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

 

Comments

  1. Sharyn, over the last years I have done hundreds of speeches, seminars, workshops, teleseminars, webinars, interviews, etc. Enough that I don’t get nervous about talking in front of a group. However, it wasn’t that way the very first time I spoke. In fact, I chose to give my first speech to a group where I knew absolutely no one. I figured that if I was truly awful, at least I would never have to face any of them again.

    Well, I wasn’t awful but I wasn’t very good either. The good news was that I survived and decided to do it again. And again. After the first few times I wasn’t terrified and even began to enjoy it. Today I love speaking in front of an audience. In fact, they usually have to bring out the hook to get me offstage. ;o)

    I tell anyone who is frightened of public speaking that the only way to get over it is to speak in public. A lot. Practice may not make perfect, but it will make speaking less scary. Your tips are great–those things can help get past the nervousness.

    • Thanks so much for the tips and for sharing your story, Cathy.
      It’s incredible how many great speakers say the same thing. One person told me once that he started doing podcasts first, and then moving on stage was not that big a step.
      I’ll be looking out for the next time you’re up live. Anything coming up that people can listen to online?

      • Sharyn, I don’t have anything scheduled right now, but expect to do some webinars starting later this summer. I will be announcing them to my email list and wherever I can! Thanks for asking!

  2. I love these suggestions! I was/am pretty introverted. While my self confidence has enhanced over the years, as a child and young adult it was not there. About 10 years ago I was bound and determined to get over my fear of public speaking. I knew I was not one to go out and actively seek an opportunity, but held out the possibility of one showing up. One of my areas of expertise is in healthcare, specifically coding and compliance. One day I saw an ad for a company that did seminars in hotels around the country and something inside me…to this day I don’t know exactly what, said “You can do that!!” I never did remember calling the company, but next think I knew I was on a plane getting ready to do a speaking tour.

    I did that for a year, 3 cities in 3 days working every other week. Initially the keys for me were being prepared. My first Powerpoints were very detailed, in fact, overly detailed. They were my safety net. Within a short period of time the Powerpoints contained just my talking points. While the Powerpoints were always the same, the examples I used were based on who was in the audience, in my case the specialties of the doctors so that is what taught me to think on my feet.

    If I had to provide one key it would be to laugh at my own mistakes and remember that the audience is typically much easier on us than we are on ourselves! Once I started public speaking myself I began to notice other speakers and learned from what I thought was outstanding and the mistakes they made. Before my own experience I thought that every speaking on the planet was perfect! it was a huge relief to learn that EVERYONE makes mistakes and what is must important is how WE react to our own. These days I speak on Law of Attraction, Parenting and Dating in Mid-life. I am so grateful for the gift I was given of the opportunity to “feel the fear and do it anyway”. It not only enhanced my career, it enhanced every aspect of my life.

    • Sue, thanks so much for your story. You sure did dive into the deep end straight away!
      I like the tip of laughing at yourself. People think others expect speakers to be perfect, but they’re a lot happier when you show that you’re human 😉
      ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. Love it!

  3. Richard Bennett says:

    Hi Sharon,Going back about 25 years, I was giving presentations at a number (about 20) of City Council\’s asking for a bylaw regarding warning signs posted in licensed establishments about the danger of drinking while pregnant. Shortly after that, while working in a hospital as a Nursing Orderly, on all emergency pages, I got the contract to teach CPR to the hospital staff 2 evenings every 2 months. Yes, I had practiced CPR dozens and dozens of times during courses and had performed CPR about 30 times in the Emergency Ward. I didn\’t know that my first teaching session I would have the Head Nurse from ER, Nurse from ICU, who had been a CPR Instructor and over the next few courses other Orderlies who were also on the emergency response pages.AFTER all that, I discovered Toastmasters and 18 years I am still a member, it is awesome!! Such a warm, friendly atmosphere at meetings. I have learned techniques to help me present and at one City Council meeting I was speaking at, I started out \”Mr Mayer, Councillors, on behalf of (service organization) and Parks and Rec, Go Fly A Kite\” and then shut up. 15 seconds later I looked at one of the Councilors and said \”Especially you Jack!\” and shut up again for about 15 more seconds.All this time I could hear people behind me whispering \”What is he doing?\” \”He can\’t say that!\” and other things I then said \”(Service organization) and Parks and Rec are holding a kite flying contest and gave the details.The newspaper 3 days later had a bold headline \”Council told to fly a kite\”I cannot remember who said it, I have heard it from a number of well known speakers \”Any time you are talking to anyone who is not a member of your immediate family, you are public speaking\” So, answering the phone, a knock on the door, someone you meet on the street and more, those are all public speaking times.Again, Toastmasters is an awesome non-profit organization, I think the current number if 115 countries
    bRegards,Richard Bennett, DTM

    • Lol, not many people could pull that off! I definitely agree that public speaking is a lot more than just standing up in front of a crowd. It’s all about communication skills. But that standing up in front of a group is still people’s biggest fear.

  4. Richard Bennett says:

    Sorry, spacing went all to heck! 🙁

  5. Challenging the irrational fears is the hardest but the most worthwhile. What is my BIGGEST fear in public speaking? I stumble? I get ridiculed? The whole hall heckles you at your appalling performance? And? I know that the idea seems unbearable, but why? What’s actually going to happen? Are you going to physically die? You’ll have done something fantastic, and proved to yourself that you’re capable. It may be tough, but you’ll still be here to talk about it.

    Only with practice does it become apparent that the fears are often so illogical it’s unbelievable.

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