Fear might not be the right word for everyone – but there is an anxiety that comes with public speaking. Speaking to a group of people isn’t something I’ve ever really struggled with. But there is a difference between speaking to a group of people who know you well and to whom you are familiar – and speaking to a room of people who you don’t know and who have chosen to be there because they think you have some wisdom to impart. Which of course you do – or you would not have been asked in the first place!
What does the fear of public speaking feel like?
For me, whenever I was asked to speak, there would be an instant pang of sickness in my stomach. My palms would be sweaty, and I would feel my core body temperature rise. I’d have to seriously focus on forming my words and on just taking a breath so that an audible noise came out of my mouth as I said “Yes, of course. I’d love to” — what a lie. What I really meant was “No, no way. Are you mad?”.
Why say yes?
You deserve to be standing there, speaking to that crowd. You earnt it.
There is something you know that the people in that crowd don’t. That’s why they’re there, and that’s why you were given the opportunity to speak in the first place.
Those statements sound as bold as brass, don’t they! But think for a minute, when you last attended some sort of conference or expo, you probably sat in on some seminars. Why did you do that? Because you wanted to learn something. I bet if you really think, you’ll also be able to tell me what you learnt and from who. Or, at the very least, be able to tell me something that someone said that resonated with you and reinforced your own thinking.
So, what’s the answer?
Face your fear! Seek it out! I have to say, the thought of it is far worse than the reality in my personal experience. I could give you a whole list of tips on how to prepare, think about what you wear, considerations for your slides, etc. But that won’t actually make you do it.
You need a date in your diary when it’s going to happen – So get that date booked in. If you’re connected to the world of recruitment, check out the Inspire Recruitment Events run by UK Recruiter and Recruiting Gym that are made up of usually 10 – 15 speakers with 5-minute slots each, all of whom are new to the speaking circuit. See if there’s a possibility of you getting a 20-minute slot at your local networking group perhaps. From there, as your confidence builds, you can start to look for bigger opportunities; maybe delivering a seminar during a local business expo or industry event.
So how did I get over my fear of public speaking?
I recognised the science. Have you ever been so excited about something that it made you feel physically sick? That feeling of fear I described earlier is caused by a rush of adrenaline. When you’re excited by something, the exact same thing happens – you get a rush of adrenaline, and the physical effects are actually almost identical! What changes, is our attitude towards what those physical signals mean.
So, the answer to the question of how I got over my fear of public speaking is simple. I didn’t. And I don’t think I ever will totally. You see, the fear has changed. I only get it now for a few seconds before I get ‘on stage’ and for about half an hour after. But I’m going to take every opportunity that is presented to me and keep just doing it because that fear has now also become part of the buzz of it, and instead of calling it fear, I’m going to call it excitement.