I’ve always been terrified of public speaking. It turns out most people suffer from the same fear.
Then I joined a public speaking group called Toastmasters to try and up my game. The first speech didn’t go well. I stood there with a blank look on my face, trembling from the fear. I was sweating and went bright red like a tomato sauce bottle (I must sound like a real Aussie saying that).
For the next few months, I did two speeches and I got better. Then the momentum stopped altogether.
For the following 6 months, nothing happened in terms of delivering pre-prepared speeches. I did keep doing judging roles and impromptu speaking though. This is where I got some chops. It was the regular habit of ‘doing’ that so many people forget, that helped me.
Then I got dobbed into competing.
Ok, now I was really scared! Signing up for a competition where the environment turns formal – where everyone is looking at you expecting you to be good. I was dobbed into this competition because I was thought to be good at impromptu speaking. I thought I was dreadful.
What helped was that I’ve had a mentor for the last little while. My mentor Bharat recently competed in the international championships for public speaking. To say he’s a son of a gun full of talent is not giving him enough credit.
He told me “Tim you can do it. You have all the content through your blogging. You know how to inspire.”
So stupidly I practiced what I teach all of you and got up there. The hours leading up to the speech involved a very negative situation at work, but somehow I made it on time.
My competition was tough.
“I must be the dumbest bloke on Earth” – at least that’s what I was thinking.
As I waited outside with the other speakers, I realized I was up against a guy who’d made it through every year for the last few years. He’d sold his business, he was a brilliant storyteller, he was very funny, he was better looking: basically, he was everything I thought I wasn’t.
To make it worse, he was talking to me so I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing.
“I felt the fear and stayed at the battlegrounds of my mind, conquering negative thoughts”
Somehow I remembered to get into a peak state.
Once the guy I was up against went up on stage, I was outside by myself in total silence, waiting for my turn. Somehow I miraculously remembered to get into a peak state.
“I moved my shoulders back, poked my chest out and told myself ‘I am the expert’.”
I told myself “I don’t think, I know. I’ve been doing this for years.”
I repeated in my mind “I inspire people for a living and I’ve been doing that for years” as well.
Showtime with passion.
It was now my turn. I went on stage and was given my topic which was privacy on the Internet. My eyes lit up an immediately I was in flow. I looked at everyone in the audience with a sense of authority. I backed myself!
Then I took a breath and started speaking. I let every ounce of passion show. I spoke loudly and then quietly. I looked at the audience with lots of funny looks.
My speech was about the new iPhone and how people are obsessed with privacy. I made my thoughts clear and challenged everyone to be authentic. I told the audience to stop hiding behind privacy and share their life lessons with people. I acted out what I would look like when I unlock my new phone using my face. I made the audience believe they could be better than they thought they were.
I stood firm on that stage and told myself that it was time to come out of my shell.
“As Joel Brown taught me, you can’t hide behind a bloody computer forever!”
I saw this as my coming out moment.
So I won the entire competition. I beat the other two international level speakers and made it through. I don’t say this to brag; I tell you this because if I can do it then so can you. We all have dreams and when we take action, they come true.
Here are some tips to crush your public speaking fear:
A) Get them in the first 5 seconds with charisma.
How you start your speech will determine the rest of it. I was told by my mentor that what I did well was capture the audience using charisma in the first five seconds of the speech.
B) Be vulnerable and authentic.
When you share personal stories and tell people things about your own struggles, you make them feel safe – you inspire them. The key I learned is to hold nothing back and share all of the story. Even tell them you’re nervous and suck at public speaking if you have to. That will crush the nerves.
C) Focus on the audience and not on how you look.
An obsession with you and how you look will make you nervous. Focus on delivering one key message that will help your audience. I’ve found this to be the ultimate fear crusher when it comes to public speaking. Imagining how you look or sound will guarantee failure.
D) Dress comfortably and don’t be an actor.
On the day, I wore comfortable clothes and made no extra effort for the occasion when it came to my daily routine. The moment you put that special stuff in your hair or wear a suit, you tell your brain that today is different. You also tell yourself that you are going to be an actor instead of who you really are.
Public speaking is not a stage show and you’re not an actor wearing a mask. Be comfortable.
E) Grab every opportunity you can.
My peers also told me that because I grabbed every speaking opportunity I could, I had put in the hours even though I didn’t do any pre-prepared speeches. In fact, doing impromptu speaking is the hardest way to get good but it’s also the fastest.
Not knowing what you are going to speak about is where all the growth comes from. It takes your focus away from the audience and onto the words coming out of your mouth.
F) Believe in big things.
The whole time I was on stage I believed that I could go all the way to the finals. I told myself that today was only the beginning and tomorrow I will climb the biggest mountain that has scared the pants of me for as long as I can remember.
Focusing on how big your dream can get gives you an added energy boost. You can be world champion if you believe you can.
G) Share your public speaking stories.
As soon as I had won the entire competition, I shared the story on social media. Again, not to brag but to inspire others to do the same. The other reason I shared my story was because it reinforces in my brain that I am enough. Sharing your story gives you momentum to do it all again.
Now I’m ready for the next round of the competition because people sent me inspiring messages after I shared this success. It’s those messages that tell me I am enough.
During the packing up stage of the competition, my public speaking peers told me that they believed I was going to win from the start. The only person that didn’t believe was me. That’s what can be so stupid about having a fear of public speaking. Often, you’re better than you think.
It’s your negative self-talk that’s holding you back. Stop it!
Okay, what I didn’t expect.
Two people that I admire a lot saw the story of my public speaking fear on social media and sent me amazing messages. These are two people that I never believed would look up to silly old me and my crazy looking haircut.
They both speak in front of thousands and have made more money than I could ever dream of. That’s what can happen from public speaking.
Crushing your fears is fun and when you have people you admire telling you to keep going, you can become unstoppable. That’s how I feel right now writing these words.
Finally, some ingredients of a good speech.
Okay so if you want to be good at this whole public speaking game then there are a few really simple ingredients that will help you win:
Teach people something with simple steps to follow.
The same also works for blogging. Surprise, surprise!
Now stop being afraid and go and do that thing that you’ve always feared.
Practice being phenomenal. Take action.