How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking (And Why You Should)

As a woman motivational speaker based out of Atlanta, Georgia home to the world’s busiest airport there are more conferences and business events then one can imagine! Many hear the term, motivational speaker and think “fluff.” Perhaps even considering it the cotton candy of the speaking industry? I disagree! It is hard work designing a speech intended to inspire and transform a roomful of strangers. To me, motivational speaking is the Ginger in the Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire dance partnership. They both danced their hearts off but Ginger did it backwards in heels. That is motivational speaking-exciting, thrilling, impactful. Mind you it wasn’t always that way for me.

I remember it like yesterday … the day I nearly fainted from stage fright.

I was an ambitious 28 year old who had just started my first company, EarthCare. Eager to grow it quickly, my team needed outside investment. We decided that the best course of action would be to raise $13 million from a group of private investors. And fifty of them were flying in on their private jets or driving in their fancy cars to listen to my pitch …

There was only one problem – I was terrified of public speaking!

No problem, I thought in the days leading up to the presentation. I prepared my pitch meticulously. Revised and memorized the statistics. Rehearsed my answers to any possible questions. What could go wrong?

How about my fight-or-flight response going into overdrive? I did not consider that one!

I failed to anticipate the physiological reaction I would experience in the moments prior to delivering my pitch to a room full of wealthy strangers. After all, it was only $13 million and the future of my company on the line and I was the only female present. No pressure there!

My body literally started freaking out. I began to hyperventilate and see stars. I nearly fainted!

But I still had my pitch memorized, right? So I slowly made my way to the podium … and my mind blacked out. I managed somehow to get the key points out, threw in some background about the company and an inspirational quote for good measure.

I guess I did alright in spite of myself, as EarthCare received the $13 million investment. But I resolved never to let my crippling fear of public speaking get in my way again.

I joined Toastmasters International and began practicing the art of standing before a group of people and making speeches. I earned my Competent Toastmaster (CTM) certification. I began making speeches to real audiences – first small groups, then working my way up, ultimately speaking at national conferences attended by 2,000 people or more.

So believe me when I say that you can get over your fear of public speaking, because I have been there.

Like any fear, public speaking jitters can be overcome, with proper motivation and a plan.

Cultivating the ability to present your ideas and viewpoints in a thoughtful manner in front of an audience will pay huge dividends over the course of your career.

I’ve always believed when I am at my most uncomfortable then something great is about to happen. Make it a goal to be in this position as often as possible to reap the rewards. Being a motivational or keynote speaker is a great way to differentiate in business. Guess what, it is fun and lucrative if you get good at it!

When you step on a stage automatically the audience views you as an expert. Potential new clients are there, primed up and ready to buy from you. If you deliver amazing value they will seek you out afterwards.

“But Joyce, I get such bad butterflies, I experience cotton mouth, my knees shake – there is no way I can get on a stage and speak!”

Here is my number one tip for learning how to speak in front of a group … join Toastmasters. They will walk you through the process in a warm and supportive community. There is one in your town. Find it and attend.

If you are scared silly at the thought of speaking, it is for one of two reasons that are completely within your control:

  • Proper preparation.
  • You are focusing on yourself instead of putting the focus where it should be …
    On your audience!

Proper Preparation

Do the upfront work. Figure out the content first then start timing it. Finally practice in front of groups that will be happy to have you speak at their monthly meeting for free. It is worth mentioning that PowerPoint is not for loading your written content onto. It is simply a visual cue to keep a speaker on track. Use images, not words. This will bring a much better result.

You are Focusing on Yourself

The difference between an average speaker and a gifted speaker remembered forever is where they put their focus. A servant leader speaker is in this business to give back to society and focus on providing excellent content and experience for the audience. These gifted orators use their unique gift to build people up. My mission is to always assist the audience in finding their courage, strength and belief in themselves which they in turn apply to their work and community. A ripple effect of positive action and spirit is my always my goal.

My advice to aspiring motivational speakers is to remind yourself that this is not about you – it is about your audience. If you put the focus where it should be, creating massive value for them – the nervousness will melt away.

If you’re planning to give a speech, here are some tips …

Practice, practice, practice

When preparing, practice your speech out loud to an empty room. Time yourself. It will offer context around how your points flow, as well as the timing. Once you have practiced the actual speech a few times, it is time to get in front of others. Do some free speeches, or attend Toastmasters and practice the finished speech until is a highly polished gem.

How to Pump Yourself Up

Wear your favorite outfit. Create an alter ego for yourself. When you are onstage, you are not the day to day version of yourself. You are a warrior hand chosen to empower this audience. What an enviable position to be in, the ability to improve someone’s life with your message.

And above all …

Be genuine

Whenever I am asked to speak, I focus on the areas I have proven success and interest in: motivational speaking, mental toughness, sales training, productivity, leadership, innovation, entrepreneurship,
intrapreneurship. I have a depth of real world experience in these areas. This keeps the speech genuine and transparent with the audience.

I have spoken for Fortune 100 companies, small women’s retreats and everything in between. Entrepreneurs, small business owners, franchisees, and real estate companies appreciate my message, because I know firsthand what their day to day is like.

Corporations hire me to be a breath of fresh air for their employees. They are exposed to a new way of viewing work from an “Intra-preneur” mentality. Applying key entrepreneurial traits to the corporate world helps employees become more innovative, proactive, and productive in their approach to work.

If you are serious about getting into the speaking field, write down 3 actions you can take to advance your new career as a motivational or keynote speaker forward. Wishing you the very best of luck!

If you are interested in booking Joyce Bone for your event she is based in Atlanta, Georgia. You can reach her at support@joycebone.com or visit www.joycebone.com.