One of the biggest roadblocks that prevent people from overcoming the fear of public speaking is refusing to admit that it exists...at least when asked about it.
In fact, in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), the very FIRST step in their Twelve Step program to overcoming addiction, is to admit there is one. The same can be said for overcoming a fear as terrifying as public speaking.
Whenever I talk to people who are not involved in public speaking (or that have no actual experience with it), I always get the same responses when asking them if public speaking makes them nervous.
Usually I hear things like, “I’ve never had that fear. I’ve always been great talking in front of groups of people” or “People say that’s the biggest fear, even above death. But I'VE never had a problem with it.”
Or even "Not me. Never. I am awesome. Wait a minute...you're scared of public speaking, Matt??? How embarrassing! What a pathetic weasel you are!!!"
Hang on a sec as I pull myself together. That hurt.
Okay, all better.
You’d never know it was a common fear based on the majority of people I’ve talked to. I was beginning to think I was the ONLY pathetic weasel who felt this way!
Thankfully, I’ve encountered enough people to know that it’s dog poop in its purist form.
Here’s the thing: most people fear public speaking. They fear it because it leaves them vulnerable. Not very many people like to be vulnerable. I understand this very well.
But there’s a catch-22. Sure, you can avoid the naked feeling of vulnerability; yet, without honesty, there’s no recognition of a problem. If the problem is not recognized, it can't be confronted and it certainly can't be solved.
I find it ironic that the same reason people fear public speaking—being vulnerable in front of others—is the same reason that prevents them from getting the problem solved. Or, in other words, seeking help from others.
In a sense, they'd be admitting something damaging about themselves if they were to say, “Yes, I’m terrified of public speaking.”
I mean, who wants to admit that they aren’t confident in themselves or their abilities? I can understand the reluctance. On the other hand, what I’ve learned through experience is that once we open our minds and are honest with ourselves, we’re able to grow (e.g., a problem holding us back is solved). And with growth comes confidence. And with confidence comes more growth.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that the master key to overcome the fear of public speaking, is to be vulnerable. Here are some ways you can be vulnerable:
Be vulnerable and ADMIT to yourself that it terrifies you...and be okay with it
How can you do this? Exactly like it says: Admit it! It’s okay to be a “wuss.” Remind yourself that it’s NOT just you who has nightmares about being thrown in front of a room full of bodies (audience). If we understand that the fear is a completely normal fear, it becomes easier to admit it and accept that it’s there. This is the first step in conquering it.
Be vulnerable and ask for help from someone who's "battle tested"
After you’ve been vulnerable enough to admit to yourself that you’ve got a “problem,” it’s time to be vulnerable again. It’s time to look for help. Find someone who has gone through the valley of death and came out okay.
Remember, they've gone through the exact struggle that you are about to embark on. They understand and sympathize with you. Actually, they WANT to help! The reason I started this blog was for that very reason. I didn't (and still don't) want anyone to have to go through the nightmares I went through dealing with my fears. It sucked ass.
So, reach out to someone who has been through it. It could be a coach or mentor. It could be a family member. It could be a cousin of a friend's pet monkey. Somebody. Anybody. Whomever you decide, just be vulnerable and ask.
Be vulnerable enough to be vulnerable (get stage time!)
Now it's time to be even more vulnerable! Find a place to get stage time—a place where you're able to put yourself in front of an audience. Then rinse and repeat.
A great place to do this is at a Toastmasters club, which is a workshop that gives you an opportunity to speak to an audience. And they're global, so chances are you'll be able to find a club near you.
A beautiful thing about Toastmasters is that the majority of the people who join are experiencing the exact same thing as you. This means they can relate to you, and you to them. Just like in the AA meeting, the participants have a similar addiction, a common bond, which makes it easier to be vulnerable with one another.
The same concept can be applied in Toastmasters. It's a good place to be vulnerable, and it can help you achieve the enormous goal of overcoming your fear of public speaking.
Bottom line: allow yourself to be vulnerable.
It's the quickest path from "deathly" afraid, to confidently in control. Will it be easy? I doubt it. But I can say with 100% certainty that it will be easier if you allow yourself room to be vulnerable.
Share this post! And be vulnerable in the comment section below and tell us about your most nerve racking encounter with public speaking!
About this guy...
Howdy! My name is Matt Kramer and I used to suffer excruciating death when speaking in front of a group, now I LOVE it. Overcoming this fear has changed my life and it can change yours, too. My focus is to help you overcome the fear of public speaking so you can build the confidence to go after what you want in life.