Overcoming a fear of public speaking with Katrina Blowers

Public speaking is the most common phobia with up to 75% of the population having this fear.

In today’s episode, I speak to journalist, newsreader and speaker Katrina Blowers about how to overcome a fear of public speaking including practical actions that you can take when that fight or flight response kicks in!

In this Episode:
02.35: Katrina’s experience with public speaking
06.12: Why does fear exist around public speaking
09.19: Strategies for coping with the fight or flight response
13.21: How to calm your nerves in the lead up to the public speaking event
16.54: Getting past fear when you first start to speak



Katrina’s Bio

Katrina was seven years old when she saw a news bulletin on TV and a fire was lit inside her.

When her mother told her a job existed where she could satisfy her endless curiosity by asking important people questions, travel the world and uncover valuable information she could pass on to others, Katrina was hooked.

Fast forward a few years to when Katrina was 12 and pestered the chief-of-staff of a radio station into letting her intern at Parliament House in Canberra. Her first official foray into the  world of journalism saw her holding the microphone during the bitterly cold early mornings and door stopping arriving politicians. She never looked back.

Since then, Katrina has covered global events for major newspapers, radio stations and television networks. She has been a correspondent for the Commonwealth Games and the G20, travelled with the media packs covering state and federal elections and assigned to the murder trial that fixated a nation: that of Gerard Baden-Clay. She’s a former opinion columnist for the Sunday Telegraph, several major magazines and online news sites and was a restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Brisbane Times.

Katrina has also written a best-selling book featured in the NSW HSC Exam about leaving her long-standing job as a popular co-host of Sydney’s number one Nova FM breakfast show with comedians Merrick and Rosso.

A proud Queenslander, Katrina has now returned home to be anchor of the one-hour weekend 6 pm news bulletin for the Seven Network in Brisbane. Known for her warm and engaging style, Katrina is a sought-after speaker, facilitator and MC at major national events.

Through workshops, keynotes, one-on-one coaching and her online course, Katrina is trusted by leading CEOs and female entrepreneurs all over the country as an inspiring confidence mentor. Using proven, evidence-based strategies, Katrina helps women conquer their nerves, become more powerful communicators and lead bigger lives.

A patron of the youth mentoring organisation Girl Shaped Flames, Katrina is also the creator and presenter of the highly popular social media workshops – This Social Life – teaching teenage girls to be mindful and authentic, navigate the mental health pitfalls and create a social media feed their future selves will be proud of.


Public speaking is the most common phobia with up to 75% of the population having this fear. In this episode I talk to journalist, newsreader and speaker, Katrina Blowers, about hot to overcome a fear of public speaking, including practical actions you can take when that fight or flight response kicks in, so you can be a confident and poised public speaker. I really enjoyed this episode, I know you will too so let’s begin.


You’re listening to the Clare Wood podcast, where we talk all things business, finance, marketing, and mindset for entrepreneurs, sharing practical tips, and actionable advice to help you take your business to the next level. Introducing your host: me! I’m Clare Wood, I’m a numbers geek, a travel lover, and a reality tv addict, and I’m here to empower you to create an extraordinary business and an amazing life, because I believe you don’t have to choose between the two. Now let’s dive right in to today’s episode.


CLARE: Welcome to the podcast Katrina!


KATRINA: Thank you so much for having me Clare!


CLARE: I’d love if you could share a bit about who you are and your business Claiming your Confidence?


KATRINA:  So I am a TV newsreader, but first and foremost I am a journalist, but I read the news for Channel 7 in Brisbane. Being a journalist is something I’ve always wanted to do, I was 7 years old when I was watching the news on TV and I asked my mum about it and she told me what job it was. That there was a job you could meet anyone and ask them any questions, you could go on TV or write for newspapers and present meaningful things to people that would add value to their lives. I was hooked and honestly this job has never disappointed me. It’s taken me all over the world.


CLARE: On top of being a journalist and TV presenter, you have also started your own business, Claiming your Confidence. Would you like to share more about that?


Katrina’s experience with public speaking


KATRINA: I’m a TV presenter now, but I’m also hired to do speaking events and I’m one of those crazy people who like public speaking. Even as a kid I was public speaking, I was on the debating team, so I do get to present a lot. And people come up to me after events and say “Wow you seem so confident, how do you do it?” or “I wish I could present poised like you do” and it’s funny because even though I enjoy it, I still get those moments in the lead up to it, and for about the first 5mins where I do have nerves and doubt myself. There was a time a few years ago where I was going through a divorce, I had a lot of stress going on outside of work, and I have a panic attack live on air. So I had to re-learn a lot of those confident strategies so I could be my confident self again in front of the camera and also when I was speaking on stage. I would often tell people that confidence is something you learn, and for most it’s not innate, it’s a muscle and a skill you have to work on every day, and it’ll get stronger the more you work on it. I’m a research nerd, so I look into every scientific study I could get my hands on about confidence and what builds confidence and what doesn’t, and I’ve incorporated those strategies into my own life and so organically I just started coaching people on the side that wanted to become more confident speakers on camera, or in business meetings, or on stage, and recently I filmed an online course. It’s evolved organically like a lot of businesses do. It’s become something I’m proud of and I enjoy helping people step forward and do things they never thought they could do.


CLARE: It’s such an incredible service you have got. I’m one of those people that definitely has a fear of public speaking, I’ve shared it many times on the podcast before.


KATRINA: It’s so great you put your hand up, because listening to your podcast, you would never know that, because you sound so confident and polished. It actually really surprises me you say that.


CLARE: It surprises me that you get nervous as well! This is something that doesn’t just happen to  few people. I read today, that up to 75% of the population has this fear of public speaking. That’s why I wanted to get you on here, because we need to talk about and not have shame about it, and say this is not only really common but there is actually strategies we can put in place to overcome these fears. I’d love for you to share your wisdom today.


The first thing I’d like to understand is, why do you think so many people are scared of public speaking?


Why does fear exist around public speaking?


KATRINA: Its actually got a fancy name, which is glossophobia. Most people who have a fear of public speaking said they would rather die than get on stage, that’s how horrendous they find it. It goes back to our primitive brain which is trying to keep us safe, so every time we step out of that comfort zone it sounds the alarm and tells us that what we are about to do is very bad. If you go back to prehistoric times, the person who did the risky thing and was shunned by the rest of their tribe or clan, was left to fend for themselves, and get attacked by the sabre tooth tiger or woolly mammoth. So putting yourself out there on stage, puts you at great risk of being of shunned or ridiculed or having people make assumptions about you. And that’s a scary thing, most people don’t have a bullet proof sense of self-worth. But it does go back to what our primitive brain tells us about staying safe.


CLARE: It does feel so irrational, because I love talking, so it doesn’t make sense when it kicks in, but it’s good to know there is actually a historical meaning behind it. You and I have had this conversation a lot off air, about what happens to different  people when the fear kicks in, so I’d love for you to share a bit about how different people have different responses when fear kicks in?


KATRINA: We were talking about fight or flight response, so for some people they go bright red, their throat constricts or they start shaking or sweating, and they feel as though these symptoms of stage fright are magnified a thousand times inside you, but often they are not visible to other people. We were kindly laughing, about you, because we were saying you just have the flight response and want to run off stage as quickly as you can.


CLARE: I feel this sense of “I can’t be here, I have to get away” and it’s the worst feeling. It’s horrible.


Strategies for coping with the fight or flight response


KATRINA: There are a few different strategies with those feeling you get. I’m not the person who has coined this, a few different have said this that you just need to have 10 seconds of courage, and a lot of elite athletes use this as well. 10 seconds of courage is all you need to get through that initial fight or flight response, and that is a much better way of approaching it, rather than saying to yourself, I have to stand on stage for the next 20mins. You’ll find those feelings of heart palpitations etc, after 10 seconds will subside. That’s one great strategy.


CLARE: One of the things you touched on, which I know to be true, is what you are feeling is probably on a much lesser scale to what others are seeing from you. I’ve had that experience where I spoke at an event, in my mind, I was bright red, dripping in sweat and someone was actually filming and posted it on YouTube, and I finally had the courage to watch it and I thought you can’t actually tell how horrible I was feeling inside. So take some comfort in that maybe what others are seeing isn’t as bad as what you are feeling.  


KATRINA: The other things I say to my clients is, a lot of people think that to be confident you need to have the absence of fear. I’m here to tell you I still get nervous before every news bulletin I present. I’ve been presenting the news for over a decade now, but it still gives me butterflies in the tummy. It’s all about how you choose to interpret that now. I choose to interpret them as I’m doing something right, I know it’s pushing me out of my comfort zone and it’s following my purpose. It’s something I choose to now see as excitement.


When I reporting on the Commonwealth Games, I would ask athletes in the velodrome, “Were you nervous before your race?” because they had been training for years for this one moment, and they said “No, it was excitement”. Thinking of it that way gives you permission to use that energy as a wonderful positive source, rather than a negative of I can’t do this, what if I stuff up, I’m afraid. You look at it like, I’m so lucky, what an amazing opportunity, I get to do this.


Somebody once said, what you want to do is get your butterflies to fly in formation, and I love that. You get to choose how to use your butterflies for your benefit, rather than as a sabotage.


CLARE: I love that. Let’s talk about the process of public speaking and the lead up to it. I’d love to know if you have any advice? Because for me, almost as bad as the actual speaking is the lead up to it and the week of days leading up to it.


How to calm your nerves in the lead up to the public speaking event


KATRINA: There are a couple of things I would strongly recommend people do. The first one is to sit and visualise how you want this presentation, pitch, speech etc, to go. Really imagine how it will feel under the lights (if you are up on stage), what the lectern will feel like, what amazing shoes you are going to wear… get really specific. Imagine yourself completely as you will be in that moment, and the people that will be there looking back at you with positive expressions on their faces. Imagine yourself nailing it, and feel into those feeling, instead of fretting. Have a positive experience instead.


The second thing I’d recommend is to be prepared. You’d be so amazed at how many of my clients just wing it. They hate it so much that they put such little effort into it, they don’t want to waste my emotional energy getting ready for this thing that I hate, but what they end up doing is undermining their performance completely. They get up there and have a mind blank, or worse, they write out their speaking notes word for word, especially on palm cards and they drop them over the stage. Be as prepared as you can be. Memorise as much as you can.. a great way to do this is to write it out by hand, rather than type on the computer, and record yourself saying it on your phone and play it back and listen, then all you have to do is print out dots points to have with you on stage. That will make you a conversational and relaxed speaker.


Another thing is to rehearse your speech in front of a mirror. This will feel weird if you haven’t done it before, but that way you can see how you are standing, what hand gestures you use, how flamboyant you are going to be, and practice making eye contact with yourself in the mirror too.


CLARE: Fantastic. I’m listening thinking, I don’t do those things.


KATRINA: It’s really al the prep work that will make the difference on the day.


CLARE: What about when we are actually in that moment? Anyone with this fear will know, you are there, it’s about to start, and the ground just falls out from underneath you and your various physical responses start to kick in. What do you do in that moment when that icky feeling kicks in?


Getting past fear when you first start to speak


KATRINA: I would practice feeling that way beforehand. We all know where we feel fear in our bodies so if it’s something you’ve tried to ignore, because a lot of people will say no to public speaking opportunities in the first place, then I suggest in your visualisation, when you feel the fear you really take notice where that happens in your body. It tends to be similar but different for everyone. For me, my chest gets tight, for others their throats constrict ,and then for others it can be in their tummies that starts turning. Scientists have found you generally have 5 seconds before your brain starts shooting adrenaline around your body and the stress hormone, so you have time, if you have really step in a notice that feeling in your body, to start doing something proactive about it and do some breathing exercises, a really great one is breath in through your nose, hold on the count of 6, and hold for 6 and then out of your mouth for the count of 6. You can move your body, and that gets rid of cortisol and adrenaline. For someone I knew who used to host a sports panel show, and he seemed so confident and effervescent on air, was actually off air, one of the most nervous performers I have ever encountered. He would pace the corridors for an hour before getting on air, but that helped him release the stress hormones. They are a couple of things you can do, but you really need to capture it early and be tuned into your body.


CLARE: I think I’ll be listening to this episode a couple of times. Obviously you do coaching work, but you also have this online program… if people would like to find out more about Claiming your Confidence, how can they get in touch with you?


KATRINA: You can go to my website, which is katrinablowers.com or you can follow my on Instagram, or stalk me on Channel 7 news.


CLARE: Fantastic, I’ll share those details in the shownotes, thanks for joining us.

Thank you so much for joining me today, if you enjoyed this episode, please make sure you subscribe to receive future episodes, and I’d be so grateful for a review on apple podcast! If you’d like a copy of the show notes or any of the links mentioned today, please jump over to clarewood.com.au/podcast and remember that Clare is spelled CLARE, have a wonderful week and look forward to chatting to you again soon!


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