How to Handle 6 Top Challenges Speakers Face

speakers-challengesIt’s been said that fear of speaking in public is as powerful a fear for many as the fear of dying. In fact, the two can be closely entwined. Haven’t we heard the phase, “He’s dying up there,” in reference to someone speaking before an audience?

Death and being frightened of speaking in public share similar attributes when it comes to fear. That’s why I make it number one out of 12 challenges that I explore in my book, The Fast Track Guide to Speaking in Public. In this blog, I provide brief insights into coping with tix speaking challenges.

Challenge #1 You are deathly afraid to speak.

You can’t do anything about death–it’s inevitable–but you can face your fear of speaking and, through some concrete effort on your part, you might even find yourself enjoying it. When I say effort, I mean taking the time to prepare and to practice. Knowing what you’re going to say, and not trying to “wing it,” and practicing what you’re going to speak about, can help to reduce the fear you might be feeling about an upcoming speaking engagement. Practice so you know what you’re going to say, and remember this: the more you do it, the less fearful it should become.

Challenge #2: Someone might walk out.

It happens. Don’t take this personally because chances are it has nothing to do with you. The audience member who walks out just might have to use the bathroom, or deal with a text that he/she just received. They may even leave because what you’re talking about isn’t something they want to, or need to, hear. This still has nothing to do with you. So, ignore them, let them go, and keep talking to those who have remained to hear your words of wisdom. Ignore it unless everyone walks out and then you should probably leave too; there may be a real reason for that mass departure, like a fire drill or even a real fire.

Challenge #3: You might get booed.

Even heads of state and CEOs occasionally got booed but it does not stop them from speaking again. How do you deal with this fear? Try imagining yourself getting booed and surviving the experience. You’ll be a stronger speaker because of seeing yourself as a survivor even if it never happens to you.

Also, like most “mishaps” or unpleasant situations related to speaking, if you do get booed, it’s best to figure out why it’s happening (or afterwards, when you reflect on your speech,
You can also use the booing, as painful as it might be to think about it, as an opportunity to reflect on what might have caused this to happen. That might help you to see if there’s something you said that touched off that strong a negative reaction so that you might reconsider revising your speech in the future or, if whatever you said that set off the booing is pivotal to your speech, just accept that you may get booed again.

Challenge #4: Someone keeps interrupting you.

This happens but you can deal with it in a non-confrontational manner, that still gets the point across that such behavior is unacceptable.

Challenge #5: Your computer won’t work so you can’t show the Power Point that you had planned.

Make sure you have notes and a backup plan if your computer and/or Power Point presentation doesn’t work. Don’t completely just rely on technology because technology may fail.

Challenge #6: The audience doesn’t want to hear the prepared topic.

If possible, adapt to what this audience does want to hear. If not, try to make what you’re speaking about more interactional, so you find out just what’s going on with your audience that’s causing them to resist your topic. Within reason, be flexible about your content if you’re getting such strong vibes from your audience that you’re off base on what their expectations were.

For a more extensive discussion of these six challenges, and the remaining additional top six, I refer you to my book, The Fast Track Guide to Speaking in Public, which is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats (visit

Copyright © by Jan Yager, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Jan Yager is an author and a professional speaker who delivers keynote addresses and workshops throughout the U.S. and internationally related to her key areas of expertise including time management, work relationships, getting published, foreign rights, and friendship. She studied speaking in college and has spoken professionally since her twenties including speaking engagements throughout the United States and the United Kingdom as well as the Netherlands, Japan, and India.