How I Overcame my Fear of Public Speaking.
“Thinking will not overcome fear, but action will.” – W. Clement Stone
As some of you may have seen from my Instagram Stories, last Friday I was invited by Explore Careers to speak in front of 250 guests at their Sydney event. This event was held at the Ivy Ballroom and to say that I was nervous, would be an understatement.
Like many other individuals, public speaking has always been a fear of mine. I know that I’m not alone in this as according to Forbes Magazine, the number one fear for the average person is public speaking. The second fear is death. This means, that most people would rather die than give a speech in front of a crowd.
The thought of getting up and speaking in front of a large crowd is enough to make my stomach churn. But at some point, I realised that if I wanted to be able to achieve my goals and my dreams, I would need to work on overcoming this fear. In light of my recent speech, I thought it would be timely to share with you the 5 actions I’ve taken to overcome this fear:
One of the most important elements of giving a great speech, is being prepared. If you are anything like me, you may not be the kind of speaker who can necessarily get up on stage and just ‘wing it.’ If the thought of giving a speech in public makes you feel physically ill, then I would suggest that you don’t simply leave it up to chance, and that you put the necessary time aside to prepare, practice and rehearse.
Spend time rehearsing in front of a mirror and then, you can begin practicing in front of friends and family. Ask and be open to feedback, as often the slightest changes can make the biggest impact.
The most important and impactful investment I’ve ever made, is the investment I’ve made in myself. If you want to improve at a particular skill, whether it be public speaking or anything else, you need to be willing to invest your time and resources.
Around 12 months ago, I recognised that public speaking was something I needed to work on in order to achieve my goals. I sought a private coach and as uncomfortable as it was for me, spent my time working on this skill in 1:1 sessions. My coach recorded me speaking, and then played it back to me, providing specific feedback on the things I could do to improve – from tone of voice, to speed, stance, hand gestures and everything in between. The feedback this coach provided me was invaluable, and something which has given me confidence in my personal and professional endeavours.
I have spent countless hours watching TED talks and other inspirational or business speeches. I spend time carefully observing the body language, tone and style of the speakers whom I have found to be the most engaging and impactful. When I watch these talks, I am often paying attention to verbal and non-verbal cues, and thinking about how I can adopt and apply these to my own talks.
Constantly look for new sources of information and make it a point to watch speeches, not only for the purpose of absorbing content and new ideas, but also how you can present yourselves in these kinds of situations.
Just like learning any other new skill, practice makes perfect. If you wanted to become a professional tennis player for example, you wouldn’t simply show up to a tournament and hope for the best. You would spend time practicing and may even consider hiring a coach to improve your skills.
This same principle applies to public speaking. If you want to be able to deliver a great speech, you need to be willing to say yes to opportunities as they present themselves. Recognise that just like any other skill, practice makes perfect.
After reading the book by Susan Jeffers, I’ve learned that sometimes you just need to feel the fear and do it anyway By adopting this practice, it has enabled me to stop, take a moment to acknowledge that I am fearful of the situation, and then go ahead and say yes anyway.
Mel Robbins has a similar take on this, called ‘The 5 Second Rule.’ When you feel yourself hesitate before you do something that you know you should do, count 5-4-3-2-1-GO and move towards action.
These simple strategies can be really effective when pushing yourself to put yourself out there and learning to say yes.
What are some of your experiences and thoughts when it comes to public speaking? I would love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below!