Do you find yourself letting fear stop you from doing things you want to do but are too afraid to take the leap? I’ve found myself in that predicament a few times but one that stands out was when I was faced with an opportunity in public speaking! Can you relate?
Years ago, I had begun a program at the hospital I was working at to teach nurses how to care for children who were dying. Another nurse and myself had planned to put on an educational course and open it up across several hospitals in the country. I booked the location for the event, got a mailing list together, sent out invites, planned the agenda and lined up speakers. This was the easy part! There was one topic that we ended up not finding a speaker for, so the other nurse working with me asked if I would give the talk. Amazingly, I quickly said yes and then it was set! I was on the agenda! Then I stopped and thought, “oh crap! I”m on the agenda!” Part of me was really excited for this new opportunity, but as the time drew closer I began to have my reservations. Giving my first live presentation in front of a crowd of 40 people, was all of a sudden terrifying! Ok, I know a crowd of 40 people may seem like nothing, but to me it might as well been 4000!
I was determined to face my fear and it was going to be fine! People would love it, I would do a great job and everything would go off without a hitch. (A little self pep talk was just what I needed!!) The day of the event comes and all was going well. The presenters were sharing their knowledge and wisdom with the group, the attendees were asking questions and engaged in what they were learning. Then it was my turn. As the clock ticked and time was closing in to the moment I would have to step up and begin speaking, I started to feel my body heat rising, my heart was ready to beat out of my chest, I felt nauseous. I thought, “could I make a run for it now and just never show my face again”? I decided against it and went up to the podium, still frozen, and read word for word from my notes for the next 30 minutes!! I knew it was terrible but I was glad it was over. My reviews, were less than glowing, not surprisingly. However, what I realized much later was that I still did it! I did it despite my fears and thoughts of running away. What I learned from that experience was how to be more prepared the next time… yes, I actually agreed to a next time!
Here are a few tips I learned to do better when wanting to become a better public speaker!
- Don’t be afraid to sign up/offer to speak publicly when given the chance. Having a commitment to do something and knowing someone is holding you accountable to show up and be there keeps you accountable to follow through, despite your fear.
- Believe you CAN do it! This may be the hardest thing to do especially if you have fear of public speaking! When we feel that real sense of fear, we hear, “I”m not made out for this” or “I could never do that” when in reality its just having a shift in our mindset by telling ourselves new stories. If you tell yourself you cannot do something all the time, you won’t be able to do it! If you tell yourself positive thoughts and affirmations, you will begin to have a mind shift and believe what you are telling yourself. What you focus on, you create more of (Oprah Winfrey).
- Prepare! Prepare! Prepare! I can’t say enough about how you want to prepare before speaking at a public event. Know what you want to cover. What are your key points? What value are you going to bring to your audience? Proper preparation prevents poor performance!! However, at the same time, don’t make yourself crazy! If you’ve practiced giving your talk 200 times and still think it’s not right, give yourself some grace to know that you will do just fine at that point!
- Do speak about something you are knowledgeable or passionate about, if possible. Speaking from someone else’s notes is always much harder than creating your own presentation. You know what you want to say and how you want to say it. When you are knowledgeable or passionate about a topic it’s much easier to speak to it and share with and educate others.
- Don’t worry about being perfect! The more you do it, the better you will get. Public speaking is one of the biggest fears of millions of people but no one has ever died from the act of speaking in public.