Nerves: How to Get Over Public Speaking Nerves and Anxiety

Getting Over Public Speaking Nerves

How to Get Over Public Speaking Nerves and Anxiety

How do you get over public speaking nerves? Do you get anxious when speaking in front of people? Public speaking is the biggest fear out there according to some. Even more than a fear of death. And while I can’t get you to be a brilliant public speaker in just this one blog post, I can give you the key essential tip to help you get over nerves. (If you want to know three essential ingredients to powerful presentations, then check out my blog post here:

Before I get to that though, recognise that there are many ways to get over your nerves and anxiety. Practice will naturally be one of those strategies. You just can’t beat practice and years of developing your craft. With competence (skill level) comes confidence.

But what to do if you find yourself in a room full of people and you can’t remember what you were going to say. Your mind has gone blank. Well, evolutionarily speaking there is a good reason for this.

It’s to do with your three brains. Three brains? Yes. You might think you just have one. Or perhaps two (a left hemisphere and a right hemisphere). In actual fact you have three brains. All wrapped up into one.

They go by different names but here’s how I describe them. Nice and simply.





The PRIMAL part of the brain is the part that formed first. It is responsible for your basic life survival and development functions. Heart beat, hunger, defending territory, breathing, fight or flight response, body temperature, balance. Some other experts might call this the reptilian (R-complex), lizard or dinosaur brain. I like to call it the PRIMAL part.

It’s all about SURVIVAL

Next up we have the…


The PASSION part of the brain is also known as the limbic system. Responsible for mood, memory, hormone control and similar such features. It’s what we share with other mammals.  Dogs, cats, horses and mice even. The main structures of the PASSION part (limbic brain) are the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus.

Finally we have the…


The PERSON part of the brain is what is unique to us humans and some other primates. It’s also thought of as the pre-frontal cortex, parental lobe and executive function. With this PERSON brain, primates and us humans can do things that horses and cows cannot, like complex social interactions and advance planning (such as planning an attack on a neighbouring troop, human language, abstract thought, imagination, and consciousness). And also, in the case of us humans, public speaking. Or taking exams. Complex problem solving.



Here’s the thing though, and why understanding about the three brains is pivotal to get over anxiety and nervousness.

When we were evolving and were out roaming the savannahs of Africa, if we encountered a sabre tooth tiger we would enter a fight or flight mode (most likely flight, or possibly even freeze). We just want to SURVIVE. That’s the number one priority. We don’t need to speak to the sabre tooth tiger and say:

“Please Mr Tiger, don’t eat me today. I’m not very tasty.”

No, of course not. We need to RUN! Climb a tree or rock, jump into a river, or get as far away as possible. All our blood diverts to places that need focus. Like our legs, heart (not our stomachs – hence why you shouldn’t eat while stressed). In terms of the brain, the blood flow goes to the PRIMAL part of the brain. Away from the PERSON part. Because it’s all about survival.


Blood Flowing to the PRIMAL part of the brain

Blood Flowing to the PRIMAL part of the brain

Here’s the thing though. If you’re not very seasoned as speaking (or even if you are) but you’re getting nervous, you start to enter that fight or flight phase. You blood flow goes from PERSON to PRIMAL.

You think you have a room full of sabre tooth tigers staring at you in the face. When you don’t of course. But your PRIMAL brain thinks so. So you can’t string a sentence together.

How do you get blood flow from the PRIMAL back to the PERSON part of the brain.

Breathing to Allow Blood to Flow back to PERSON part of the brain

Breathing to Allow Blood to Flow back to PERSON part of the brain


But not into the upper chest or through the mouth like most people breathe day to day.

Deep, slow breaths into the diaphragm. Think about it as “belly-breathing”. Breath so that your belly expands first. Breath in through your nose. Breath out longer than you inhale.

This will start to get blood flowing from PRIMAL back to PERSON.

And then you will be able to speak clearly again. Do this before you get in front of people. Or before an important event like a driving test, exam or business pitch.

It will make a difference.

Does that make sense? Does it help? Please share, comment and like if you found this useful so that others might also find this article and benefit. 

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