How I Got Over My Fear of Public Speaking…Virtually

Fear of Public SpeakingWhy does everyone always talk about fear of public speaking being a ‘face-to-face’ issue?

I think I know just as many, if not more people who are desperately afraid to speak publicly on webinars, podcasts, Hangouts, or even recorded video.

My story probably isn’t all that different.

My first memorable experience with public speaking was a number of years ago when I was an instructional designer for a training company. I was one of the people who designed the training, not the one delivering it.

However, this one time I had to test out a new program I was working on

Why was I nervous?

Well, there were a few factors involved, aside from my natural resistance to public attention.

  1. The content was untested, so I really didn’t know how it would go down with the participants in the course
  2. It was in Edinburgh, so I was on foreign territory. At least they sort-of spoke English
  3. I was supposed to team-teach with someone else, who couldn’t come at the last minute
  4. I knew I’d be getting ratings and feedback from people afterwards
  5. I’d just found out I was pregnant the night before. At least I didn’t know at the time it would be twins!

Luckily, my husband was there to give me support and encouragement. Come to think of it, that didn’t help me all that much 😉

In the end, the course went really well, everyone was incredibly nice, participated fully in the course, and had absolutely no idea that I was practically shaking in my shoes with nerves!

Fast forward to just a couple years ago and I can’t say I was any less nervous about speaking in public. The difference was that the fears were more about doing ‘virtual’ speaking.
However, I was absolutely determined for my new online business to succeed and I knew I was going to have to get some ‘live’ visibility online to make it happen.

The first time I was invited to do a webinar I was sorely tempted to say no, but I closed my eyes and made the leap and said ‘yes’. Then I spent days preparing and scripting and practicing what I wanted to say. Just before it started I thought I was going to be sick to my stomach, and I must have run to the bathroom 20 times to pee!

Then came my first video. That was definitely easier than the webinar since I could keep doing retakes and editing it (over and over and over). But, I still knew people would be watching. To me, that’s not all that different from public speaking. And again, I know plenty of people who find the idea of doing any video terrifying. I put it off for ages.

In my first big audio interview (for a podcast series), I thought my voice was wavering like crazy. Knowing someone was going to be asking me questions, even if I knew them in advance, is pretty nerve-wracking. Amazingly, I sounded perfectly confident and not shaky at all.

And most recently, I had to speak on stage at an event. I was only introducing myself, but I find it more difficult to talk about myself than anything else. Again, I was told I didn’t sound nervous at all. Nobody knew!

Here I am on stage with Ronnie Nijmeh and Justin Popovic at Exposure & Profit in Toronto. It’s a lot easier to speak on stage if you’re up there with someone else 🙂

Speaking on stage with other people is easier

So, what’s my secret?

Nothing particularly earth-shattering at all.
Here are just a few of the ‘tricks’ that got me through:

Smile

Whether you’re online or face-to-face with people, a smile instantly boosts your confidence and puts you in a good mood.  See my big smile in the picture above?

You could even try watching something funny to put that smile on.

Stand up or sit up tall

Again, even though you may not be face-to-face, the posture your mother taught you will have an effect on the way you present yourself.

Dress for confidence

I don’t care whether people are watching you live or not, dressing the part you want to play is essential. If you want to sound professional, put on your professional outfit. If you want to sound like you’re half asleep, go ahead and keep your pajamas on.

Practice different scenarios

Think about all the things that might go wrong or the questions people will ask. Then practice saying your responses out loud. If you have some answers you give often, jot them down on notecards or somewhere handy.

Get to know your audience

If you can get to know a few of the people who will be listening, it can make you feel a little more comfortable. Speak as if you were speaking to a friend or someone you already know.

Fake it

That’s my real secret. I ACT as if I’m confident and then people believe it. And when people believe you’re confident, you start to believe it too. Take acting lessons if you have too.

What amazes me more than anything, and gives me hope and inspiration, is knowing how many great speakers battle public speaking fear too. Ask one or two people you know who speak well in public, and I’ll bet they’ll admit to cases of nerves.

The good news is that public speaking does get easier. I still have no real desire to stand up on a stage and speak, but I’ve found I enjoy doing Hangouts and interviews and even the odd webinar. I just need to do more of them.

What about you? Do you have any favorite tips or stories about public speaking – virtually or not?
Please share!

P.S. If you want access to 100 power public speaking tips from a pro, be sure to check out Justin Popovic’s huge PLR offer.

==> 100 Power Tips for Speakers, Trainers and Presenters