Are you afraid to speak in the public? Do you want to overcome your fear of public speaking? If your answer to the two questions above is yes, then read on as I share with you my own personal experience on how I overcame my fear of public speaking.
Now if you think you are alone with this fear of public speaking; then think again. I also had the same fears and many people all over the world also share your fears to speak in public. I recall several incidents that occurred while I was growing up. As a child, I often got punished with the rest of my classmates for failing to answer the teacher’s question; even though I had the right answer within me.
I preferred to be punished with others than raise my hand to answer a question; my fear of public speaking was so strong that I would rather risked being punished in school than to see myself being exempted from punishment, simply because I answered a question.
If there was anything I hated most, it was standing out from the crowd; and public speaking was one of such ways to stand out. I often missed school feigning illness just to avoid the debate classes organized by the school management. Now how did I overcome my fear of public speaking? That’s what I am going to share with you now.
In this article, I am going to share with you my step by step strategy to overcoming my fear of public speaking. If you are willing to learn and take some actions, then below is my ten step guide to overcoming your fear of public speaking.
How I Overcame My Fear of Public Speaking
1. I acknowledged my fears
Nobody is perfect when it comes to public speaking, thus it is nothing but normal for anyone to entertain a feeling of fear; so accept fear and allow it to pass. The first step I took to overcome my fear of public speaking was to acknowledge my fears. I wasn’t shy about it; I openly admitted that I was afraid to speak publicly.
One of the mistakes people make is that they hide their fears; and this fear eats them up silently. They feign boldness on the outside but inside; they pray that the earth should open and swallow them.
The positive side of openly admitting your fears is that you will become more challenged to overcome it. It’s very important to understand that fear will only go away if you understand how it affects you; and you formulate steps to conquer it. Don’t run from your fears; face it.
Openly admitting your fears means you are facing your fears head on. It might earn you some mockery but it’s a way to go especially if you can use that mockery as leverage to boost your determination.
2. I traced the root cause of this fear
The next step I took to overcome my fear of public speaking was to trace the root cause of the fear. I came to understand that the root cause of this fear was the mentality I grew up with. During my primary school days, I always took the first position in class; term after term. I was happy and my parents were, but it put a strain between me and some of my childhood friends.
My friends began to pull back from me because they felt they were out of my league academically and it hurt me. I wanted to be like everyone else; that was where I developed the attitude to avoid “standing out.” If being outstanding was going to single me out of the crowd, then I didn’t want it.
Now having understood the cause of my fears, I decided to attack the root cause. I began to be me, regardless of what people said. I began to take on challenges, not because I loved challenges but I just wanted people to talk. This attitude pitched me against people who felt I was showing off but I didn’t care; I just wanted to be me.
3. I developed a strong desire to overcome my fear of public speaking
To be sincere, I don’t think you can overcome your fear of public speaking if you don’t desire it strongly. I was able to overcome mine because I desired it. I wanted to express myself in public without an iota of fear and I was prepared to do whatever it takes to bring such desire into reality.
4. I prepared my mindset to take whatever comes
I had a strong desire to overcome my fear of public speaking and also develop my public speaking skills. But deep down in me, I knew it wasn’t going to come easy; I knew there has to be a price and I was willing to pay it. I prepared my mind to accept whatever comes; I knew the worst may come so I prepared to meet it in advance.
I prepared to take the booing, mockery and rejection that may arise in the process of learning to speak confidently in public. So if you really want to overcome your fear of public speaking, then you must be prepared to take whatever comes.
5. I kept an open mind
To overcome my fears, I kept an open mind. I knew I had to learn and learn real fast. Learning in this case is not the classroom kind of learning; it’s a type of lesson that can come in the form of suggestion, advice or even criticism.
6. I learned from the masters
The next step I took to overcome my fear of public speaking was to seek advice from the masters. I began to read books and listen to tapes authored by people such as Brian Tracy, Zig Ziglar, Dale Carnegie, etc. By reading the materials published by these great public speakers, I tapped into their wisdom and gained inspiration from them.
7. I harnessed the power of positive affirmation
Another step I took to enhance my public speaking ability was to use positive affirmations. You might think it’s not effective but I stand to tell you that it works like magic. By using positive affirmations such as “I can do it” or “I know I am destined for this”, you will unconsciously boost your self esteem. Remember the bible says that the power of life and death is in the tongue, so learn to use the power of spoken words to your advantage.
8. I developed the passion to teach
Public speaking is more or less teaching. Most great public speakers are teachers, so if I am going to excel as a public speaker; if I am to overcome my fear of public speaking, then I have to develop the passion to teach. That was how I became a teacher; sharing information over the web, over the phone, on platforms and through hard copy materials.
9. I started small
Today, I speak on platforms; hold seminars and engage in one on one consultations but it was not so few years ago. I started small. I started out by practicing in front of a mirror; imagining myself standing on a stage. I worked on my body language and movement in my closet and from there; I proceeded to speaking for free. I also engaged in positive discussions and I wasn’t afraid to take a stand. I began to accept the crowd as a group of friends; never again was I to be scared of speaking in front of an audience.
10. I became a confident speaker
After taking the nine simple steps above, I became a confident speaker. I can now speak to any capacity of audience provided I am well grounded on the subject. But I want you to know that I didn’t develop my public speaking skills overnight; I underwent a process that was triggered off by my desire to overcome my fear of public speaking.
5 Additional Action Tips for Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking
a. Create positive images in your mind
If you are new to the game of public speaking; you can try focusing on images and thoughts that will help you relax and develop a positive mental attitude. If you feel tension building inside as you approach the podium, you can just take your mind down memory lane and recall an event that made you laugh; this will ease the tension and eliminate your fears.
b. Free your mind
Before engaging in any public speaking event, try getting rid of negative thoughts and issues bothering you. Overcoming your fear of public speaking might prove to be impossible if your mind is clouded with negative thoughts and problems.
You can a free your mind by trying to calm yourself and gaining a firm foothold of any situation by using deep and gentle breathing exercises to help you gain composure. Watching a movie or discussing with friends can also help free your mind a little bit.
c. Be focused; concentrate
Never ever lose track of reality, never let go of your consciousness. Concentrating on the importance of the task at hand can make you break through your fears. When you have a public speaking engagement; let go of other external issues. Try focusing on the task ahead; this will help you gauge how well you are adapting to any situation that you are in.
d. Find your inner strength
If you are going to forget any of these ten action steps for overcoming your fear of public speaking, never forget this because it’s the best antidote to fear. Why are you in the game of public speaking? The answer to this single question can be the breakthrough you need to overcome your fear of public speaking.
That’s why I always emphasize the need to have a “Why” for any project or venture you are undertaking because it can turn out to be your greatest source of motivation. Why do you think some successful public speaker close their eyes for few seconds before mounting the podium? They are simply trying to draw their inner strength.
I usually tell my protégés that the best way to overcome the fear of public speaking is to call upon your inner strength. What are you good at? The answer to this question might be your inner strength. If you are good at storytelling, use it in your speeches. If you are good at telling jokes, use it. Anything you know you are gifted at; use it. Dwell on your strengths and make it the driving force that will push you to try out anything new and to conquer your fears.
e. Monitor your performance
Before going public with your public speaking skills, it’s advisable you work on yourself indoors and gauge your performance. How about trying out your skills in front of a mirror? Or making a speech in front of your family and friends? The two situations above are practical ways you can test and evaluate your public speaking skills without making a mess of yourself.
When standing in front of a crowd and delivering your message; carry the assumption that there are judges and members of a panel out to scrutinize and grade you on your performance. Imagine the crowd to be family and friends out to help you achieve your dreams and overcome your fears. After making a speech, ask a friend or somebody you are comfortable with about your performance. This will help you work on your weak spots.
As a final note, these are the exact steps I took to overcome my fear of public speaking. If you take a close observation, you will notice that they are very simple steps. Well, overcoming your fear of public speaking will not occur by just reading this article. It will only happen if you take action just as I took action.