How to overcome the fear of public speaking

I know, I know you might be thinking “uuuurrrgh, I’d rather be coding in the depths of Hell” or “I’m NOT an actor, I don’t want to be on stage”. But hear me out, because the power of public speaking can totally transform both your personal and professional life.

Why is public speaking important?

It’s a good question, and one that we’ve all heard before. But if you’ll indulge me for a minute. Public speaking is very important for everyone. Whether you work in a large corporation or are developing the next incredible start-up business, being able to articulate your ideas - the stuff that’s in your head - clearly and confidently will make all the difference.


Talking, chatting wearing a binary shirt


Who has inspired you?

Maybe you have watched a friend or colleague speaking in public? Someone who was able to captivate the audience and leave a lasting impression. This is the power of public speaking.



The good stuff that comes from public speaking

Public speaking allows you to communicate your ideas and vision to others, it can also help you build credibility and influence within your industry. It is that powerful!

Imagine being able to confidently pitch your start-up to investors, present your amazing research findings at a conference or even comment at a live event? These are the opportunities that will connect you with the world at large, an grow your network. They are type of things that can transform your trajectory, create whole new landscape to explore and learn, it can also be a lot of fun. In a nutshell, mastering public speaking simply cannot be ignored. It’s about investing in you, giving yourself the best chance, demonstrating who you are – your knowledge, enthusiasm and understanding.


Interacting with people, conversations, wearing glitch shirt

I’m sh!t scared about public speaking

Let’s be honest, public speaking can be scary, it can be a nerve-wracking, roller coaster journey. The thought of standing in front of a group of people, with all eyes on you, can trigger feelings of anxiety and self-doubt. That’s perfectly natural and believe it or not, you have to embrace those feelings, which I know sounds weird. But it’s ok! It’s completely natural to feel nervous about public speaking, in fact it’s a positive sign, it shows that you’re engaged, that this means something to you.


Smiling, laughing and enjoying talking with others

How do you overcome these challenges?

There are many tools available, it’s about being honest with yourself about how you learn, where your strengths lie and knowing where your weaknesses are as well. Like any skill, there’s simply no substitute for experience. So it will be no surprise to hear that the first step is to practice, practice, practice.

The more you speak in public, the more comfortable and confident you’ll become. Ideally you start small, presenting to a group of friends or colleagues and gradually work your way up towards larger audiences.


Andy Boothman and Heather McDougall chatting

Everyone makes mistakes

Even the most seasoned public speakers, it’s also what makes you human. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you stumble over your words or forget a point, the chances are no-one else will notice.


Eye contact - Sarah Horsfall

I’m bored

How many times have you sat through a ‘boring presentation’? It’s not necessarily the subject that doesn’t connect with you, sometimes it’s the slides, sometimes it’s the person, sometimes it’s just the delivery that leaves you feeling confused and disconnected? But it doesn’t have to be like that.


Pixel shirt, presenting

Public speaking tips

Yes there are boat loads of them. A quick search online will soon have you deep down a rabbit hole of courses, coaches, whether to Ted and not to Ted. It’s a minefield, not least because so many of these people are experts ‘behind the scenes’, coaching and developing, but you can’t see (or hear) what they are actually like when faced with a real life, public speaking opportunity.


Sarah Green presenting

We have the answer to this dilemma.

Before we tell you to pay attention to your body language and tone of voice and a whole host of other things, which if you’re not careful will stifle what you’re doing. Things like facial expressions, posture and gestures are more important than the words you say! We know it’s sounding complex already, so let’s start with someone who’s been there and done it.


Dan Sodergren speaking at the DressCode launch event

Say hello to Dan Sodergren

If you’re a dedicated follower of DressCode you will probably recognise Dan, if not don’t worry we’ll soon get you up to speed. Dan has been with us, championing what we do from the very beginning. In 2018, he came to Cambridge and delivered a presentation at the launch of the business.

Dan has developed his public speaking profile over a number of years. Today he’s a regular contributor on the BBC - across both radio and TV, he writes for various professional publications and has been instrumental in redefining ‘the future of work’ through YourFlock in the post Covid period and he is a TedX speaker.

Working together

We share the same fascination with technology, and of course, a love of shirts! When we began developing our designs, Dan was one of several sounding boards for our earliest ideas. There were a number of reasons for this –

Shared interest

Aligned values

Understanding of the target audience

And so on…

The magic

The magic in our relationship comes from a mutual understanding of something called ‘enclothed cognition’. It’s something that we can all ‘understand’ yet all too often choose to ignore.

What is enclothed cognition?

The clothes that you wear send messages both inwards and outwards. Stopping to think about this and how it makes you feel is powerful, especially when you are involved in public speaking.


Enclothed cognition - inner voice

The Inner voice

Let’s start with what’s going on inside your head, often called the inner critic. As we’ve said, it’s perfectly natural to feel a bit self-conscious, and it is healthy to have some level of anxiety ahead of public speaking.

But what can you do to keep things in check? Turn down the volume of the inner critic? Believe it or not the clothes that you wear have a significant role to play here. What you wear feeds and nurtures your state of mind on two levels. First it’s about clothing that is appropriate to the task, for example you wouldn’t wear your sweaty gym gear to perform heart surgery in the same way that you wouldn’t go to the beach in your surgical scrubs. The type of clothes we wear change our outlook to the task in hand – this has been scientifically proved many times - they also set our anticipation of what’s to come. Second and most importantly, they ‘talk’ to us, to our inner critic about the things we love, the happy, good stuff that puts a big smile on our faces – this comes through our choice of colours, design details, patterns…the list is long and very, very personal.


Enclothed cognition. - outer voice

Outer voice

Enclothed cognition is pervasive, it gets everywhere, there simply is no escape. While your clothes are acting as a comfort blanket, shield, fortress and many other things to you inwardly, they are also projecting message outwards to those around you, and in the case of public speaking, to your audience.

Humans are visual first, we make a massive amount of our daily decisions based on our visual assumptions. These big decisions are made within 2-3 seconds (Yes your brain really is a super computer on steroids), we are relying heavily on the visual to guide us.

Our direction is formed by our personal interpretation of the things that we see. Sending out the right messages here is a genuine super power that we should all embrace.

We love being a part of the conversation

Genuinely we do, what you wear is always going to be part of the conversation, we feel both humbled and honoured to play such a pivotal role within all kinds of conversations, in all kinds of places, but particularly within public speaking events, where Dan has championed several of our designs. Most notable would probably be the CashCuff contactless payment shirts, which were followed by the Climate Code shirt which you may have seen him proudly ‘showing his stripes’ at TedX, on BBC Breakfast, BBC new channels, Watchdog, The One Show and on countless radio shows and now on the cover of his book “OVERCOME – The fear of public speaking”.


Dan Sodergren TedX talk wearing Climate Code shirt

Dress for success

I mentioned earlier that we (DressCode) and Dan share the same values. We knew Dan would be a fan of the Climate Code shirt, though we hadn’t anticipated it being on the cover of a book… and several other prestigious places.

Climate Code Shirt design

At the time of creating it, working with the British Antarctic Survey and Professor Ed Hawkins we wanted to share the power of enclothed cognition. We see it in action each and every day, it’s an incredibly powerful tool that we should all use more often. We also wanted to support the science, and raise the awareness of the climate challenge away from the usual channels. Creating clothing to get people thinking in a new way. We were conscious that could easily become a ‘marmite’ situation - environment and climate are subjects can often overwhelm people, so we built in some good news stories within the design.

Our Climate Code shirt works on many levels, it has a huge amount of scientific data within the design itself – 800,000 years of it to be precise, but there are also features that show ‘we can make a difference’, which is such an important part of the ‘big picture’, it brings new angles into the conversations and stops pointing the finger!

Special connection

May 24th saw a limited edition of Dan’s book launched with an introduction to us, DressCode and our Climate Code work. Collaboration comes in many forms, we love what Dan has done with the book, that’s why we’ve put our name on it. We are passionate about the power of enclothed cognition and equally passionate about slow-fashion and protecting our climate. Working together, we have created this limited edition e-book to share with our customers old and new.


'Overcome' book cover

FREE limited edition book…

When they're gone, they’re gone. If you’ve already bought a shirt from us, check your inbox for your code. If you’ve not yet bought from us that’s Ok, we want to help you become a better public speaker and are confident that we can work together to do that.

Here’s the deal, for new customers - buy any DressCode shirt during June and get a copy of “OVERCOME – The fear of public speaking” for FREE! Simply order your shirt, men's and women’s sizes available, through the website and we’ll send you a voucher code for a free e-book.

Public Speaking. You can do it!

So there you have it. The power of public speaking is real, and it’s well worth your while to develop these skills. Don’t let fear hold you back – embrace the challenge and watch your personal and professional life transform. Who knows, you might be the next TED Talk sensation!


Useful links and blog posts

We all suffer from Enclothed Cognition

Being your best self

Clothing is your secret superpower

What are your clothes saying about you?