Public Speaking Fear – 3 Surprising Tips to Overcome Yours

Old-time Disastrous Public Speaking on StageWhat techniques do you use to overcome your fear of public speaking and boost your self-confidence before an important meeting, presentation, talk, etc.?

For most of my life, I used to fear and hate public speaking.

Getting up in front of people to talk? No thanks!

But, I actually enjoy it now. No, seriously I do.

I find it easier to get up in front of an audience to speak than to try to make small talk with people at networking events. Maybe someday I will come to enjoy that as well. But, for now, it’s not my thing. Large audiences or 1-on-1 are much easier for me.

So, why does this matter? Why should you care about becoming comfortable with public speaking?

I know that overcoming my fear and becoming proficient at public speaking boosted my career. Quite simply, I never would have advanced as far in my career as I did, if I was not able to get up in front of a room full of colleagues and present to them. Presenting at conferences and interviewing with the media increased my visibility and built my personal brand. Practice, practice, practice helped me overcome the anxiety of public speaking and made it much easier for me to present to angel investors when I was raising money for my startup.

If you want your career to take off, learn how to speak and present with confidence.

If you want to build your own business, you had better become very comfortable with speaking to potential customers, partners, and investors.

If you want to remain right where you are, never get promoted, and never become a successful entrepreneur, then sit down, close your mouth, and never speak up or take the stage.

Warren Buffett once told a class of business students that he would pay anyone in the room $100,000 for 10% of their future earnings. If they were good communicators, he would raise his bid by 50% because public speaking would make his ‘investment’ more valuable (source).

If you are interested in changing your life and skyrocketing your career, here are the top 3 techniques that I’ve used to overcome my fear of public speaking and actually find a way to enjoy it:

  1. Training in public speaking.Larry Cornett public speaking at Airbnb design talk
    • I’ve taken a few courses/workshops on public speaking. One was just for more general speaking. A few were for larger audience presentations and dealing with the media. All were very useful.
    • First, it gives you much needed practice.
    • Second, it teaches you the importance of owning your talk and practice, practice, practice.
    • Finally, it teaches you techniques for managing the audience, answering questions, handling challenging questions from the media, etc. Basically, what do do in those worst case scenarios. Once you know that, you feel more comfortable about handling what gets thrown at you.
  2. Ready for this? Karaoke.Larry Cornett karaoke
    • Yes, I said karaoke. My previous colleagues know exactly what I’m talking about. They were there when I was introduced to karaoke clubs while I was living in China.
    • Talk about combining your worst fears into one swirling, whirling mass of anxiety. Getting up in front of people. Public speaking. And worse, actually trying to sing in front of an audience with a mic in your hand. Wow. Yeah, it’s overwhelming.
    • But, I think that is what made me break through it all. It’s kind of the same as phobia treatment. Fear spiders? Play with a big tarantula. Fear snakes? Wrap one around your neck. It is such a sensory overload that you never fear just speaking in front of an audience again. You’ve already made the biggest fool of yourself that you could imagine.
    • I’ll be honest, perhaps drinking a bit helped too. But, I don’t recommend taking shots right before an important presentation.
    • But, from that point forward, giving a presentation seemed tame compared to singing in front of people.
  3. Acting.Tristan und Isolde is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner
    • Basically, my on-stage persona isn’t me.
    • I take on a role when I’m in front of a large audience. I embrace it. My persona loves the spotlight. My persona enjoys interacting with the audience and getting them to laugh.
    • The separation of self from this acting persona helps remove the anxiety from the situation. It’s not “me” up there. It’s “him”. If he bombs, it wasn’t me that bombed.
    • I know that sounds a little like having Dissociative identity disorder. But, it’s just acting.
    • Do you think those folks in Hollywood are really like the characters in their movies? Nope, and you don’t have to be either.

So there you have it. This is how I overcame decades of fear of public speaking. For those that know me, you know that I love being on stage now. You’ve teased me about it. But, this is how I did it. So, try it out for yourself. Heck, you could even invite me to come do karaoke with you. I’ll come, as long as you are buying the drinks.