People often ask me How I (Finally) Got Over My Fear of Public Speaking.
The short answer is that I have not.
The fear is still there but I have it under control. Now, I speak on a national scale at conferences and coach the biggest names in the corporate world. I give my clients feedback and advice on how to manage their stage fright and perform well in the spotlight.
Before managing my anxiety, the fear of public speaking controlled my life. I could not even speak at meetings at work without blushing, sweating, stammering and losing my breath.
If you don’t know me yet: Ten years ago I was a stereotypical chemical engineer: Introverted, shy and terrified of public speaking. Now I am a national speaker, trainer, and author and run a public speaking training company. How did I conquer my public speaking fear – below are some of the things that helped me get over my fear and hopefully will help you too.
1) The first step to overcoming the fear of public speaking is to realize that you are not alone
It’s such a relief to know that others struggle with the same thing you struggle with. Initially, I thought I was alone and that no one else fears public speaking.
Luckily, I was wrong.
The first thing I tried to do when building my speaking confidence is to join a Toastmaster group. The moment I stepped into the room, I realized that there were other people who are like me. I realized that a lot of people were scared of public speaking.
Speech anxiety affects more people than you think. As many as 7.7% of Americans suffer from it. Realizing that others suffer from speech anxiety helped me tremendously. It gave me comfort to know that others suffer from this as well, and they understand what I go through when I am on stage.
I work with professionals all the way from entry level to C-level and help them get over their nerves and perform better. So don’t feel bad and most importantly don’t feel sorry for yourself.
The first thing I recommend you do is to check out your local Toastmasters group. Or sign up for a free public speaking class and meet other people who are in your situation. That will help you a lot.
2) Learn to control your focus
When people get anxious, they tend to turn their whole focus on anxiety. Unfortunately, what you focus on expands; when you focus on the anxiety, you increase that anxiety.
Professionals, who attend my training and workshops always want to find out: what causes anxiety, how to get rid of fear, and how to deal with anxiety? – That’s normal when you have a toothache you always poke it with your tongue to check on it, right? The same thing happens with public speaking fear; you always keep checking on it don’t you?
But, just like with your tooth, the sooner you get your mind away from it, the sooner the pain starts to go away.
The next time you feel the anxiety, turn your focus on other things like your audience. Training your focus muscle takes time – After our full day intensive boot camps, most attendees feel more comfortable with speaking to groups, because we spend the whole day helping them shift their focus from their anxiety to the audience right in front of them.
3) Re-interpret the response of anxiety
One of the biggest things I’ve done to overcome my fear of speaking is to re-interpret the anxiety symptom.
I noticed that the symptoms of anxiety and excitement were the same: Your body temperature goes up, your heart rate goes up, you sweat a little more, etc. The same symptoms, that when you interpret the symptoms as anxiety you hold yourself back, and when you interpret it as excitement, it frees you up.
I taught my private clients how to do this for years and recently I found out that there was a clinical study done at Rochester University that proves this.
Then next time you feel the symptoms, ask yourself why I am excited instead of asking why am I nervous – you will be surprised how this changes the game.
These are only three ways of many to overcome your public speaking anxiety and fear. I will do other posts on other ways soon.
Meanwhile, take steps to build up your confidence by practicing the three ways I listed above. You can start by taking some public speaking classes at Toastmasters or our Magnetic Delivery Boot Camp coming up.
Every day I meet people at all levels in the organization from a new hire to a CEO who have speaking anxiety, and it holds them back in their career, it does not have to be this way – getting rid of the anxiety and fear is easier than you think.