Top 7 Ways on How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking; Especially as an Introvert!
You’ve probably heard the statistic that the general population is far more afraid of public speaking than they are of even dying.
Is that unbelievable or what?!?!
So if I asked a group of you the following question:
Can I get a show of hands which you’d prefer, from these two radically different options?
Door #1, we have public speaking!
Aaaaaaaaand door #2 we have…
Turns out we have death! Death, behind door #2!
So which is it gonna be viewer? Which is it gonna be?
What? Are you seriously going to pick death?!?!
Maybe I’m interpreting this incorrectly. Maybe it’s just that people are not as scared of death because they can’t wrap their mind around something that seems so distant and unimaginable. Whereas they can very easily imagine standing on a large stage in-front of a crowd of people; where all eyes are focused attentively at them and taking in every word that is uttered.
I get it. That’s scary. It would scare even the most extroverted of people. I know this to be true; because I asked my wife, and she’s one of the most extroverted people I know and she said she gets butterflies in her stomach. But here’s the odd thing: after she speaks she says that even though she was crazy nervous, she would do it again for the thrill. How weird is that?
Now I cannot understand that. The reason why I titled this post saying “as an introvert” is because I’m about 70% introvert and 30% extrovert. I think there are very few out there that are 100% of anything. I can think of only a few people at the top of my head who are full-blown 100% extroverted. Someone just starving for human interaction every second of the day, bouncing off walls, floating around from group to group talking his/her head off.
Seriously, I think I know about 2 of these people. Out of thousands. And on the flip side, I think I know 0 people that are so introverted that they never want to see a single person and much rather be in solitary confinement the rest of their lives.
So that’s why there’s a thing called “ambivert.” Which is kind of split between an introvert and extrovert. So if I had to label myself, I’d say I’m an ambivert with a significant introvert tilt. I had a weird life. I was super extroverted (most likely ADHD) up until about 5-6 years of age. And then for as long as I can remember since then, I was super shy and introverted.
I started equalizing a little more in my sophomore year of college to be more extroverted; but looking back, that was probably only because I was “on the hunt” for a girl friend =) Once I met my wife-to-be, I went back into my shell! Mission accomplished.
Anyways, I digress. I’m supposed to talk about public speaking. Wow that was a heck of a long intro.
Now, I want to point out that I still get nervous when I’m in front of large audiences.
I’ve worked up to the point where in smaller group settings, of up to say 10 or so people, it doesn’t affect me much at all; but bigger audiences of up to 20 or more, it start’s to produce some anxiety for me; and then anything more than say, 50 to a hundred people or more, where rows and rows of people are seated in front of you; and you’re in the front speaking. now that’s where it starts to get a lot tougher.
It’s not as bad as it used to be. So I wanted to share some of the things that have helped me become a better public speaker.
1) Skip the Caffeine!
I talked about this in my how-to interview post (Land that Dream Job!). but it applies here as well. I’m telling you. You need to try skipping the caffeine! I get it, we all need caffeine. We want to be alert so that we can make an impression. We all chug caffeinated drinks more than we probably drink regular water. But, I’m telling you. Even if you’ve gotten used to caffeine, it’s a massive liability if you’re in an anxiety-inducing situation.
For me personally, I’ve tried with and without caffeine; and I can noticeably tell that my heart beats a lot faster when I’m loaded up on caffeine. And with the increased heart rate, it just makes you physically feel like you’re nervous, which will work to further increase your anxiety. The same goes in social interactions.
Trust me. Just try skipping the caffeine and see how much it helps you. And if you think about it, a lot of the meds out there that help you cope with anxiety works to bring you a few notches down, so you’re not feeling as stimulated. Like I said, I tried Ativan. And it works like a charm.
The only problem is, you feel like you’re on the verge of falling asleep. Which, again, maybe works to decrease anxiety, but it’s horrible in a situation where you need show, visibly and audibly, enthusiasm and excitement while, clearly articulating and expounding on your points. Not a good match for public speaking.
2) Ditch the Fear of Judgement!
If you have an honest sit-down with yourself, you’ll realize that one of the main things that produces anxiety and fear when it comes to public speaking is this fear of rejection and fear of judgement. You’re afraid of what others will think of you! You need to throw this type of thinking out. This is garbage thinking. Again, you’ve probably heard the statistics. 74% of the population fears public speaking. 74% of people!
So this means, the far majority people are afraid of it. So no different than you! So why are you putting yourself in an unfair situation, making it seem like you’re the only odd person because you’re afraid to speak publicly?
And with that in mind, know that there’s actually very little judging actually being done. I think that most people are probably thinking “good thing it’s him up there and not me!” or “man, huge props to her for going up there and speaking; I couldn’t do that in front of this many people, I’d die of a heart attack!”
And even if people aren’t literally thinking these things; probability-wise, they wouldn’t want to switch places with you, so you’re actually doing a brave thing. Something that the people sitting in front of you would dare not do themselves! So you should be proud of yourself!
3) What’s the Worst that Can Happen?
Rather than replaying anxiety-inducing thoughts in your head like “What will happen if I forget my material?” or “What if I mess up?”. What if people laugh at me!?! Take a chill pill! You need to ask yourself what’s the absolute worst that can happen. Seriously. Are you gonna die? No, you’re not gonna die. Like I mentioned earlier, most people wouldn’t want to be up there making a speech either. So even if you mess up, most people wouldn’t hold it against you.
Even the greatest of public speakers mess up from time to time. You need to learn to get more comfortable with this type of inkling fear in the back of your mind and constantly remind yourself of the truth. Truth combats fear and anxiety. So tell yourself that the worst that can happen is really not all that bad. Seriously.
And 9/10 times, people don’t care about you so much that they’re going to be replaying this scenario in their minds for the rest of their lives. Flash news: you’re not a main character in most peoples’ lives. They are their own main characters in their own lives, so they’re barely thinking about you. Make sense?
It kinda reminds me when I fart inside my car while driving, and find myself sometimes getting embarrassed. As if the people in the cars next to me can smell the fart wafting from my car. It’s narcissistic thinking! Because no one’s watching you! You’re not the main character in their lives!
4) It’s Not a Performance!
The more you think of it as a performance, the more it’ll produce anxiety. Because you think you have to produce. Rather than share. For the majority of speaking situations, it’s not as much of a performance, it’s more of a sharing. A telling of a story. You tell stories don’t you? Don’t you talk to your friends and your family members, like your brother, sister, mom or dad? Maybe at the dinner table or to your significant other after a long day’s work?
So Think of it more like a conversation. Like you’re talking to them. and not performing in front of them. No one said it has to be a performance. Chances are, you’re the only one thinking that. You’re the only one setting that bar for yourself. Everyone else just wants to hear a story. It’s pretty standard stuff. So stop hyping yourself out!
5) Your Self-worth is Not Tied to Your Ability to Speak!
I’ve seen plenty of people who I personally admire that aren’t the smoothest of talkers. My #1 business inspiration is Elon Musk. He is the co-founder of PayPal, and current CEO of SpaceX, Tesla, and the Boring Company (Hyperloops + Tunnels!!). But did you know that Elon often stutters during his public speaking engagements? He is not an eloquent speaker! But there’s never been a time I haven’t had my eyes glued to my screen when I listened to him speak.
If you want an example, google Elon Musk’s unveiling of the Tesla Model 3. He stuttered the whole time. Like real bad. But everyone knows that this man’s a genius and he is highly regarded all over the world. And personally, my opinion of him hasn’t dropped even by a little. And I doubt it has dropped for the legions of adoring fans all over the world either. Because last time I checked, he has a lot of raving fans in every comment section I find myself in. And on top of that, Tesla has a very high retention rate and consumer satisfaction rating.
6)You Need Some Practice!
Ok come on, admit it. You knew this one was coming! How basic can it get right? I get that this one’s an obvious, but I need to still say it. Like with anything else. You need practice. Part of being afraid of something is because you’re not used to it. It just doesn’t come naturally to you. You’re not skilled at it. But the more you experience it, the less of these “fight or flight” responses you’ll get.
Or at the very least it’ll weaken over time, so that the nervousness won’t be so paralyzing. And like with any skill, you can’t hone it without actually doing the work. So no amount of books or online researching, or watching other people make speeches, will help you as much as actually doing it yourself. So go out there and put yourself in situations where you can exercise the skill of public speaking.
Start small. For example, for me, I started sharing in church small groups. Groups of no more than 5 to 10 people. I was really nervous at first. But now I can’t stop myself from talking everyone’s’ heads off! I love my soap box! And then I graduated to speaking up and sharing my opinions during company meetings. And then later I lead those meetings. And then later I started speaking during our company quarterly meetings. So start small. It’s ok to start small. But the point is, you need to start.
7) Care About Your Topic!
If you share something of value, the people listening will appreciate you sharing. And if you don’t feel that there’s value in what you’re saying, it’ll manifest itself in how you physically feel. And if you feel you’re not providing any value whatsoever, you may want to take a step back and ask yourself why you’re even giving a presentation in the first place.
Why are you speaking on something that you either don’t even believe in, or in something you don’t think there’s value to be had? And honestly, I don’t think this is most people’s problem. I think in the majority of situations, people need to just be reminded that they are providing value for their audience. Because they know it deep down, but they’re just afraid to present it. So come at it from a positive/giving/and sharing attitude. Not a negative and fearful one.
May Clinic – Fear of public speaking: How can I overcome it?
Do you experience fear of public speaking? How about fear and anxiety during social interactions; at parties or events? Care to share your experience? What are some of the tips you’ve tried to ease your fear and anxiety?