How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

There is one thing that scares me more that most things. Public speaking. Ever since I was in the 8th Grade I can say that speeches in class were the most unnerving thing I had done in my educational career as a student. My hands sweaty and shaking, cold and my heart racing. I really couldn’t wait for the speech to end. Fast forward a couple of decades and I now find myself about to take the stage at DreamForce (the largest user conferences in the world) that SalesForce puts on. Now as someone who studied Computer Science and has worked in computers for a while I can tell you I never saw myself doing this… ever. However, in the last year, I made it my goal to get to DreamForce this year and the easiest way to get here is to prepare and run a session.

Before my Presentation

Now sure I could have just bought a ticket and flown myself to get their but I was provided the option to go to DreamForce by owning a session, presenting and helping out at DreamForce. Now that it’s only a couple days away it’s pretty real. Finding out that my first session sold out in just over 2 days and my second repeat session is nearing 150 (Update: Currently over 300 attendees in the second session I am presenting) attendees has really put things into perspective. I’ve prepared, and prepared some more but now I just have this feeling that the only way to proceed is to go ahead and present.

I think that fear is something that we all face at times in life. Whether it’s delivering a speech or delivering pizza. The point is that when you let irrational fear hold you back its pointless, meaning that it only serves to hold you back in other parts of your life. I will post a follow up after speaking at DreamForce this year but in the meantime wish me luck and catch you on the other side!

After my Presentation

So after presenting to 500+ people at DreamForce this year I can tell you that it wasn’t as hard as I had thought previously. Before presenting I can tell you that the thought of it was terrifying to think about presenting in front of that many people. Now that I’ve actually done it successfully I can tell you that it’s harder to not do it again. Most people like I said before are scared to present, probably because they are afraid to make a mistake, afraid of how it will make them look to others but what I realized is…

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare – When I was getting ready to present I prepared a lot. I did dry-runs with colleagues, took their criticisms and feedback and practiced. Usually if you present and don’t prepare beforehand you stand a good chance of falling flat on your face but if you prepare you face the very real chance that you will be a rock star! Whether you are presenting a technical presentation, to a board of directors or to your 8th grade class.
  • Most of the people in the room are strangers – When you think about presenting to a group of people there is a good chance that you will find yourself staring out at a bunch of strangers. I found it easier to talk in front of people you don’t know and may never meet again.
  • You will fail if you don’t try – As with most things in life, the lack of trying something causes you to fail automatically. The same is true when being afraid to try to present and take that leap. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • Have fun with it – This is one that I am still new to but getting excited and having fun with presenting is important because it not only gets you pumped but it also makes you more engaging to the people in your audience. After all who wants to sit through a boring presentation? No one!

After it’s all said and done I am glad to have had the opportunity to present regardless of the fear that I faced. Remember if you are going through something similar you are not alone… most people feel that way and that makes you very normal.

Comments

  1. says

    Great article, thanks for posting!

    Make sure to practice early and often. Practicing at home in front of a mirror can help you with your body language. Do whatever it takes to become comfortable with what you have to say. Being familiar with your speech is a necessity, but memorizing or reading from written material is not. Instead of reading your whole speech when you are at the podium, make a list of points that will remind you of each subject that you plan to cover. It is always a good idea to personalize your speech, and discuss personal stories that will hold the attention of the audience. Also remember to pace yourself, and speak slowly and steadily so that you are understood by everyone in the room.

    http://publicspeakingcourage.net/

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