I sometimes work with clients who feel absolutely uncomfortable speaking in a public forum at work. Whether it’s giving a presentation or providing an update at a staff meeting, they’ve tried everything they know to shake the nerves and anxiety, but nothing works. But the problem doesn’t only lie in their discomfort. They’ve also identified their difficulty with public speaking as a serious career limiter.


And as serious as they know their performance anxiety to be, they often come to me asking for “tips” that I think will make the difference for them. While I’m certainly capable of giving them my 2 cents worth on best practices, chances are that the key to making progress for them is buried a little deeper than at the level of tips or tricks. In fact, one key that I’ve seen people discover for themselves relates to something quite deep: self-worth.


It’s probably not about hearing another public speaking tip


People who suffer from public speaking performance anxiety will easily tell you what it feels like when they’re presenting because they know the symptoms well: I lose my train of thought. My knees shake. I can’t breathe. My palms sweat. What they don’t often remember (and what I’m most interested in hearing about) is what “tapes” they’re playing for themselves in their head. More often than not, the tapes they play involve some version of “I am not enough.” Maybe some of these sound familiar:


  • I’m not good enough.
  • What I have to say isn’t important.
  • I’ll never get better at this.
  • I don’t know enough.

Where do these tapes come from? It’s different for everyone, but here’s the thing: As a coach, it doesn’t matter to me. If my clients want, they work with a therapist to loosen whatever “knots” from the past are tying them up. And while there’s great value in doing that work, in coaching, we’re focused on the present and the future. More importantly, though, we’re working with different, neater rope that doesn’t have those knots from the past. Where do we find that neat rope to work with? We go where you’re already a rock star!


It’s about remembering that you’re already great


Think about situations in your life when you’re living authentically, being who you really are and where people around you appreciate you. In those moments, what would people say is great about you if I asked them? She’s funny. He’s generous. She’s smart. He likes to make life better for others. She’s relaxed. He’s focused. She’s the best at X. He’s awesome at Y. No matter who you are, someone out there has some pretty great things to say about you when you’re at your best. They think you’re a rock star, and you just need to remember that when you’re presenting at work.


How do you do channel that inner rock star? The details are different for everyone, but generally you have to let that rock star glow shine on everything else you’re doing—including that dang presentation at work that you’re dreading so much. It has to do with recognizing all that’s good with you and allowing that to be the theme of you do, whether you’re, at this moment, skilled at it or not.


Old habits die hard, so I don’t expect you to tell yourself that you’re a rock star today and then be completely at ease tomorrow when you present at work. You need to establish new patterns of thought and behavior, and that’s the part that takes some discipline and follow-up. But I’m here to tell you that it likely won’t be one more tip from an expert that’ll get you over your public speaking anxiety. It’s going to take you truly believing that one day—not too far in the future—you can and will exhibit your rock star greatness when it’s your turn to speak in public.


Alright. Do a good show, yeah?



Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with intention to get the business results they want.