How to conquer fear of public speaking

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Patti speaking at a Women Who Lead Conference.

Patti speaking at a Women Who Lead Conference.

Have you ever been in a situation where the fear of public speaking in front of a group had you sweating and your heart racing? Did you know that some people would rather die than face the fear of speaking in front of a group?
I can relate as I have experienced this gut-wrenching feeling on a number of occasions. One in particular really stands out. Many years ago, I was asked to give a speech at an Eagle ceremony for one of the boys in my Cub Scout den. I couldn’t say no, but I was concerned. How would I get up in front of all those people and deliver a speech to honor this wonderful guy? But I told myself that I had some time to prepare and could get my notes together and come through. The time came to speak at the ceremony.  I walked up on stage. Everyone was just staring at me. And some didn’t give me an encouraging smile, but rather a scowl. At least that’s what it felt like to me.

Oh boy, was I ever filled with fear! My heart was beating so fast I actually thought people might be able to see it through my shirt.  I finished the speech, but it was clear that I was a nervous wreck. After that experience, I vowed to myself that I would overcome my fear of speaking in front of a group so I’d be able to stand up confidently in front of a crowd. I told myself that plenty of people speak very well in public and it is a skill that can be learned.
Guess what? I was right! With a lot of hard work and practice, I was able to learn and I’ve realized that good public speaking skills are quite an important asset for anyone in business. Actually, if you think about it, the ability to speak in any situation is a great talent for anyone to acquire and refine.

I’d like to share with you the top three tools I learned on this journey. Whether you have an upcoming speech or just want to present yourself with confidence, these tips will help you succeed.

  1. Prepare, prepare, and prepare again. There is nothing like practice for building skill and confidence. That said, I don’t like the phrase “practice makes perfect” because perfection isn’t an attainable goal. Think instead about practice and preparation helping you make progress.
  2. For more in-depth training, consider speaking lessons. Toastmasters International is a wonderful organization that provides leadership and speaking training. You can find information on the Peachtree City club at peachtreecity.toastmastersclubs.org.
  3. Overcome your own self-limiting beliefs by picturing yourself doing the very thing that covers you with fear. This is called visualization and I have practiced it many times. I just picture myself up on the stage or standing at my networking table, sharing with confidence. Again, the key here is repetition. It’s a simple yet effective tool for dealing with not only the fear of speaking, but any other fears and doubts you need to overcome. Simple — yet very powerful!

Overcoming the fear of speaking in front of a group isn’t always easy, but you can do it! One of my speaking mentors shared something that’s always stuck with me: what other people think about you is none of your business. That’s an important point for public speakers. We tend to be so concerned about what people will think if we mess up a word or stumble a bit or aren’t perfect. But most of the time, we are our own worst enemies. Remember that when someone else gets up to speak, you want that person to succeed and do a good job. Others want the same for you!

 

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