Lifehack logo

How I Trained My Brain to Speak Confidently and Impactfully

Combining cognitive, emotional, and behavioral techniques made a ripple effect allowing me to think on my feet and deliver my messages with clarity, brevity, and impact

By Dr Mehmet YildizPublished 10 months ago Updated 10 months ago 10 min read
How I Trained My Brain to Speak Confidently and Impactfully
Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

Training the brain to speak confidently and fluently in front of a large audience involves cognitive, emotional, and behavioral techniques. Although I used these techniques without conscious effort in my childhood, unfortunately, after puberty, I lost this natural gift.

I struggled for many years, making me vulnerable and hopeless. Whenever I was asked to give a short speech, even in small groups, I had butterflies fluttering in my stomach and tried to do everything to hide and avoid participation.

As documented in a meta-analysis, "Fear of public speaking in adolescence and adulthood is associated with an increased risk of developing generalized social anxiety disorder with further impairments."

However, my research degrees allowed me to take a closer look at the function of the brain and the nervous system and change my perspectives. With planning and practice, I regained my childhood confidence. The anxiety and fear of public speaking naturally disappeared.

In hindsight, as we grow older, we become critical of our weaknesses and pay too much attention to others' judgments. This increased self-consciousness might create self-doubt leading to anxiety and fear, adversely impacting our confidence and fluency in public speaking.

Negative experiences and criticism in public speaking can have a lasting impact on our confidence. Cognitive, emotional, and behavioral factors play a significant role in our confidence levels.

Negative beliefs, distorted thought patterns, and anxiety and fear related to public speaking can hinder our ability to perform well.

If we stop practicing due to such setbacks, it's natural for our skills to decline over time, as happened to me in my younger years. Public speaking is a skill that requires practice and exposure to maintain proficiency.

However, I understood that these negative changes were not permanent. Through research and understanding the cognitive functions and the nervous system, I gained insights into how to regain my natural abilities.

By consciously practicing cognitive techniques to challenge negative beliefs, using emotional regulation techniques to manage anxiety and fear, and implementing behavioral changes to improve our skills, we can regain our confidence and fluency in public speaking.

Personal experiences and individual factors can vary. Each person has unique circumstances. Numerous struggling people like me emulated and customized my approach.

It was encouraging to know that with acceptance, the right approach, and dedication, people can overcome their unique challenges and regain natural abilities in public speaking.

To make this piece helpful and valuable, I refrain from scientific and technical details behind these concepts. I mainly focus on the mechanisms at a high level and provide practical steps based on my research and experience.

By understanding the mechanisms, customizing, and practicing these three steps for your needs, you may be able to think on your feet with ease, handle impromptu speaking, manage challenging presentations with poise and confidence, and make an everlasting impact on your audience.

1 - Cognitive Techniques - [Managing Thoughts]

I started my improvement journey by managing my thoughts as they were the major roadblocks to my confidence. Cognitive techniques involve understanding and reframing the negative thoughts and beliefs related to public speaking.

Memory and imagination are essential cognitive abilities for our survival and well-being. They can provide immense benefits. Yet, their misuse or excessive use might potentially harm our health and cause unhappiness.

My key approach was working on cognitive restructuring. This technique included identifying and challenging negative self-talk and limiting beliefs. I learned to replace them with optimistic and realistic thoughts. I provided practical steps to take control of destructive thoughts in a previous story.

For example, I visualized myself confidently delivering a speech in front of a friendly audience and afterward verbalized saying, "I am well-prepared for this presentation," "I have valuable insights to share with my audience," and "This information might change the lives of people."

By challenging negative self-talk and replacing it with positive and empowering thoughts, we can change our perception of public speaking, boosting our confidence. Mental rehearsal can reduce speaking anxiety and fear and boost confidence.

I deliberately worked on increasing my cognitive flexibility and adaptability through mental problem-solving before each presentation. This approach helped me address cognitive distortions and remove cognitive rigidity.

I created an environment to improve my cognitive skills for growth by gradually increasing the load to train my brain daily.

One of the most effective ways of managing our thoughts and gaining cognitive flexibility is using mindfulness techniques.

Before each presentation, I meditated for an hour, calming my mind. Meditation helped me to enhance my cognitive abilities, like attention, focus, working memory, task switching, and intuition.

Improving memory and recall skills is essential to think on our feet. Working in a flow state and practicing memory improvement techniques can improve our recall abilities.

A practical technique for me was memorizing short mnemonics to associate the information with my content to help me remember important details.

To effectively task switch, we must learn to focus and pay attention to achieve our speaking goals. Task-switching involves shifting our focus and attention from one task to another.

However, if task-switching is not orchestrated effectively, it can lead to cognitive overload, as the brain has a limited amount of energy and may shut down when faced with too many demanding tasks.

Intentional and effective planning can enhance cognitive flexibility by breaking down complex tasks, proactively managing obstacles, providing control, promoting the development of mental models, and reducing the mental effort required to switch between tasks.

I also used introspection (examining and reflecting on my thoughts) to improve my metacognition and master procedural memory. A positive self-talk is an excellent tool for introspection and tapping into the subconscious via RAS (Reticular Activating System).

RAS comprises a cluster of nerves in the brain stem. Its primary role is to filter unnecessary information and only allow essential content. It prevents information flood and analysis paralysis.

During the presentation, with deliberate awareness, I remained fully present and attentive at the moment. I always engage with my audience, maintaining eye contact and actively listening to their reactions.

When I made mistakes, I remained non-judgemental without catastrophizing them. I lightened up and turned them into humor which delighted my audience.

Welcoming vulnerability and authenticity can make us better speakers. From my experience, when we become vulnerable and authentic, we can access our subconscious mind much more quickly.

2 - Emotional Technique - [Managing Feelings]

Emotional techniques focus on managing and regulating emotions manifesting nervousness from anxiety and fear associated with public speaking. My focus was to address these emotions by first understanding their mechanisms in the brain and nervous system.

I will briefly summarize the techniques.

The most effective emotional method for me was to learn diaphragmatic breathing to reduce anxiety and induce instant relaxation.

Breathing techniques can activate the vagus nerve, part of the brain-gut axis, regulate the HBA axis and calm the nervous system.

The second bodily intervention affecting my emotions was progressive muscle relaxation. I systematically tensed and relaxed different muscle groups to release physical tension and promote a calm state of mind before any speech.

Self-compassion is a powerful emotional regulation tool. I learned to be kind to myself and accepted my imperfections as part of the learning process. Treating ourselves with acceptance, understanding, and encouragement is vital to lower anxiety and fear triggered by the amygdala as perceptual threats.

After these foundations, I started controlled exposure by practicing in a study room before a mirror and later recording my presentations.

The following approach was gradual exposure practicing in front of family members, friends, and trusted colleagues. In addition, I joined a Toast Master club and eagerly participated as an active speaker in each session.

These rehearsals, with additional visualizations and baroque music, rewired my mind creating new neural pathways which enabled me to lower stress and anxiety from perceived threats.

To strengthen the neural pathways, I engaged in positive emotional induction activities by evoking positive emotions before my presentations.

After each successful delivery, I amplified my good feelings and remembered those moments just before a new presentation.

Understanding the Yerkes-Dodson law helped me to manage developmental stress to enhance my performance under future threats. This law suggests that performance can improve with increased arousal up to an optimal point.

3 - Behavioral Techniques -[ Gaining New Habits]

Behavioral techniques involve practicing and implementing new behaviors and strategies that can become habits.

By actively and persistently engaging in these behaviors, we can lower anxiety, build confidence, and increase verbal fluency and bodily composure.

The most effective behavioral technique is deliberate practice. This involves writing the speech, fully comprehending it, preparing potential questions the audience might ask, and practicing the speeches multiple times by recording them to get instant feedback.

By recording my speeches, I identified areas for improvement. I noticed my body language, vocal projection, and speech clarity. With consistent practice, I gained new skills and improved previous ones.

As mentioned in the emotional regulation section, gradual exposure to fearful or anxiety-inducing situations is a powerful tool to change our behavior and gain new habits. It can tame the limbic system and rewire the amygdala to prevent hijacks.

Engaging with the audience meaningfully is a behavior change to increase our interpersonal skills, which can also be transferred to other jobs.

Another behavioral change is being organized and prepared to think on our feet more effectively. We can create to-do lists related to the structure of our presentation and prepare for unexpected situations by creating scenarios.

A practical way to prepare for and equip ourselves with unexpected questions is to make several small impromptu speeches about the topic we speak on before the presentation.

Trying new things and stepping outside of our comfort zone can improve our ability to think on our feet. Working in a stretch zone is ideal for responding to situations and events better.

By exposing ourselves to new experiences and challenges, we can develop our problem-solving skills and build confidence in handling unexpected situations.

Another behavioral change for me was cultivating a new mindset by embracing challenges, seeking positive feedback, and embracing negative criticism.

In addition, I made behavioral changes to become more pragmatic, refrain from perfection, and show humility. It is invaluable to learn from mistakes and break the cycle of self-sabotage.

As a productive habit, I use expressive writing to manage stress and maintain a clear mind before each presentation.

Conclusions and Takeaways

Public speaking is an advantageous skill. However, it is a formidable challenge that strikes fear into the hearts and minds of many people.

In fact, it consistently holds the top position as the most prevalent fear experienced by aspiring speakers across the globe, as documented in this meta-analysis.

However, by combining these cognitive, emotional, and behavioral techniques, it is possible to train the brain to speak confidently and fluently in front of a large audience to make a lasting impact.

Practice and persistence are vital to developing these skills. Over time, we can gain confidence, improve our public speaking abilities, and make it second nature.

Improving public speaking skills requires effort and takes time. It is essential to create a supportive and non-judgmental learning environment and be patient with ourselves throughout the process.

For complex situations, seeking guidance from communication coaches and therapists specializing in public speaking anxiety can provide valuable personalized strategies for improvement.

Summary of Takeaways

1 - Manage your thoughts and increase cognitive flexibility and adaptability to remain in a flow state.

2 - Practice mindfulness and meditate to calm the mind and enhance cognitive abilities like attention, memory, and intuition.

3 - Use diaphragmatic breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to release physical tension for a calm state of mind before speaking.

4 - Have self-compassion, be kind to yourself, and accept your imperfections and mistakes as part of the learning process.

5 - Welcome vulnerability and authenticity.

6 - Gradually expose yourself to fearful and anxiety-inducing situations to build confidence and obtain professional support for severe situations.

7 - Strengthen neural pathways associated with positive emotions by engaging in activities that evoke positive emotions before presentations.

8 - Engage in deliberate practice, get organized, and be prepared.

9 - Challenge yourself by trying new things and stepping outside your comfort zone, and accepting feedback.

10 - Be grateful for the speaking opportunities and develop lasting relationships with providers and your audience.

Thank you for reading my perspectives. I wish you a healthy and happy life.


As a writer, blogger, content developer, and reader, you might join Medium, Vocal Media, NewsBreak, Medium Writing Superstars, Writers League, Writing Paychecks, WordPress, and Thinkers360 with my referral links.

You might join my publications on Medium as a writer by sending a request via this link. 21K+ writers contribute to my publications. You might find more information about ILLLUMINATION Integrated Publications on Medium and my professional background. I host my health and well-being stories on EUPHORIA and share my blogs posts on DigitalMehmet.

You may join Medium with my referral link if you enjoy unlimited reading. I also encourage writers to join Vocal+ to reap benefits.

healthtechsocial medialisthow to

About the Creator

Dr Mehmet Yildiz

I'm a writer and published author with four decades of content development experience in business, technology, leadership, and health. I work as a postdoctoral researcher and consultant. My background is at

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.