10 Steps to Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking

Fear is a powerful ally when it keeps us safe from potentially harmful situations--like driving too fast or walking alone at night in a dangerous area. Fear is NOT our ally when it prevents us from embracing opportunities for growth.

During a Skype call with Roger, I realized he was experiencing the second fear scenario. Roger explained his internal conflict over whether or not to accept a job offer that would put him in a leadership role. He said he was stuck.

"Help me understand your thinking?" I asked.

"Because I'll be expected to deliver presentations in front of the whole company, I'm afraid I will not be able to succeed," he replied.

Roger feared public speaking, and he was almost ready to let this fear prevent him from growing. Thankfully, he asked for advice before turning down the position.

I asked him, "Roger, when you first started as a researcher, did you know how to do everything associated with your job?"

"No," he replied. "I had a lot to learn."

"How is this different?" I asked. "You've learned to do many complex things, right? How did you learn them?"

"Some things I learned through trial and error. Some I learned from watching people who had a particular technique that I wanted to master. Sometimes I needed extra training, so I took a class or consulted with an expert."

"What would need to exist for you to consider approaching public speaking the same way?" 

Roger's facial expression and silence told me that a light bulb moment was occurring for him. After a minute, he restarted the conversation. "I have such resistance to public speaking, so I'm going to need expert guidance. Would you help me identify a learning plan for developing this skill?"

"Of course," I said. "In fact, I already have one."  I had been working on the draft of my emotional intelligence book when he called. In the section on fear, I use public speaking as an example of how to overcome fears and even offer a brief outline of activities for someone who struggles with presenting. 

Are you ready to tackle your fear of public speaking? Follow these 10 steps:

  1. Say Hello to Your Fear. Introduce yourself and then get to know each other. Pinpoint what you're afraid of: Speaking in a shaky voice? Stumbling over your content? Handling Q&A? Now you can plan how to handle those issues or hire an expert to coach you on conquering them.
  2. Talk Yourself into Success. Remind yourself that you've learned how to do other complex things in the past. You can learn this now too.  Psych yourself up for the task.
  3. Be Confident in Your Content. Know the ideas you want to share in your presentation well in advance and hone in on the way you want to explain them so you feel great about what you have to share.
  4. Practice by Yourself. Speak your presentation out loud to yourself in the shower and in the car to and from work. Get comfortable with the flow of what you will say.
  5. Get a little help from your friends. Practice in front of friends and colleagues who will give you helpful feedback.
  6. Hire a Coach if Necessary. If your delivery is still not where you want it to be, find an expert to work with you on gestures, voice projection, and the use of your stage.
  7. Use your imagination. Visualize yourself delivering your talk with confidence. Train your brain to expect star performance!
  8. Respect Your Nerves. Don't assume they won't show up (they will) and don't ignore them. Instead, work with them. Nervousness and excitement show up in the body in the same way, so reframe your nervousness by telling yourself, "I'm excited to be here! I'm excited to share my expertise with this room full of people! I'm excited to be a leader in my field!"
  9. Enjoy the Rush. Notice the rush of adrenaline before and after you have delivered your talk successfully. Revel in this "high" and remember that there's pleasure in conquering fear.
  10. Celebrate Your Achievement! Congratulate yourself on raising your emotional intelligence by moving yourself out of fear and into action! Now set your next goal: what are you afraid of that you want to tackle next?

Need more practical advice on how to use emotional intelligence to achieve better outcomes? Check out my latest book, How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence At Work & In Relationships!