It’s February! And in our industry, that means the busy season! While we are busy building WordPress websites for folks and doing exciting design projects, we’ve also got a lot of other big plans for 2015 in the works.
One of my personal goals for the year is to overcome my fear of public speaking. I am certainly not alone in this phobia; this is a very common fear. But when a lot of people say they have trouble speaking in public, what they mean is that their voice shakes or their cheeks turn read. What I’m talking about is actively crying almost every time I have to stand up and speak in front of more than 5 people. It’s my natural reaction, and needless to say, it’s a real problem as a business owner and professional.
This fear of public speaking may surprise many close friends and family. In those circles, I am known as a social extrovert, even downright loud. But there is something about being put in the spotlight in a professional setting that causes massive anxiety for me. So I’m determined to get a handle on it and for the love of god, stop crying in public.
When I put a request on social media for suggestions on how to get over my fear of public speaking, I got an amazing list of helpful comments and suggestions (see below). One of the most common suggestion is to join Toastmasters. However helpful this group has been for many, thinking about that makes me physically ill. So I’ve developed a plan to tackle my fear. Here it is, in seven semi-excruciating steps:
- Join an improv class.
I had my first class on Valentine’s Day. I have friends who have taken improv classes and report some amazing benefits such as increased confidence, better self-awareness and reaction time and the ability to care less what other people think of you. I did cry (not surprisingly) within the first 5 minutes when I had to tell everyone why I was joining the class. But after 3 hours, I felt much more comfortable and even had to stand up in front of the class for an entire minute doing an improvised speech. I did this without crying, so I feel excited to already have made some progress! Plus the class was such a supportive environment, I really think this is going to help.
- Record video tutorials to publish on my blog.
This will give me a chance to develop and practice content and even edit out my mistakes and have unlimited do-overs.
- Present some of those tutorials live on a webinar.
This will give me a chance to present the content to a live audience but still from the comfort of my own office. I don’t need to look at anyone and I can actually read the content if needed. This will also give me a chance to field questions (one of the scariest parts about public speaking), and if I freak out, I can always fake a technical glitch and shut down the webinar.
- Co-host a WordPress bootcamp.
This is already scheduled for exactly one month and 1 week from now (Yikes!). Because my co-hosts are gracious enough to do the majority of the actual speaking, my role will at first be walking around helping people on a one-on-one basis, which I love doing.
- Present material at the WordPress bootcamp with my co-hosts.
The idea of sharing a stage with others makes it seem less intimidating
- Present my own material solo for a group of about 10 people
- Present my own material solo for a larger group!
Hurray, this is when I can really celebrate.
I’ll be updating you on my progress as I go through this journey, and I appreciate any tips you may have! Or if you also suffer from glossophobia, feel free to commiserate on any embarrassing or uncomfortable public speaking moments you may have had.
Crowd-Sourced Ideas For Getting Over a Fear of Public Speaking:
These are responses from a couple of my Facebook posts:
- Practice in front of the chickens!
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jElVDJ2iV8c Picture Them In Their Underwear: Mike Brady gives Jan some sound advice on public speaking
- The more you do it, the better you will feel…start small…join groups that they ask you to stand for a minute and just talk about yourself….
- Try a different Toastmasters if you don’t like the club near you, I just joined our local chapter and I’m
- Talk about something you are passionate about. It will come naturally.
- I had to go work as a waiter/ bartender to get over it. I now address groups of 30 people everyday.
- So I suffer from the same thing. So I will dispense my advice: I am taking masters courses and public speaking is 70% of what we do in class. Practice your material as best you can and analyze your audience. Know who they are and how they influence you. Your voice will shake and your hands will tremble but take a deep breath in the beginning and don’t rush. Unfortunately this is one of those areas that there are no substitutes for gaining experience other than just doing it.
- I used to get red and shakey but after a few short 20 minute talks I’m fine now. It’s weird. Just do it.
- Do karaoke. Pick a popular song, people will pay attention to you. Repeat until you realize the world won’t end if you bomb.
- Lots of alcohol. Lots.
- The more important the talk seems, and the more prepared I get, the more nervous I get and the talks suffer for it. It seems when I prepare my talks the best ones are the ones where I know about what I’m going to say, but not the order or the specific words, and I just go up and talk and watch the audience and think of it as a conversation with them. My slides are almost entirely pictures with a couple words to remind me and keep me on track. And watching the audience and responding to them helps me show more passion and get them engaged. So my advice would be to prepare less so that you don’t stress out about every word, and think of it as a conversation in which you monopolize all the time.
- Wish I could help. I’m a neurotic mess but have always had an easy time with public speaking. Love it. (You could hire me to do it for you)
- I’m taking an improv class to help with this problem. It’s really fun!
- The first group I spoke with I froze, having all the eyes staring at me definitely didn’t help ha. But as each group went on it got easier and easier. It’s really fun actually!
- Toastmasters is great – did it for 2 years.
- You could join MAC. You gotta get used to speaking to the group weekly, and it does get comfortable!
- I used to have this issue and still get nervous, but it’s never as bad as it used to be for me- and now I love it. The nervousness is still there beforehand, but it’s so much FUN now. How I got over my anxiety? I started out auditioning for for plays. Then I moved onto improv acting, film acting, short event appearances, then to performance art, and film directing. Anything that puts me in the center of attention helps get me over public speaking more and more. It’s never easy, but it’s always fun. I can help you with this if you need. PM me
- I’ve found *not practicing* to be the most helpful. That is not practicing a particular speech other than making mental notes of what you wish to cover. I’d go as far as not even doing a single dry run! Practice leads to getting stuck in fixed speech patterns, excessive speed, lack of engagement with your audience … you may perfectly say everything exactly how you meant to say it and you would still have failed, not to mention once you lose the thread you’re screwed. Getting practice speaking off-hand though, would be good. Watch good speakers, improv classes, etc.
- I’m by no means good though, so take it with a grain of salt. The idea is basically you should focus on getting completely comfortable with winging it and failing. Once you’re comfortable with that, maybe you can start to prepare like crazy like all the really good people do.
- I have to echo the Improv suggestions. It helped me feel more comfortable in front of large groups of people, and the comedy comes as a natural consequence of the awkwardness of improving. Trying to be funny or clever ruins Improv, so no pressure there. Also I find it really helps to hang out with close friends before giving a speech. It’s like stretching before a race, and will help give your speech a more conversational tone. Don’t try to memorize anything, just write some bullet points on a notecard so you have something to fall back on if you freak out. Memorizing is hard, but talking about a familiar subject is easy. And if you’re going to take a drug I’d go with a beta blocker like propranolol since it won’t dope you up but will prevent physical shaking and trembling if that’s a problem for you when you’re nervous. I doubt it’s necessary though.
- Here are a couple of tips that I have found helpful – 1. The more you speak, the easier it will get, 2. Take advantage of opportunities to watch as many different speakers as you can. Note what you like and don’t like about what they do. 3. Focus on your audience. If you are nervous, that makes them nervous. Think about creating a good experience for them. 4. Imagine you are speaking to a friend instead of a group of people.
- The mirror is your friend. Every time you’re in the bathroom give yourself a little speech. Hear yourself talking aloud. See your smile. See your eyes sparkle. Know everyone wants to hear what you know.
- Set an intention about how you want to feel and how you want your audience to feel when you speak. If you focus on contributing to your audience, it can help you take the focus off of your fears. I can also give you some free resources of how to release the fear if you private message me, Candy. The biggest thing to remember is people want to hear what you have to say. I know I do!
- Also remember – you most likely know more than your audience and the information you are sharing will be helpful to them. When we feel we are giving to others – we have less fear.
- I also suggest practicing in front of a mirror. Repeat it enough times that you feel comfortable not using Norse often. Always good to practice on people you know…mini workshop!
- Toastmaster is the best—it is the practice and feedback which works so well. Have you tried it?
- I am a member of toastmasters but don’t have time to even go that much..too bad. Anyways, what I do and know it works very well for public speaking is….TELL STORIES!! You want to capture your audience attention and people in general connect with you via stories. If you’re talking about business, connect it with an authentic story…we all have one. Then you don’t have to think too hard and be sure to pause….you’ll see how your audience are silent and attentive to you. My two cents.
- I will cast another vote for Toastmasters, and a speaker I met there: Rory Vaden. He covers a variety of topics, and is the author of “Take the Stairs.” Let me know if you’d like to borrow any books from my extensive collection of speaking resources
- I also agree – a networking group that meets regularly gives you consistent opportunity to speak in small doses. These are people who want you to succeed plus there’s typically training and helpful tips along the way.
- Another great book: Talk Like TED. Also, start watching TED talks and systematically critique them. Video yourself and then have someone give you commentary (or better yet, get a group of 5-8 ppl to give you feedback.