• James Walton

How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking

*For access to earlier posts in this Effective Presenter series, click here.

If we are to believe Jerry Seinfeld's quip that the average person would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy, it's normal to feel fear prior to a presentation. Most us would rather die than speak in front of others.

In fact, prior to delivering a presentation it's normal to feel any or all of the following:

  • Sticky palms

  • Pressure in your chest

  • Upset tummy

  • Bouncy, jittery legs

  • Tightness in your throat

  • A crippling sense that you're about to embarrass yourself beyond repair

Is there a way to overcome this? Yes, but slowly.

Here's a few things that have helped me:

The best way out of fear is through it. All these symptoms are your body's way of telling you you're about to do something significant. This is your first clue that the best way forward is through this fear rather than around it.

Be compassionate with yourself. In most cases, the people assembled to hear you are for you and want you to do well. They'll be gracious with your missteps, if they notice them at all.

Compare your efforts to you were yesterday, not the best version of someone else. Comparison is thief of joy. So be sure you've given the best effort you know how to give.

Breathe. Find your center. When fear comes spilling into your mind like water from a broken dam, breathe.

Rehearse your opening lines. If you've done the work to master your material, your body will go on autopilot once you get into the groove. Nail the opening, and you'll get in that groove quicker.

There are few fatal flaws. Even if you fail catastrophically, remember that the worst that can happen isn't death. We're launching ideas here, not space shuttles.

Next time will be easier. And next time after that too. Exposure therapy works through gradual and increasing exposure to the stimulus that cripples us. If you can push through your fear once, you'll likely experience that your worst imaginations are unrealized, and there's more right than wrong with you. Fear is a liar, so the next time fear comes knocking to knock you off your confidence, you'll have data to counteract its lies.

You're a good leader who has what it takes to present with confidence.

June is Presentation Month at Trellis Group, and this is one of 8 short articles we'll publish this month. Each aims to make you a more effective communicator. If a friend or colleague could benefit, please send them this link to subscribe.

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