How to Get Over the Fear of Public Speaking
Career Growth

How to Get Over the Fear of Public Speaking

PUBLIC SPEAKING IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILLS TO MASTER IN ORDER TO INFLUENCE DECISION MAKERS, CHANGE THE STATUS QUO, AND GROW MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS. 

While most of us can create authentic connections in private, we fail miserably when called upon to give public presentations. Luckily, good public speakers can be made, not just born. {Click to Tweet}

Let me address three common myths that you probably have about public speaking: 

1)    Great public speakers are born with speaking skills.

2)   Great public speakers are extroverts who don’t get nervous.

3)   Great public speakers are smart people.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but these aren’t quite true. Now let’s reframe these statements to reflect the actual strengths of great public speakers.

1)    Great public speakers have spent hours practicing their craft.

2)   Great public speakers get nervous but manage their anxiety.

3)   Great public speakers are perceived as smart people.

A word of warning, though: these changes don’t happen overnight. It does take time, practice, and reflection to nail the art of public speaking. {Click to Tweet}

So how do you go from being shy to owning the stage? Here are five things you need to do to get over your fear of public speaking.

1) MASTER YOUR INTERNAL CONVERSATION

This is the most important step to take before you start speaking publicly. You need to move past your fear of failure, comparison, and social inhibitions. 

You need to move past your fear of failure, comparison, and social inhibitions. 

When you judge yourself before you get on the stage, you have automatically discredited and disqualified yourself. You don’t need to be the next Oprah or Michelle Obama. However, you need to believe in yourself first, before you can convince others to believe in you, too.

2) CLARIFY YOUR MESSAGE 

Are you speaking to persuade, educate, or entertain? Are you speaking to high school graduates or company executives?

There is value in simplicity and organization. Make it effortless for your audience to understand what your topic is all about, whoever they are.

The number one mistake a lot of college graduates and professionals make is attempting to impress rather than express. Your message is much stronger when it is clearer. In fact, a simple and clear message is more impactful than a bunch of impressive words strung together.

The number one mistake a lot of college graduates and professionals make is attempting to impress rather than express

So get rid of all the clutter in your mind. Focus on your takeaway message. Really hone in on the emotions you want your audience members to feel. Then get clear on what your call to action is. Taken together, that is your message.

Related: Communicating Effectively at Work

3) GET PROFESSIONAL TRAINING

A lot of smart women I know make the mistake of thinking that they will be judged or deemed incompetent if others know of their inadequacies.

But sometimes, you just can’t make the public speaking cut simply by mastering your internal conversation and clarifying your message. This is when you ask for help.

Get professional training.

Don’t feel too proud to ask someone to polish your presentation skills and delivery. {Click to Tweet} Hiring a public speaking coach or vocal coach will dramatically improve your presence and influence because he/she can see and hear you from the perspective of an audience member and a teacher.

4) PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

This is a no-brainer. Never wing a presentation or a public speaking opportunity. Not only does this damage your reputation and personal brand, it communicates your disrespect for your audience and their time.

I recommend practicing with presentation slides to 1) know your content and 2) to familiarize yourself with the pauses, breaks, and stops in your script. Then practice without presentation slides to play around with eye contact, emotion, vocal cadence, flow, and mannerism.

Practice without presentation slides to play around with eye contact, emotion, vocal cadence, flow, and mannerism.

Related: How to Stand Out From Your Workplace Peers

5) HAVE FUN!

Here’s the thing about public speaking: you’re not putting yourself out there to be judged; you’re giving away value. I don’t recall feeling queasy when giving a gift or sharing a meal with someone I love or care about. 

Public speaking can be fun when you reframe the way you think about it. Instead of thinking about a soul-sucking event with grumpy, old executives sitting at the roundtable, think about going to an event with eager human beings who can’t wait to hear what you have to share. 

Don’t disqualify yourself before you start. You have what it takes to share your knowledge and speak on a stage fearlessly.

How do you deal with the fear of public speaking? Let me know in the comments below!