Last May, I received a totally unexpected, awesome opportunity: I was invited to speak on behalf of my company on an influencer marketing panel at the region’s largest marketing conference. Did I mention I was three months new at my job? What!
Just as readily as I accepted the invite, my panic sunk in: How many people were actually going to be there, again? When would I start to prepare for the big day? Was I truly qualified to even be speaking in front of an audience?
Needless to say, I was a bundle of nerves at the prospect of public speaking, and felt anything but calm, cool and collected.
I had a month to prepare for the panel and had to face a lot of doubts and uncomfortable truths about my confidence and abilities in the process. Needless to say, public speaking is a fear that you’ve got to get over if you want to succeed - whether you’re rocking it in the corporate world or building your creative business from the ground up.
I learned so much about self-esteem, commanding a crowd and leaning into your intuition during that hour on stage, and I can’t help but share it with you. Friend: if you’re scared of public speaking, trust me when I say that you’re not alone. Below are a few ways that I forced myself to overcome the anxieties that often come with speaking to a crowd - I hope that these truths bring you comfort and confidence.
Prepare, but don’t over-prepare.
I’m a person who doesn’t like surprises. I keep my to-do list with me constantly, and I always try to have the right words in place for meetings and presentations. So naturally, I wanted to prepare like crazy for this speaking engagement. I prepped a notesheet and went over it nightly. I had my talking points bulleted and my i’s dotted and t’s crossed. But when it came down to it, I came off more like a robot than a real person in my practice sessions.
A week before the panel, I stopped practicing and focused on running, yoga and self-care instead. When the big day came I was still nervous, but my responses while speaking were more authentic and reflective of my personality than they’d ever been while practicing. Sometimes, speaking on the fly is a good thing. Go with your gut and keep things conversational, all reminding yourself this honest-to-goodness truth: we’re all just people.
Slow and steady wins the race.
When I’m speaking in public, more often than not Ihavethesuddenurgetotalklikethis. My nerves instantaneously speed me up, and I pretty much sound like a sped-up, over-caffeinated version of myself - ha! Chances are, you can totally relate.
The next time you’re addressing a crowd, intentionally remind yourself to slooow down. Words that feel as if they’re super slow coming out of your mouth will likely sound perfect to your crowd, plus, you’ll have more time to collect your thoughts in the process.
Smile, laugh and let your personality shine.
A lot of times we clam up and are only caricatures of ourselves when we’re asked (or forced to!) address a crowd of more than a few people. We worry about what they’ll think of us, how they’ll judge us, and if we come across as likeable. This is normal, but the feel the fear and push toward being the most authentic version of yourself anyway. Inject personality into your speeches and presentations when you can, and it’s sure to leave a lasting impression on your audience.
Continually remind yourself that you're just human – and so is your audience. We all get butterflies and nervous feelings; you've got everything you need in you to channel that nervous energy into a stand-out, memorable speech.
Overcoming your fears and apprehensions with public speaking is doable. It takes time, a lot of thought and getting yourself into the right mindset, and not to mention practice - but in the end, being more comfortable with presenting yourself to others is worth it.
What are your fears when it comes to public speaking, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!