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How You Can Beat the Fear of Public Speaking

You Can Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

 

Did you know that 74% of Americans suffer from a disease called glossophobia, better known as the fear of public speaking?

 

Stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld said: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

 

What we fear in public speaking is not the action per-se, but the rejection that could come from it.

 

My high school presentation story

Back in high school, I was given the task of doing a presentation before the class. I struggled with the idea for days. It kept me awake at night.

When the time came, I was so nervous that my mouth got dry. As I stood there, cold sweats ran down my back. I began seeing spots before my eyes. But I still stood, although I felt like passing out. When I finished (don’t ask me how), the other students said that I had become as white as a ghost. I got through it… barely. After this, I had to go to gym class, I couldn’t participate because I had a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit! The fever lasted only a few hours and subsided when I got to the safety of home. Yes, that was me in high-school!

As you can imagine, this left a very bitter taste in my mouth when it came to public speaking afterward. And yet, here I am today. I am a Bible teacher and speaker nonetheless. I was able to overcome my ‘glossophobia’ through a few mental tweaks. I believe you will too if you apply what I wrote in this article.

 

A common fear

Many of you might struggle with the fear of public speaking. It’s o.k. Unless you’ve done it more times than you can count, you will always have a certain nervousness when called to speak in public. It never totally goes away. I still struggle somewhat with jitters even though I am a ‘professional speaker’.

Mark Twain said: “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”

 

Some interesting facts

  1. Fear of public speaking cuts wages by 10%
  2. Fear of public speaking inhibits promotion to management by 15%
  3. Your delivery matters more than your content: According to research, what you say to an audience isn’t nearly as important as how you say it. Studies suggest that effective presentations are 38% your voice, 55% non-verbal communication, and only 7% your content. That means that you should spend even more time preparing your delivery than you do developing awesome content.
  4. Talk less to engage your audience more. Shorter, more impactful speeches, are proven to be more effective than longer ones.

 

Winston Churchill said: “A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”

 

How do you keep your audience interested? Well, research suggests that if a presenter does all the talking without giving the audience an opportunity to participate, then audience engagement drops by 14%. Therefore, take care to provide plenty of opportunities for your audience to ask questions, interact with you, and otherwise participate in your presentation.

Good public speakers will often make their audience answer a question by raising their hand or make them turn to the person on their right or left to tell them something he said. These are good little tricks that keep your audience engaged and interested.

 

Reasons why you should overcome your fear of public speaking

Maybe you do struggle with the fear of public speaking but reason it away with thoughts like: “It’s a normal and common fear.” “I can’t be good at everything.” Or “I’ll just avoid it for the rest of my life.”

While thoughts like these may comfort you and keep you in your comfort zone, I do want to stress the importance of overcoming glossophobia for the many advantages it will add to your life, such as:

 

1- It furthers your reach and career

2- It creates context in your networks

3- It improves your self-confidence

4- It improves your social life

5- It helps you become a better thinker

6- It increases your influence

7- It improves your relationships

8- It makes you a better communicator

 

Simple steps to follow to conquer your fear of public speaking

So, here are my simple steps to public speaking success…

 

1- Be truthful. In order to be convincing, you need to be convinced.

Be sure about what you bring up.

Your speeches will impact your reputation, your branding, and ultimately, your business. If you are not truthful, sincere, or if you are inaccurate, this bad information can come and bite you in the butt later on.

I once quoted John MacArthur after hearing one of his sermons… I thought it was John MacArthur, but it turns out he was quoting a Church father. A lady, at the end of the service, came to me and told me who the quote came from. She knew and she called me on it. After this inconsequential mishap, I always double-checked my sources.

Always keep this in mind: There will always be someone more knowledgeable than you in the audience. And some of them can call you out on inaccurate information… sometimes even publicly.

You have to know what you say is true, be able to back it up, and do research accordingly.

So, be sure what you are saying is accurate and truthful.

 

2- Be positive. Avoid negative self-talk. This was my worst mistake when I first started out. I would self-talk myself into public speaking horror and defeat.

Instead, use positive self-talk like:

  • “They’ll be blown away.”
  • “I can’t wait to give this gold to them.”
  • “What a blessing it is to be here.”
  • “Thank you God for this tremendous opportunity.”
  • Or, like in Saturday Night Live… “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

Staying positive is something we should develop as a habit not just for public speaking, but for living in general.

 

3- Be interesting. How can you make sure you’re interesting? Be interested in your subject. You cannot make it interesting if you are not interested.

Also, add to your presentation: Anecdotes, stats, quotes, humor. Making sure what you have to say is interesting will give you more confidence as you approach delivery time.

Adding facts and figures to a presentation increases audience retention by 20%. It will engage your audience more.

It also makes your speech more appreciated – memorable even.

Buy some great quote books, short stories, anecdotes collections to help you add value.

Charles Spurgeon once said: “A story is remembered long after the sermon is forgotten.”

I have an extensive collection of short storybooks, jokes, and quotes. Here are some of the books I use for short stories and quotations:

 

  • Bartlett’s book of quotations
  • The Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations
  • Barbour’s encyclopedia of great Christian quotes

 

4- Practice. Brian Tracy once told of how he practiced one speech 52 times. That’s an hour-long speech… repeated fifty two times!!!

So many jitters are eliminated by solid preparation. Good practice gives you a better handle on your subject and makes you feel more prepared and more confident.

“Preparation eliminates agitation.”

 

3- Mind your body, not just your mind. Here are a few simple things you can do before you go speak on stage:

  • Take some deep breaths before,
  • Jump up and down (where nobody can see you),
  • Do a few push-ups. Getting the blood flowing throughout your body can help to center you and help you focus.

Tony Robbins uses a small trampoline just before he literally jumps on stage. This hyper movement helps put him in a powerful state and enables him to deliver powerful life-changing presentations with authority.

You don’t want to be shaking when you go on stage… you want to shake them. Figuratively speaking of course.

 

4- Make it about them, not you. Don’t come up on stage with an attitude of: “Here I am.” Rather, go up on that stage with an attitude of “There you are!”

You have to learn to get over yourself. As trite as this sounds, the fear of public speaking has to do with our enlarged egos.

The reason we have performance anxiety when speaking is that we focus more on our performance than our audience.

Humility is a speaker’s best friend when it comes to overcoming performance anxiety.

Self-focus is your enemy as a speaker. You have to overcome it.

I know… it’s not easy.

Always keep in mind that the message and the audience are more important than the messenger.

You are to act as a servant, a waiter, serving your audience. And your message is the dish you are serving.

You are there to serve them.

Simon Sinek summed this up in an interview he gave by saying:

 

“You have to show up to give.” ~ Simon Sinek

 

If you approach your task from a servant’s perspective, you take the pressure off yourself, because all of a sudden – you are out to help them. You find yourself caring about them – not you.

When you’re there to help or serve someone, you don’t worry about being perfect. You know they appreciate it because it adds value to them.

So, don’t approach the stage as their leader, approach it as their servant. It takes much of the nervous edge off.

Also, this attitude will make you deal better when things don’t go your way.

For example, if you have technical difficulties…

If you were there to offer a performance, it can really increase your sense of inadequacy.

But if you are there to serve, it helps you to keep it in perspective and keep calm.

 

6- Do it for God’s glory, not yours. Even for those who are not in ministry… Ultimately, do it for Him. Even when talking to a secular audience… do it for Him.

Our biggest problem when speaking – mine and yours, is that we seek the praise of men rather than the glory of God.

Bill Johnson once said: “If you live by the praises of men, you will die by their criticism.”

Now, you might say, but I’m not a pastor. I’m not preaching a sermon in a church. I’m talking to business people. I’m building my business.

Allow me to be blunt here: That’s the problem.

Are you, or are you not, a Christian Entrepreneur?

We are too busy building our own thing and therefore we do not worry about God’s glory in the process.

My business. My success. My speech…

Colossians 3:17 says: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

And verse 23-24 says: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Galatians 1:10: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

John 5:44: “How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

Yes, too often, we seek our own glory in what we do, instead of seeking His.

When we are called upon to speak in public, we are there to add value to others, but we anguish over how our own value may be affected in the process.

Let me repeat that:

When we are called upon to speak in public, we are there to add value to others, but we anguish over how our own value may be affected in the process.

Ultimately, our fear of public speaking is because we have “I” troubles. And ‘I’ trouble means our vision needs to be corrected. What do I mean by ‘I’ trouble?

What if I fail

What if I can’t remember my words

What if I stumble

What if I embarrass myself

What if I say something I regret, etc.

 

Humility is your best friend as a public speaker.

Remember… no matter how much you prepare, practice, and aim for perfection – you will not be perfect.

Your speech will still have its flaws. Some of your quotes, jokes, and stories will not resonate with everyone. Some of the lessons you try to convey will not be understood. And most of the people who heard you will not be changed.

Despite all of this, your voice still needs to be heard.

You have something to teach.

You have something to tell.

You have value to give others.

And YES, some lives will be changed in the process of your speaking.

 

Remember this quote by Fred Miller : “The worse speech you’ll ever give, will be far better than the one you never give.”

And I particularly like this observation by Dale Carnegie:

“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”

 

Remember that the best speakers you ever heard, were once bad speakers who were just starting out.

So, with that in mind…

You will get better at speaking by speaking.

And here is a rule of thumb…

If you can count how many speeches you gave, chances are you will still be working on overcoming butterflies and jitters.

John Maxwell said that he got good, at ease, and calm when speaking because he did it over 12,000 times.

You and I aren’t there… yet.

So, keep at it!!!

God bless you as you do.

 

P.S. You can also listen to the Thriving on Purpose episode we did called: How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

 

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About the author, Sebastien

Sebastien Richard is a certified John Maxwell Team leadership trainer as well as a busy dad, author, podcaster, Bible teacher, and entrepreneur.

He is the founder and Director of Operations of Thriving on Purpose (https://www.thrivingonpurpose.com), a faith-based leadership and personal growth organization that seeks to empower Kingdom believers through faith, leadership, and personal growth. With his wife (Elisabeth), he co-hosts The Thriving on Purpose weekly podcast.

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