“Help me get over my fear of public speaking.” “What do I need to do to stop feeling so nervous before public speaking?” “Will I ever be able to be comfortable when I speak in front of a group of people?” – These are all the same question, and as a public speaking coach and trainer, one that I get asked over and over again.
I also did a recent survey on LinkedIn and Facebook to see what my friends and followers number one challenge was regarding public speaking. The number one response was around building confidence and controlling nerves before public speaking.
With fear so prevalent and so debilitating do people ever get to a position of fearless public speaking? I personally think not and I think the concept of public speaking with no fear is indeed a myth. Mark Twain said “there were two types of speakers; those with nerves and those that were liars”.
In my own situation as a speaker and public speaking trainer, I stand before audiences 2 to 3 times per week and have been doing it now for 9 years. I think I do a good job, I get great feedback and people refer me to help their colleagues and friends. Yet I still have nerves and fear associated with every presentation that I do.
Ringo Star, the drummer for the Beatles has a nickname of “Pukey In The Sky With Diamonds” because he would often vomit before going on stage. He would then play 2 hours of brilliant music with the Beatles and other bands since. So his nerves caused him to be sick and suffer stage fright, but did not stop him from being a great drummer and musician.
Adele also suffers from stage fright and gets very scared before performances. Adele has said “I’m scared of audiences,” and says “I get shitty scared.”
The question is then not how do I overcome or control my nerves, rather can I do public speaking with my nerves. And the answer is yes. If Mark Twain, Ringo Star, Adele and Peter Dhu (forgive me for including my name with those 3 legends) can speak and perform with nerves, so can anyone else.
Now over time and with practise, the nerves will lessen and we will learn to accept them and take them on our journey. But they may never go away. So the sooner we accept our nerves, learn how to use them and focus on our purpose, to speak, sing or entertain our audiences, the sooner we can move on and have the impact we desire.
I am going to leave you with a metaphor that I heard many years ago. “Your nerves are like wild horses. They are magnificent animals. Completely out of control, free to do what they wish, running flat out, jumping obstacles, and going in which ever direction they choose. Don’t shoot them. Rather harness them and tame them and they will take you on the ride of your life”. So it is with our nerves before public speaking. Learn to harness the nervous energy and you will do a great presentation every time.
If you want be more confident in your public speaking I have an upcoming workshop on Thinking and Speaking Off the Cuff on 8 October 2018 in Perth.