Since public speaking used to make me sweat like a pig wearing a blanket in a sauna, I’m sharing how I overcame my fear of public speaking, so hopefully it helps you, too.
Why we get nervous
We’re scared because we worry about what we’ll say, people looking and judging us, or messing up; we’re basically just thinking about ourselves and focussing all the attention on ourselves. These thoughts are painful and it’s our human instinct to run from pain. So as long as we let that voice in our head, the ego, ruminate and say all those unhelpful and sometimes nasty things, like, “you’re not good enough, you can’t do it, etc”, we get paralysed.
Take the spotlight off you
…And shine it on the audience.
My partner once said to me, “focus on what you’re giving and how you’re helping them”. Of course, all this time I was far too concerned with myself, shining the light on myself. I shifted my focus by asking myself, “how can I help, how can I serve the audience?” I focussed all my effort and energy on answering these two questions. Asking questions changes our focus. We can only think of one thing at a time, so asking these empowering questions forced my mind to stop thinking about me and instead, think about doing the best I can to help the audience.
Take the spotlight off you and shine it on the audience
If you mess up
One of the worries we typically have is messing up. If you do, always focus on your recovery, because that’s the part people will remember. Not the mistake! People are so fearful of public speaking, you will spark admiration in your come back. So look forward, not backwards.
Practise practise practise
All elite athletes spend vastly more time off the court than on the court. When they’re on the court their performance is all through rehearsal. When you practise, you embody the speech, it sinks into your subconscious so the words flow through you. When it comes to delivering it, you can focus more on the performance and delivery. I recommend doing a minimum of 20 full practise-runs of your speech.
After rehearsing your presentation about eight times, get your smartphone out and video yourself doing the complete performance at least five times. You’ll be amazed at the annoying fidgety things we’re completely unaware we do. I used to twitch from one leg to the other. Colleagues at my speaking club would tell me to stop. But I didn’t stop until I could see it for myself. Seeing our annoying habits brings them to our awareness, then we can do something about them.
Join a speaking club
I tried reading books to help me learn without actually doing, but it didn’t help. It’s like a surgeon learning only from books and without practical experience. I joined Toastmasters, a brilliant global non-profit speaking club. It’s a wonderfully safe and supportive environment to make mistakes and improve; learn how to use words, your body, and the stage to give power to your presentations. It’s free to go for a taster session.
I overcame my fear of public speaking, but if you’re passionate about what you do, the nerves never really go away. With practise, you learn how to harness the flutter of nerves, channel them into a tidal wave of passion that lifts the audience.
Over to you
What tip can you take and start implementing today? Tell me in the comments below. Or have you overcome your fear? Tells us how you did in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.