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HOW TO OVERCOME YOUR FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING

December 10th, 2009 · 32 Comments · Habits

Public Speaking

The ability to deliver a good speech in public is a skill highly valued. In fact, you can’t expect to be a leader or named as an influencer if you can’t face your audience and grab their attention effectively. You can use public speaking for many purposes such as persuasion, motivation, influence, informing or simply entertaining people.

But, what do I mean with public speaking? In my opinion, the meaning of public speaking contains a very broad range of different possibilities: telling a story to your friends in a bar; raising your hand and speaking in your class; speaking up in a meeting with customers; speaking in the workplace in the presence of your colleagues and boss; speaking in the court of law; talking with some of your employees; Speaking in front of 10/100/1000/10000 people; but even being interviewed by a TV or a radio reporter or being interviewed in a podcast by a blogger buddy could be considered as public speaking.

Each one of these situations generates a sense of fear that we experience as anxiety with a different degree of intensity, depending on your own circumstances and the situation itself. This anxiety can ruin your speech and holding you back from achieving your goals and dreams. This sense of fear is blocking your true potential. Free your life from this fear, reach your audience effectively and become the person you’ve always wanted to be.

If you have always been terrified of public speaking don’t worry because I’m going to share with you all my secrets to overcome this sense of fear.

1. The Socrates advice

The story tells about a young Alcibiades, at that time disciple of Socrates, who wanted to speak in public but he doesn’t know how to do it. He was extremely nervous. “How can I speak in public and express exactly what I feel and all what I want to say?” Alcibiades asked. Socrates, very calm, as usual, told him: “Do you talk to the blacksmith?” Alcibiades replied “yes.” Socrates continued: “Do you talk to the carpenter?” Alcibiades said “of course”. “Are you afraid of talking to the soldier?” “No.”“So then? What is it to you to talk to all of them at the same time?”

2. Be prepared: study and learn

You need to know what you are talking about. Learn as much as possible about the subject of the speech. But don’t be too broad with your learning. Spend your time on mastering what is really important. Ask yourself: What is the audience expecting from me? What are the essentials or the main points of the speech? Remember always this principle: It’s much better to know less but better than to know more but worse.

My advice: don’t memorize every single word of your speech. If you attempt to memorize every word you are more likely to forget things, you would start of making inconvenient pauses, your nervousness and anxiety would start to grow and your mind would go definitely blank. Memorize just the main points of your speech.

So, to avoid your anxiety, nervousness and tendency to panic when speaking in public be prepared.

3. The Demosthenes method: Practice in your home

Learn from Demosthenes, the best orator of all time, who built an underground study where he exercised his voice, shaving one half of his head so that he wouldn’t be drawn into the involvements of society. What a great and hilarious idea: shaving one half of his head in order to avoid going outside and get distracted from the important thing: the speech.

Besides, Demosthenes had a speech defect, “an inarticulate and stammering pronunciation” that he overcame by speaking with pebbles in his mouth and by reciting verses when running. It’s incredible. Isn’t it? The world’s famous orator of all time had a speech defect. It proves that with hard work, perseverance and determination everyone can achieve success in almost any life endeavor.

Demosthenes also corrected any facial distortions by practicing in front of a mirror. So, you can master your ability to speak in public in your own home, where you feel comfortable and with no pressure. Study your speech and then practice in front of a mirror, as Demosthenes did, or even better take a video camera and film yourself. I prefer the last one because you can focus on your delivery and once you’ve finished your speech you can check how you did it over and over again. When watching the video you have to take note of every gesture, every weakness of your delivery and ask yourself: How can I improve it? How can I deliver my message more effectively? Answer these questions and then implement your new ideas over and over again, check the result until you feel confident enough to speak in public.

4. Become resistant to fear

How to become resistant to fear? Challenge yourself and take any opportunity to speak in public. Once you feel confident enough you have to face your fear of public speaking, because the only way to overcome a fear is facing it with courage. My advice and what I’ve been doing since I was a child: challenge yourself; take any opportunity that comes your way to speak in public. Is your teacher asking a question? Raise your hand and answer it. Are you in a conference with an audience of 1.000 people and the speaker welcomes questions? Great! Raise your hand, take the microphone and ask an intelligent question. The bigger is the challenge the greater the learning is. I’ve spoken in front of large groups of people many times; I’ve been interviewed on TV several times; some radio interviews as well; etc. The idea is to take the opportunities to speak in public whenever you come across them, every single day of your life, until you become the speaker you want to be.

5. Build confidence little by little with small successes

If the fear to speak in front of 1000 people is too big and you just can’t face it you should start with little challenges and build on that, reaching, step-by-step, the goal you want to achieve. Maybe you could speak in front of 10 people and once you feel confident enough you can face bigger challenges. Build your confidence little by little. Build your courage facing your fear of public speaking again and again, but do it bit by bit. So, take the next step and keep on going and going after your true potential as a public speaker.

Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something. Frederick Smith.

Face your fears, beat them, become a master of public speaking and live your dreams!

I will publish “How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking (Part II)” in the following days.

Stay tuned :)

Written by: David Cantone

My Twitter: @DavidCantone

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Now, I’m looking to you for some wisdom:

Use the comments section of this post as a forum to post your own experiences, opinions and thoughts on this subject.

  • How do you handle public speaking?

Share your thoughts & ideas and enjoy what others share with you :)

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32 Comments so far ↓

  • Michael WelshNo Gravatar

    I like the post. Especially the stories/examples and Socrates’ advice. I may borrow that one.

    Glad I found your site.

    Mike

    • David | ilcantone.comNo Gravatar

      Hi Michael and welcome to ilcantone.com :)

      I’ve been years reading books about the ancient Greece and Rome. We can learn so much from them. Socrates has many hilarious stories, but this one is quite unknown. I’m glad you like it.

      Thanks for your comment :)

      See you Mike.

  • Brett - DareToExpress.comNo Gravatar

    Heya David,

    My public speaking skills need some work. Sometimes I don’t project my voice well enough, have a stammer/slight lisp, and carry a listless expression on my face. I know that has to change.

    I’ve done some filming of posts on my blog, but I’m also thinking about doing some filming of my written posts on my blog. This way, I’ll make sure I present the knowledge better and I’ll also be able to work on my speaking skills. Sometimes I do practice in front of a mirror, but it doesn’t seem to help me in my “real” public speaking.

    Also, Toastmasters International is an international organization that revolves around public speaking.
    .-= Brett – DareToExpress.com´s last blog ..Crowning the Inner Champion =-.

  • David | ilcantone.comNo Gravatar

    Hi Brett,

    Yes, you are right, practicing in front of a mirror doesn’t work so well as filming yourself and then seeing how well you did. Besides, bloggers can use these videos for future posts. Maybe a BrettLibrary-TV as Gary Vaynerchuk did :). It would be great.

    Thanks for your contribution.

    See you Brett.

  • Robin DickinsonNo Gravatar

    Thanks, David. Public speaking is such a useful skill that helps us develop in so many ways – professionally and personally. Well done on writing this post.

    As a professional speaker, I would add:

    6) Quantity before quality: keep presenting, presenting, presenting and let you own natural style develop;

    7) Before presenting ask yourself, how can I add value to this audience right now ? (this takes the focus off you and on them);

    8) Get video feedback – watch yourself on video and correct annoying habits;

    9) Trust that your own natural style will develop – let the real you through – maximize your own unique style e.g. use of theatrics, posture etc (it took 500 paid presentations before I felt totally at home presenting);

    10) get professional help – especially from people who’s main income depends on presenting professionally;

    11) watch professionals either live or on video and become aware of how they command attention, use charisma etc

    Best to everyone with the courage and drive to develop there public speaking skills.

    Robin :)
    .-= Robin Dickinson´s last blog ..The greatest sign of your authenticity in action =-.

    • David | ilcantone.comNo Gravatar

      Hi Robin,

      Thanks a lot for these amazing tips.

      You said something really interesting: quantity before quality in order to boost confidence and develop your own style.

      Developing our own style is something that makes the difference, because we express ourselves with our own words and with natural gestures and movements. We feel more comfortable and we can make a deeper connection with the audience. Transparency builds Trust.

      Thanks Robin for your insightful comment.
      I appreciate it :)

      Take care.

  • TheInfoPreneurNo Gravatar

    I really liked this post,

    When I was in the Military I was forced to do things that I was afraid of, working at heights etc, but it becomes second nature and you become confident.

    So an excellent point about facing your fear. Podcasts maybe an excellent start to public speaking.

    Great post David, Retweeted
    .-= TheInfoPreneur´s last blog ..I’m Going Back to School, For You! =-.

    • David | ilcantone.comNo Gravatar

      Hi James,

      Thanks for sharing your own experience :)

      Yes, absolutely. Podcasting is a good way to train your speaking skill and allows you to check your delivery as well. I’m thinking to try with some podcasts. I’d like to improve my speaking skill in English and, as you said, podcasting is a good start. Good tip.

      See you buddy.

  • Oscar - freestyle mindNo Gravatar

    Great tips David, thanks for sharing!
    .-= Oscar – freestyle mind´s last blog ..If You Were Your Own Boss, How Much Would You Pay Yourself? =-.

  • Blaine BullmanNo Gravatar

    David, that was the best post I ever read on overcoming fear of public speaking and fear in general.

    The two best ways I overcome my fear when im doing a speach and speaking in public is to prepare and just do it.

    Facing your fear with courage is just the best. Don’t think and focus on your fear, that just makes it worse. Just take a deep breath and get up there. It’ll be fine when you’re up there :D
    .-= Blaine Bullman´s last blog ..Twitter King Contest =-.

  • Jonny | thelifething.comNo Gravatar

    Well researched piece. Love the Socrates and DEMOSTHENES methods.

    It also appears that I am in front on the leader board. I know its childish and a very small win bu….whoohoo.
    .-= Jonny | thelifething.com´s last blog ..Your Chance To Read Possible The Worlds Longest Blog =-.

  • David | ilcantone.comNo Gravatar

    Hi Jonny,

    Yes, I thought it would be interesting to share these stories. I’m glad you liked them :)

  • Antti KokkonenNo Gravatar

    The best advice for public speaking is to be prepared, and be prepared well. And then for banishing the fear – go with confidence. Always remember that the audience doesn’t know how it “should’ve gone”, so don’t lose your confidence if you forget something.

    This has helped me tremendously and I’ve never had trouble with public speaking. I always have the fear thou, but what’s the worst thing that could happen. If you freeze on stage, will someone die? not exactly :)

    The just keep practising, building up those little successes, just like David said. Practice makes you perfect. Improvisational theater is one such way, it’s great fun and will prepare you for more “serious” public appeareances at the same time.
    .-= Antti Kokkonen´s last blog ..How To Show Feedburner Subscriber and Twitter Follower Counts on Your Blog =-.

  • GordonNo Gravatar

    Aw man this is an amazing post! Nice job! I’ve been doing a lot of public speaking at College and your advice is solid.
    I would just like to add 2 things that I have noticed people failing at. First thing is, never have any gum in your mouth while you are publicly speaking, doesn’t matter how bad your breath is at the moment. Second this is, always make sure your mouth is turned towards the audience when you are talking (and not looking at the slideshow or at some other chart you are pointing at) because the communication channel gets disrupted and it’s hard to understand. Of course if you are using a microphone, you wouldn’t have that problem.

    Your blog is really unique and that’s why I love it. Regards!
    .-= Gordon´s last blog ..Branding Websites And Blogs =-.

  • Jim HardinNo Gravatar

    Great post on Public Speaking. I grew up with this fear of speaking in public. I can remember as a kid dreading those oral reports that teachers used to throw at you.

    I think what it takes is practice. Sometimes you need to face your fears and just do it. This is what I have done over the past couple of years.

    2 years ago I got a new job at a new company. A company where I didn’t know anyone. I thought to myself this is my chance to be a different person. Well I don’t really mean be a different person, but what I mean is to be a person without this fear. I thought to myself no one knows me at this company so no one knows that I have this fear. So I would challenge myself at meetings to speak up, to give my opinions, to share with people my thoughts. As I did this more and more I became comfortable with speaking at meetings. Then I tried to challenge myself even more by initiating meetings and to lead meetings with groups of people. Sure the first few were ruff and I was super nervous and my stomach was turning, but after a few meetings I could feel myself getting more and more comfortable.

    I think the key to it is to face your fear and take steps, even baby steps if needed to overcome this fear. As you challenge yourself it is true that each time will get easier. I know people say this all the time, but it is true. Well it worked for me. Sure I still have a long way to go, but each day I try to challenge myself everyday.
    .-= Jim Hardin´s last blog ..Affiliate Links and Where To Get Them =-.

  • WalterNo Gravatar

    I have this feeling that one day I’m going to speak in front of a large audience. This thought had made me think of how I can overcome the terror once it came. Now I know and thanks to you. :-)
    .-= Walter´s last blog ..Treasured possessions =-.

  • Basant SinghNo Gravatar

    “Film yourself” is a good tip. Socrates story was inspirational.
    .-= Basant Singh´s last blog ..Cloud Computing Service: A Basic Introduction =-.

  • RyanNo Gravatar

    Excellent advice David.

    It’s been a while since I spoke publicly. Visualizing works for me. I see myself giving a confident speech, and a confident speech is the result.

    As a child I won state-wide public-speaking awards with the Optimist Club here in NJ. If I could do it as a 5th grader I knew that I could do it as an adult :)
    .-= Ryan´s last blog ..Cash Gifting – A Generous Activity =-.

  • TheInfoPreneurNo Gravatar

    Study and Learn! This is something so few people are prepared to do.

    I’m going to start speaking at events next year, great post David
    .-= TheInfoPreneur´s last blog ..My 100th Post =-.

  • The Shackled MuseNo Gravatar

    One of my fears, public speaking. In school I hated oral assignments and never ever participated in debate evening. Looking back now I regret not taking those chances

    Thank you for a truly excellent post

  • soap-courierNo Gravatar

    Did you study it somewhere?
    When I used to visit speech courses, we were given the same rules… But it was an author course. That’s why I ask my question

  • David | ilcantone.comNo Gravatar

    I’ve read some books about public speaking throughout my life; I’ve also given speeches, above all, related to law at my University. This post is just a compilation of tips learned from my personal experiences.

    But, as you can see, I’ve added some inspiring stories from Socrates and Demosthenes. I’ve learned so much from them. One, the greatest philosopher and, the other, the greatest orator.

  • Dragon BloggerNo Gravatar

    I had a tremendous fear of public speaking the first time I had to speak at a Las Vegas convention two years ago, my nerves were shot and I was vomiting for days before the event from anxiety.

    Yet, I did really well, I knew my material and content and was able to answer every question the audience had without being stumped. One great key is making sure you know your material, not knowing the material you are speaking on is a sure fire for disaster.
    .-= Dragon Blogger´s last blog ..FeedBurner Drops FriendFeed As Blog Subscribers =-.

    • David | ilcantone.comNo Gravatar

      Hi Justin,

      I totally agree with you. To know the material well is crucial to boost self confidence and, thus, to decrease the anxiety caused by the fear of public speaking.

      Thanks Justin for sharing your experience at the Las Vegas convention :). By the way, what was your speech about?

      See you buddy.

  • The Speaking GuyNo Gravatar

    Only one way to overcome your fear of public speaking. Be prepared and do a lot of it. You’ll realize that like everything else in life, you’ll suck when you start and then get better over time. No one is GREAT when they first get started. Why should YOU be any different?

    I have been a very shy and bad speaker before, but not until I met this guy. Trust me, I know the feeling and I STRONGLY recommend my mentor to all of you speakers, and speakers to be.

    Here is a bit of information about him. He has been speaking professionally for more than 25 years. He also teaches others (like me) how to make REAL money as a speaker.

    You can visit his website, http://www.ProfessionalSpeakingExpert.com, to sign up to receive his FREE 52 week MASTERS course on Speaking. Furthermore, you can also get a copy of his book, “Speaking for Millions”. Take it from me, this guy is the BEST in his field!

    Do not hold back! I trust his system, and it sure did a GREAT job for me! He helped me, and so will he help you.

    Cheers to your success!

  • Keith DavisNo Gravatar

    Hi David
    Love the “The Socrates advice”

    I did a post on using good eye contact and in that post I quoted Hal Persons, who said…

    “Never talk to an audience. Never talk to a class. Never talk to a meeting. Never talk to a congregation. Never talk to the Kiwanis Club. Never talk to the PTA.
    You talk to 1,000 people… one at a time.”

    In other words, talk to the blacksmith, talk to the carpenter, talk to the soldier.
    .-= Keith Davis´s last blog ..A helping hand… =-.

  • Dan BlackNo Gravatar

    Great speaking 101 thoughts. I believe that a speaker not only needs communicate(because everyone can do that) but they need to connect with whoever they are speaking with.
    .-= Dan Black´s last blog ..Leading With Encouragement =-.

  • AlexNo Gravatar

    Hey David… Wow you’ve certainly done your research. I wasn’t aware of the method Demosthenes used to get rid of his stutter.

    I’ve used similar things to get people to take their speech impediments less seriously. Once they stop being scared of it then it usually improves.

  • BLESS ADEGAHNo Gravatar

    I still have some fear in me and i will very much appreciate it if you help me overcome it fully.Thanks

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