They're Just Like Us: How Celebrities Overcame Their Public Speaking Anxiety

Stephanie Sparer
October 18, 2019
 min read
They're Just Like Us: How Celebrities Overcame Their Public Speaking AnxietyThey're Just Like Us: How Celebrities Overcame Their Public Speaking Anxiety
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Stars... They’re just like us: even when it comes to public speaking. Which seems odd, as they're obviously comfortable in front of a camera surrounded by a production crew. But it's true; some celebrities have publicly admitted to getting sweaty palms, dry mouth, and the jitters before giving presentations, or stepping out on a stage in front of an audience. How did some of the most famous people in the world manage to curb their adrenaline and become great speakers? Here, we'll present our research on the public speaking tips that helped these stars sparkle on and off the public stage.

Overcoming Anxiety with Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford, aka Han Solo aka Indiana Jones aka the guy with so many quotable characters we can’t even list them all here, has a fear of public speaking he calls, “a mixed bag of terror and anxiety.” We understand what that’s like. Even President James Marshall from Air Force One knows you have to speak your key points slowly and with confidence whether you’re telling a terrorist to get off your plane or delivering a presentation to a room full of coworkers.

Over the years, Ford has overcome his fear of public speaking with practice—and the technique works. Craig N. Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P. confirms what your parents told you is true: practice makes pretty darn close to perfect. He recommends rehearsing your presentation in front of a few people, or even recording it with a video camera, so you can develop your public speaking skills in the comfort of your own home.

Learning to Breathe with Emma Watson and Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman speaks openly about her general public speaking anxiety and we’ve seen Emma Watson’s stage fright first hand. The one thing these two stars do to refocus themselves? Breathe. It’s a technique anyone can use, but it’s so obvious we often forget! 

Founder/CEO of Global Public Speaking, Allison Shapira, says breathing techniques are the “most important, yet the least taught, areas within public speaking,” and not all breathing is created equal. Shapira recommends standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, and sipping air in deeply, while you speak on the exhale. In other words, let a strong inhale support your voice so it takes on a rich tone and exudes confidence. Even a few deep breaths can quell your uneasiness when it comes to presenting in front of an audience—plus it gives the impression of fearlessness even if you’re actually shaking in your boots.

Walk Off the Fear with Julia Roberts

Award-winning actress Julia Roberts used speech therapy to get rid of a stutter and gain the self-esteem boost needed to become a great public speaker. However, Roberts notes that while filming Larry Crowne, she was terrified of the teaching scenes. Yes, the pros also get nervous even if they’re just pretending to present.

Amy Jen Su, author of the book, The Leader You Want to Be: Five Essential Principles for Bringing Out Your Best Self—Every Day, recommends getting comfortable with the discomfort of nervousness. She swears the worry is just there to tell your body what you’re about to experience is a great opportunity. So don’t ignore it. Su says to stay present and in the moment. Ground yourself with a strong physical pose (such as hands on hips) and practice a relaxed introduction that will ease you into any speech given in front of an audience.

Su also urges embracing gentle exercise. Take a walk around the presentation room to get a sense of the space before you start. The burst of movement not only works off some extra adrenaline, but it allows you to feel comfortable where you’ll be presenting. Win-win!

Mark Zuckerberg Ditches the Self-Doubt 

You’d think owning one of the biggest companies in the world would give you all the confidence you need, but Mark Zuckerberg has often made reference to his self-doubt and crushing fear of public speaking... And if he didn’t, his use of filler words did it for him. So how’d he overcome his problem? You don’t need to have a kajillion dollars to boost your self-esteem, just some effective public speaking tips.

Darlene Price, president of Well Said, Inc. says you can leverage the butterflies in your stomach by talking positively to yourself before a big presentation or even by pretending you’re not nervous. Your extra energy is then channeled as enthusiasm and your speaking style will come across as more persuasive and competent. As Price explains, "Harnessing the power of the mind-body connection means you can learn to use your thoughts to positively influence your body's physical responses.” 

We ‘like’ this idea because even though your presentation visuals might be amazing (thanks to, the most important part of your speaking engagement is you. If you’re not feeling it, neither will your audience members.

Spot the Fakes with Jay-Z 

He might be one of the biggest names in the music industry, but Jay-Z has admitted he struggled at the beginning of his career with stage fright. His go-to method for keeping it at bay? To fake it until you make it.

Experts agree this is actually good advice. Keynote speaker and author Bernard Marr emphasizes that a lot of your fears come from within, and if you can change your mindset you can do anything. He explains: “Psyching yourself up to do well can actually help you do well.” That’s reason enough for us! Follow Marr’s recommendations and visualize yourself giving the most amazing speech ever. It might just make you smile, which Marr says will release endorphins, make you more affable, and even burn off some of your nervousness. Then “faking” it becomes “Real As it Gets.”

A star will be born when you use these expert public speaking tips alongside (your professional designer in a box). can help take your presentations to the next level, with more than 60 customizable slideshow templates. Try it for free.

Stephanie Sparer

Stephanie Sparer

Stephanie Sparer is an Emmy award-winning writer who has contributed to Thought Catalog, Hello Giggles, and Heeb Magazine, amongst others. Despite being preoccupied with bows and a self-indulgent obsession with Woody Allen's early films, Stephanie had her first book, entitled "Maybe I Should Drink More," published by Thought Catalog Books in 2013. Sparer lives in Phoenix, Arizona.