your company.

You are not alone in your fear of public speaking. There is no shame in it, not at all. Many people have this kind of fear, and many people learn to live with it and become fine public speakers. Don't let anybody -- including yourself -- tell you you're a fool for having such fears.

How can you work on overcoming this? There are many approaches, and you can take a few of them to work on this. Here are some suggestions.

First, please don't be ashamed. It's a common problem.

Second, many large companies have a confidential and free Employee Assistance Program. Find out how to use that program to find a behavioral health professional to give you suggestions about this. There are all kinds of ways of helping you, including pharmaceutical methods and also "cognitive behavioral therapy." An EAP counselor can help you pursue the right ways to get help.

Third, there is a worldwide club called Toastmasters International dedicated to helping people like you grow in public speaking ability. Investigate whether there's a local club you can join to get practice at public speaking without the high stakes of your workplace.

Fourth, when your performance review comes around, by all means tell your supervisor you hope to overcome your fear of making presentations and learn to do a better job at that vital skill. Tell your supervisor you're in Toastmasters (if you are) and you'd like help developing that skill.

Don't let this wreck your promising career. Nobody wants that. Good luck.

  • Yaa, I am agree with you. I would to explain the situation in more depth : If 1st time i will go to meeting, then fear will be extremely high. 2nd time it will less, 3rd time more less & then less, less, less & then finish, but when ? when the np. of people will be less (5-6), & will be the same group. – user3497910 Apr 8 '14 at 4:14
  • Yaa, I am agree with you. I would like to explain the situation in more depth : If 1st time i will go to team meeting, then fear will be extremely high. 2nd time it will less, 3rd time more less & then less, less, less & then finish, but when ? when the no. of people will be less (5-6), & will be the same group. BUT If i see the new faces / new group , the situation is again same, extremely high fobia. Probem will finish if i will work with the same people/group. But in the it field always you have to meet with the new people/new group. So how is it possible ? – user3497910 Apr 8 '14 at 4:24
  • Many people overcome problems like yours, and you can too! Please ask for help from a mental health professional in working on these fears you have. If you have an employee assistance plan at work, they can help find the right person. If you have a primary care physician, her office can give you a referral. If you can't get a referral any other way, search on the internet for "cognitive behavioral therapy" in your city. – O. Jones Apr 8 '14 at 12:25

I went through 8 weeks of training in improvisational acting when I was a young adult - the training was free because I was working with this theater director. This training really helped me "get in the zone", stop worrying, go with the flow of the audience's reaction and think on my feet. Sometimes, we did fantastically well. And sometimes, we bombed so spectacularly that even our pets would have been ashamed of us. Big deal :)

The second thing I recommend is change your attitude: stop caring if you fail, because if you stop caring about it, you'll stop worrying about it. If you fail, you fail. You didn't kill it this time - in fact, it killed you instead. You'll kill it next time. It's not going to work if you are afraid of failure. I failed. I am still alive and kicking. So what's the big deal about screwing up, and screwing it up good, as in really, really good, so good it hurts? :)

Now, I have done and participated in 40 presentations where I just winged it - I am not a believer in rehearsals - and I have gotten so self-confident that I hope that my friends and acquaintances boo me off the stage :)

By the way, the motto of the British SAS is, "Those who dare, win!"

  • +1, although I'm still a big fan of rehearsing presentations to get the flow of the presentation and the length correctly. – Paul Hiemstra Apr 6 '14 at 12:42
  • @PaulHiemstra: I can live with presentations that are a bit short - I can fill in a time by having the audience come at me with questions. Or I can ask the audience questions, too. Presentations that are too long give me more trouble, although the decision as to what to cut can be pretty straightforward - I am not a believer in ever telling and I don't have to tell everything :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 6 '14 at 14:30

My nervousness typically presents itself as shaking, heart rate increase, and weak voice. Two of which are easily detectable in a public setting. What I typically do is controlled breathing. I find that if I control my breathing pace and consciously control the ins and outs of each breath, my heart begins to slow down and my shakes diminish.

If you have to give presentations, prepare well, but you don't want to be the one reading off the slides. Know the presentation, and the topic, and try not to read off the slides. Try even to make your slides sparser, so that you have a lot to say and can more easily engage your audience. If you have 6 2-line bullets on each slide, your audience will be too busy reading your slides to pay attention to your words.

I find that my nervousness goes away once I feel like I'm doing well. So I try to start a presentation with the stuff I know really well and feel expert on. If you are that way, too, starting off strong can diminish your nerves throughout.


Practice makes better. Directed practice, in a safe environment, makes better faster. There are formal courses on public speaking and presentation technique -- your company may offer some of these or be able to recommend local organizations which offer them. I've also had friends swear by organizations like Toastmasters as a venue for learning and practicing these skills; I can't vouch for them personally.

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