Little Lessons #10: Conquer Your Fear Of Public Speaking By Tying It Into Something That You’re Passionate About

Nubby Twiglet | Conquer Your Fear Of Public Speaking By Tying It Into Something That You're Passionate About

I was always terrified of public speaking. Even if it was a quick introduction on the first day of class, I completely dreaded it. My voice would tremble and I’d talk as quickly as possible just to get it over with.

I’ve always been fine in small social groups and can carry on a conversation without a second thought (especially if you ask me about celebrity trivia!) but just thinking about speaking in front of an audience by myself made me want to hide in a cave.

I never had any ambitions of engaging in public speaking and being a graphic designer allowed me to skirt the issue for years — I could hide behind my computer and still make a comfortable living. That only lasted so long, though before I finally had to face my fears. When Kat, Gala and I hatched the idea of The Blogcademy two and a half years ago, one thing was clear: we agreed upfront that we’d each have to chip in on teaching the 18 segments. Oh wait…teaching equaled public speaking in front of large groups of complete strangers.

I agreed to do it but didn’t overthink it at the time because we didn’t even know if the workshop would take off…and then six days later, our first class sold out. I had less than two months to get over my fear of public speaking because I was going to be in front of a room of women I’d never met, doing exactly that!

When you’re faced with a hurdle, if you think about the big picture, chances are that you’ll get overwhelmed and shut down. Instead, I started really small. I figured out my introduction because if I could get that out without breaking a sweat, I could build some momentum. I didn’t want to stumble and stammer within the first five minutes and lose every ounce of confidence I’d built up so I practiced my intro out loud in my car as I drove to and from work every day. “Hi! I’m Shauna, a graphic designer from Portland….*deep breath*….By the end of the week, I had three paragraphs strung together and memorized.

The first class happened…and you know what? It was way easier than I thought it would be. The secret, I soon realized, is that if you focus on speaking about a subject you’re really passionate about, you’ll never feel lost because deep down inside, you already know the material. In my case, my segments during the two day workshop revolved branding and blogging, both of which I’d been doing professionally for a long time so the conversation just flowed.

I’ve since realized that public speaking is sort of like riding a bike. The first time is scary as hell and then once you have your bearings, it gets a little easier each time. Now, I don’t think twice about it. Remember, your audience wants to relate with you. Unless you’re a newscaster, a few rough edges and surprises will add to your charm so keep it real and speak from the heart.

Your turn: Have you ever been terrified of public speaking? What did you do to overcome the fear?

You’re Awesome postcard by Sian.

19 Responses to Little Lessons #10: Conquer Your Fear Of Public Speaking By Tying It Into Something That You’re Passionate About

  1. Yay such a great post and I used to feel the same about public speaking, now I love it! When I was nervous I used to think about these three things:

    1 – they’re only people.
    2 – the people there WANT you to do well, they’ve paid to be there and they’re not sitting there wanting you to fuck up. They are all on your side and want to hear what you have to say, even if its not perfectly articulated
    3 – it’s just talking. We do it all day, everyday!

  2. Tara says:

    I’ve always hated public speaking! The only thing that saved me was was working at a ticket office when I was younger. I had to address a bunch of strangers, waiting to purchase last-minute tickets, with the rules of our standby line. I used to bribe a coworker to do it for me whenever it was my turn but I eventually sucked it up and became comfortable with it! I still get the initial nervousness but, now that I’m older, it definitely doesn’t bother me as much.

  3. Iida-Emilia says:

    I’ve also hated public speaking and I still hate it. Last summer I worked as a journalist in a local newspaper so I just had to talk to strangers and call people I didn’t know. Now I’ve noticed that I’m more confident and not that afraid when I have to speak in front of class or little audience.

    • Shauna says:

      Ooh, cold calling people you don’t know is tough! Just by sticking it out, I’m sure you gained a ton of confidence. I’m not so sure I could do that!

  4. Marketa says:

    Hi Shauna,

    it was a pleasure to actually witness your speaking at the Blogcademy this weekend! I loved your segments, and you were completely natural!
    I, too, am not a fan of public speaking at all. It’s funny you mentioned practicing your lines while driving- I would do the same! On my way to class, I would try to practice my speech in the car- needless to say that some fellow drivers were looking at me like I am a complete lunatic…I also practiced in the shower, lol. ( My voice sounded better, I thought)

    My issue has always been my accent- I am always worried that I would mispronounce something…What helps me is to be comfortable with the material I am taking about. I could never just wing it…

    P.S Thank you so much for such a lovely time this weekend. It was a pleasure meeting you!

    • Shauna says:

      After traveling so much, I’ve realized that we ALL have accents so don’t sweat it! I remember the first time I was the “token American” in one of our London classes…haha. So glad we got to meet!

  5. MJ Valentine says:

    Wow Shauna I had no idea you were afraid of public speaking! Your segments over Blogcademy were completely wonderful – funny, charming and very confident. It’s so great you managed to overcome this hurdle, because there are SO many people who want to learn what you know! <3

  6. cheyenne says:

    i love this post :) i’ve always been really scared of public speaking, but since i’ve been doing a research program where we have to present our researches every two months, it has become less and less. though i still think i suck at it, i just stopped worrying about it. so all i need now is some more practice 😉
    xo, cheyenne

  7. Ms. Mauikai says:

    This was a great post, Shauna! I’m a musician and have basically spent my entire life on stage. That said, I still get little butterflies before every show, no matter how small or large the venue. But once the lights hit that stage & the first note of music comes beaming from my mouth, I slide into what feels like my most authentic skin ever, because it’s something I’ve always been extremely passionate about.

    Doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes or experienced mishaps, regardless of how many times I may have performed the same songs. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned though, is that the audience doesn’t know that you’ve messed up unless you panic & draw attention to your mistake, so the show must go on 😉


    • Shauna says:

      I think everyone still gets butterflies…I remember hearing some famous musicians say that they do, too, even after hundreds of performances! And I agree about just rolling with mistakes. I think it’s better to just keep going or, if it’s reallllly bad, laugh at yourself. 😉

  8. Kamilla says:

    When I was studying engineering at university, I tried to avoid every talk and every oral exam I could, because I had to deal with sleepless nights and tremendous fears before each talk.

    At the same time I was offered to hold a workshop about writing application letters (here in Germany, an application consists of a letter, the CV and certificates), which I was good at and without even thinking about it I happily said yes. I was a bit nervous before this workshop, too – but this was nothing in comparison to the fears of the talks about technical stuff at university.

    At first I didn’t understand it. I had always thought, it was my shy, introvert and anxious character which created those fears. Realizing that it simply was the wrong kind of topic I had to talk about and that I was a completely different speaker when talking about the things I was good at and loved was an important step in my personal and professional development. Today I’m thinking about giving classes in writing, time management and organization instead of always hiding behind my computer screen as a programmer and engineer. :)

    I’m so happy, you wrote this article!. Thank you!

  9. Femke says:

    Love your post! :-) Great to hear practice-practice-practice actually works. I used to be so scared of speaking for large groups as well and it’s still a work in progress, but pushing myself did pay off! (and I did get my teacher’s degree… which I’m not using, because it’s not my ‘thing’ … or not right now, anyway ;-))
    Keep it up! :-) x

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