How to Get Over Your Fear of Public Speaking

According to psychologists, most people have a greater fear of public speaking than of death. As someone who trains speakers professionally, I can attest this is true.

How to Get Over Your Fear of Public Speaking

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/uschools

It certainly was for me. Even after I had been speaking publicly for years, I still struggled with fear. Even when I was well-prepared. This happened nearly every time I spoke.

The problem, as I eventually discovered, was I was focused on myself.

My thoughts were consumed with whether or not they would like my speech, laugh at my jokes, or think I was smart.

As a result, I sweated profusely. My hands got ice cold. I felt sick to my stomach. I would often be near panic before I stepped up on the stage.

Everything shifted when I started focusing on my audience.

I started asking myself, What are their needs? How do they feel? How can I best serve them?

Suddenly, my anxiety disappeared. Not all at once, but incrementally, as my focus shifted from me to them.

Now, I usually can’t wait to speak. Occasionally, I slip back into the old pattern, but at least now I know how to fix it.

The question I always ask myself right before I step to the podium is this:

What are the gifts I want to give those attending this event?

I focus on three. These have the power to transform them—and me.

  1. The Gift of Clarity. When people come to hear someone speak, regardless of the topic—they are often confused. For example:

    • People come hear Tony Robbins because they are confused about how to succeed in life.

    • People come hear Dave Ramsey because they are confused about how to get ahead financially.

    • People come hear me because they are confused about how to get noticed in a noisy world.

    My goal is to enlighten their minds. I must make the complex simple and provide a framework that dials everything into focus. So must you.

  2. The Gift of Courage. When people come hear someone speak, they are often demoralized and ready to quit. Even if the speaker gives them the knowledge they need, fear may keep them from acting on it. (Never underestimate the power of fear!)

    My goal is to engage their hearts. I must convince them they have what it takes to succeed. So must you.

  3. The Gift of Commitment. When people come to hear someone speak, they are often stuck and unable to move forward. Even if they have clarity and courage, they will be tempted to hesitate or procrastinate.

    My goal is to move their wills. I must identify what they need to do next and then call them to specific action. So must you.

It’s amazing how a shift in perspective can change everything. It certainly has for me.

Next time you have the opportunity to speak publicly and find yourself getting nervous, try refocusing on the needs of your audience. Give them the gifts they need to succeed. It will make a difference. For you and for them.

Question: Do you get nervous before you speak? How do you deal with it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://josuemolina.com/ Josue Molina

    I don’t mind nor fear public speaking when given the opportunity. But one thing I find myself struggling with is private speaking in a small group of strangers or professionals. It’s unfortunate because I know I miss out on networking opportunities. Gosh, I go blank. I make no sense at times when given the chance to speak. To self-conscious maybe? Still I believe the gift of courage and identity plays a big role in this situation. I have been applying this and slowly seeing change. Any other tips?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I think the same issue is in play. The more you can focus on the other person and their needs, the easier it is.

      • http://josuemolina.com/ Josue Molina

        I guess you’re right. Sometimes a person afraid of private speaking is so focused to impress that they forget that it’s just about being themselves. That’s a good way to see it— “what can I add of value in the conversation that will fulfill this person’s need.” If it’s short and sweet. That’s ok.

    • http://www.toodarnhappy.com/ Kim Hall

      In addition to Michael’s great suggestions, I think basic practice can help with your difficulty, Josue. I have had the same problem. I joined Toastmaster’s last fall and found the Table Topics portion to be terrific practice at gaining confidence in impromptu speaking. I am now much more confident and comfortable when in a small group of people I don’t know. My 25 yr old daughter joined as well. She gives tours at work and would often get impromptu questions. She shared that she, too, has gone from tongue-tied to being able to provide a well-spoken response.

      • http://personalsuccesstoday.com/ John Richardson

        I agree with you, Kim, Table Topics is a great way to practice for the unknown. It builds confidence and helps you think on your feet. Over the years, the practice I’ve received has helped immensely with job interviews, performance evaluations, and business meetings.

        • http://josuemolina.com/ Josue Molina

          Thank you. Never heard of Table Topics before. I will look in to it. I’m sure it will help me in my personal growth.

          @Kim_Hall:disqus Definitely it can be overcome with practice. The irony from public to private. Let’s not even mention phone calls.

          John Richardson I know I’m an extroverted person. But I do have some shyness in me. At times, I catch my self avoiding eye contact. Will have to check out the book.

    • http://personalsuccesstoday.com/ John Richardson

      I share your unease talking with strangers in business meetings or parties. One simple tip that I picked up from Nicholas Boothman, really helped me. In his book, How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, he talks about making eye contact. As a naturally shy person, I suffered with this for years. His tip, was to make a mental note of the other person’s eye color. This forces you to look the other person in the eye and make eye contact for at least a second or two. A simple technique, but it really helps build rapport. His book is full of excellent tips like this. Highly recommended.

    • http://www.joshuabfarrell.com/ JB Farrell

      In the smaller setting the key is to focus on their story, and their life. Ask questions to learn about that person, then follow-up with a question. Have a desire to know what they do and why. Their successes, struggles, etc.

      • http://josuemolina.com/ Josue Molina

        Good pointers JB. I’m coming to understand that its less of me and more them. That my input should be a form of giving.

        • http://www.joshuabfarrell.com/ JB Farrell

          It is something I have also struggled with, and there was a season where I focused for several months in social setting to not speak unless I was asking a question.

          I was a compulsive talker about me, myself, and I….

          It opened my world when I focused on learning about others rather than telling them about me and what I thought.

          • http://jorgesilvestrini.com/ Jorge Silvestrini

            JB and Josue sometimes we also help others by just letting them know how we dealt with a particular situation or a problem. I was always afraid about speaking about my particular situations, but testimonies are powerful as well. If I can serve someone with a personal experience, then I’m sharing it…

            What you guys think?

          • http://josuemolina.com/ Josue Molina

            Thanks Jorge. Definitely, anyone’s personal experience in overcoming the fear of private speaking helps. For sure, the root of this problem is insecurity and perhaps rejection. Our frame of thinking must change. I’ve been overcoming this area by being aggressive (intetional) and really oppressing any negative thoughts that comes to mind. I can not be weaken by them. I constantly seek ways out.

            The comments from our friends here also helps.

          • http://www.toodarnhappy.com/ Kim Hall

            @jxmoli One of my fellow Toastmasters is a teacher. Great in a classroom, used to go into an absolute panic when chatting with peers or in a meeting. She joined TM specifically to get over that fear. She is now very comfortable in small groups, and says she couldn’t have done it without TM. Another is a college prof who didn’t go the traditional route, and was greatly intimidated by fellow “real” professors with lots of degrees. He, too, is comfortable now, and is a great speaker as well. Baby step by baby step will get you where you want to be. :-)

          • http://josuemolina.com/ J.Molina

            Thank you. You are right. Overcome the fear with baby steps!

    • Stephen Braswell

      I would say this is my biggest “problem” area too… It’s nice to know that I am not the only one that is more uncomfortable in small groups than larger.

      • http://josuemolina.com/ Josue Molina

        It’s the ugliest feeling in the world. I pressure my self by putting myself in this type of situations over and over. I want out. Is there anything that has helped you?

        • http://www.winningagent.com/ Richard M. Hartian

          It is an uncomfortable feeling. I think we all keep putting ourselves in that position because somewhere inside we know we have something to share. I can’t tell you how many times I’m listing to someone else speak and wish I could get up there and say it (because I want to say it a different way)…

          • http://josuemolina.com/ Josue Molina

            Ha! That could be part of it too @WinningAgent:disqus / We all have something valuable to say. But some know it, but doubt it. Therefore, they shut themselves. They believe it’s not valuable. What’s the root of fear of private speaking? This is something we all can venture in figuring out.

          • http://www.winningagent.com/ Richard M. Hartian

            J. Molina, that is a good question “What’s the root of fear of private speaking?” I’d like to know the answer myself.

          • http://josuemolina.com/ J.Molina

            I mentioned it before. I’m no expert, of course. But I do believe the root of is rejection. Which branches out to insecurity, low-self-esteem, and etc. Could it be caused by a previous trauma or upbringing? Can it be that we simply weren’t taught to be confident? The point is. We need to overcome it by doing it and being breaking false ideas in our mind that torment us to think the contrary. We do have something worth great value to say.

          • http://www.winningagent.com/ Richard M. Hartian

            I agree, and I can identify with some of your theories For the fear of public speaking to be as deep and widespread as it is, it would have to be something at a human being’s core. If I were to postulate, I’d lean towards pride. Pride is so me focused and we are all infected with it.

            For the record, I’m enjoying our back and forth…it is really allowing me to think about this at a deeper level – personally.

          • http://josuemolina.com/ J.Molina

            Like Michael said in a comment above… “Congratulations, We’re human!” I love the back and forth as well. Pride is also a branch of rejection. Just dig deep inside, whatever it is. Let it go ( If that’s the case). If not, putting private or public speaking to practice works every time. If you don’t have an audience. Make one. How? put a camera in front of you, upload it to youtube. intentionally speak to people, record your voice and upload it to Soundcloud. Gosh, you’ll feel so stupid. Who cares! But the beauty of it all is that your tearing the walls of insecurity by doing so. I preach this to myself all the time. I have no option but to be aggressive about it. I have to. We have to. Seriously.

            There’s a tribe in here waiting to listen to you and me. Don’t retain that gift.

            Pride is a killer. It’s as bad as Low Self-esteem. Both refrain you to live a life full of purpose and from releasing your potential.

  • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

    What a powerful, helpful mindset. I know how easy it is to become self-focused when speaking or facilitating a group process – especially for those who are talented.
    I needed this reminder – not because of nerves, but intention.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I like your distinction, Jonathan. This is a good reason to do this regardless of whether or not you are afraid.

  • http://www.lindalochridge.com/ Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    So true Michael. This was actually where it all shifted for me as well. I started thinking of the audience as dear family members who I knew were struggling with something. I also realized that speaking takes more energy that just standing there so your body will drop some adrenaline to help. That feels a lot like fear, but if we realize what it really was we could say, “thank you body, I needed that!”

    • DaveyJones

      This is a great post thank you Michael. I think the gift of commitment is absolutely important. I know my fear of public speaking was helped to overcome using this technique. Another I find is just practice, practice and practice some more. You have to love the process of preparing for the speech so you deliver a brilliant speech. I have also read Tom Woods’s guide on fear of public speaking – http://curefearofpublicspeaking.com which had some good tips and techniques.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Great tips! Thank you!

    __

    Also, you can purchase a teleprompter system (not cheap). It can make you look like a star… even when without it you are a bumbling, blathering fool.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I’ve used teleprompters. I’m not a fan. Even though I can read them flawlessly, they just don’t allow the kind of engagement you get without them. (It’s the difference between looking someone in the eye when you talk to them and reading them a letter.)

  • http://www.larrywjones.com/ Larry Jones

    Thanks, Michael, for this great post! I recently joined Toastmasters International to work through my own fears and struggles with public speaking. I’ve already given 2 speeches in the last 5-6 weeks, and I’m feeling more confident each time I practice in front of a sympathetic audience.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      John Richardson (a regular here) is also a big Toastmasters fan. I have heard nothing but good!

  • Gil Michelini

    Michael, great topic and insight. And going along with what Larry said Toastmasters International is the best investment any of us can make in ourselves. Even if you consider yourself a good speaker, Toastmasters can help you. Sorry for the commercial Michael, but I like taking any chance I can get to encourage people to develop their communications gifts through Toastmasters.

    • Alan B

      I agree, Gil. I joined Toastmasters about 8 years ago. It has changed my life and opened up many doors. My confidence and communications skills have done a complete 180 degrees. Toastmasters is one of the greatest investments anyone can make to advance in their careers.

  • http://www.napiszaco.pl/ Mateusz Kozłowski

    When I have to speak in front of an audience, I try to keep breathing, and to establish a relationship with those people. I do it, by referring to e.g. weather outside, something that has just happened or else – it’s simple, common sentence. That usually works, but thank you for your advices, I’ll keep them in mind.

  • http://sheridanvoysey.com/ Sheridan Voysey

    I’ve been broadcasting and speaking for some years now and have to say this is so key, Michael. Focus on the audience. Give to them. And don’t feel too anxious about feeling nervous! A little anxiety helps us get energized for the task.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I agree. A little anxiety can work for you.

    • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

      Great point Sheridan! When it comes to body language, the difference between anxiety and enthusiasm can be bridged by a smile.

  • Lexie Lee, LPC-S

    I know I have read a good post with a great truth when I want to shout out, “Read this!” So much of life is better when we focus less on ourselves and more on others. Thank you for loving your neighbor enough to share.

  • http://jimhamlett.com/ Jim Hamlett

    After several years in live theater, public speaking, and teaching, I can attest to the ability of fear to hamper performance. It’s okay to have butterflies. You’d be abnormal not to have them. But before you step on stage, they must be flying in formation. The best aid for this is confidence. The best route to that is rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

    Here’s three other suggestions for public speaking/teaching:

    1. Pray for wisdom, a clear mind, and a calm heart. (I’m dead serious about this.) And in keeping with Michael’s comments, pray that you meet the needs of the audience.

    2. Have a concise, easy to follow (use alliteration, acronyms, etc.), and especially easy to READ outline in front of you. If you can’t have a lectern, memorize it.

    3. Share your passion with the audience. Let them see it in your demeanor and hear it in your voice. (This does not mean you must shout everything or constantly wander all over the stage. But it’s okay to do an occasional antic.)

    Finally, I once heard a good writer give a speech who recognized his better talent: writing. He confessed his weakness in speaking and told us he’d written his entire speech. Then he read it–with passion. One of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. You could tell he’d rehearsed.

    • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

      Awesome points, Jim. I will never forget when I was 1st told that the “butterflies” never go away, you just have to make the fly in formation!

  • http://thejoshcollins.com/ Josh Collins

    Great post! I remember my first speaking opportunity, the nerves, the butterflies, and all that good stuff. What has been awesome for me, is my understanding of how to engage audiences, and more importantly what can happen when they truly are engaged! That’s the soul magic, I love to experience!

  • http://www.dwaynecastle.blogspot.com/ Dwayne Castle

    Thanks Michael. As a minister, I’ve struggled with this many times. You’ve really summed up in this post what I haven’t been able to flesh out. I will definitely keep these 3 points in mind as I prepare my next sermons. As far as overcoming fear, one of the things I did was enter the world of comedy (you and I met last year at the CCA convention in TN where you spoke- thanks for the book Platform). Getting on stage telling jokes or doing a karaoke kind of singing can be horrifying but if you can do that, you can preach a message or deliver a presentation. I definitely recommend karaoke or open mic nights to overcome fear of speaking.

  • Hope Squires

    Thanks for the helpful way to rethink public speaking. I don’t love speaking publicly, and because I’m trying to build a platform as a writer, I know I need to conquer this fear. I’ve been giving devotions at a local shelter in my city, and your message will help me feel more relaxed the next time I speak. Do you ever find that nervous energy is an asset because you can transform it into energy for what you’re presenting?

  • Eddy Hood

    Michael – great post. I do a lot of public speaking as well. For me, I had to change my focus from myself to my audience with a unique goal. I want to build a real relationship with each one of them. I absolutely love people and speaking allows me to connect with hundreds or even thousands of new people instantly. Knowing that I care about these people makes the fear go away for me. I’m no longer trying to impress them and look good in front of them. Its all about trying to be as helpful as possible.

  • http://www.workyouenjoy.com/ Adam Rico

    Very timely for me Michael. I have a big speaking engagement coming up later this month. When people ask me if I ever do any extreme sports I just tell them I speak publicly – same effect.

    • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

      I love that comment, Adam – I have noticed that the “wipeouts” in both (public speaking & extreme sports) are equally painful to watch!

  • http://jimwoodswrites.com/ Jim Woods

    Wow, great post. I’ve been fighting this for a long time. I like to just put it off and say, ‘well, I’m not any good at speaking anyways”, which is really just fear. Rationalizing is the ULTIMATE way to disguise fear.

    Thanks for the push. It’s time to smack fear in the face!

  • http://www.toodarnhappy.com/ Kim Hall

    Similar words from a speaker I heard long ago have stuck with me: Change your point of view, change your life. This awareness radically changes how we do and perceive everything.

    I especially love these suggestions because they address the inner workings of our heart and mind. We can practice, practice, and practice, but if our beliefs are not aligned with what we do—focusing on fear, or not being good enough, for instance—we will not break free into real success.

  • http://personalsuccesstoday.com/ John Richardson

    Great post, Michael. I like your three C’s. Very insightful. I may be strange, but I love public speaking. I’ve been in Toastmasters for years and given hundreds of speeches. While some audiences are tougher than others, they all share a common bond. They want to see you succeed. The secret for me is to build rapport with my audience. I use a Four H approach and put myself in the seat of a speech evaluator. This is what I want to see…

    Head: Make me think.
    Heart: Make me feel.
    Hands: Ask me to take action.
    Humor: Make me smile.

    When I put a speech together with all four elements, It engages the audience.

    Your three C’s are a similar collection. I love how you used the word, “courage.”
    I think that describes many people in the audience. If you can help them overcome their fear, you have made a difference in their lives.

    So many people that come to Toastmasters are deathly afraid of getting up front to speak. TM offers a safe environment and positive feedback. Many times, just giving one speech or participating in table topics, can make a huge difference. When they see that they didn’t die and actually had a good time, their outlook on speaking changes. I’ve seen 180 degree swings in just a few weeks. The secret is to take the first step.

  • http://www.lincolnparks.com/ Lincoln Parks

    Yes, I get fearful when speaking in public but as soon as I start speaking it all goes away. And its for the very same reason you mentioned. I don’t focus on myself, I make it about others. Now, about the sweaty palms, because I have severe Hyperhydrosis in the palms of my hands they literally drip sweat, I use a small cloth or towel to help comfort me. However, I have noticed that once I calm down as I get started it decreases. I like the idea of not making it about you.

  • rabbimoffic

    An amazing post. I just had the opportunity to speak along with about 50 other authors, 5 of whom were NYT bestsellers and one of whom was the editor of Businessweek for 20 years. Since I speak all the time, I’m usually not too nervous, but this time I was. I think some of it had to with both a little envy and self-doubt. These folks were so successful, and who was I to be in their league. I began to focus on my own feeling of inadequacy. Michael’s suggestion to focus on the audience rather than myself, which I was finally able to do, makes all the difference.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Evan! I’m glad that worked for you. You have so much to give!

  • http://www.producewithpassion.com/ Dan McCoy

    I LOVE all the focus on speaking lately. I used to get nervous but I guess subconsciously did exactly what you said Michael. I learned from Jim Camp 2 years ago to think in your adversary’s (respected opponent) world. In his book “start with no” he covers 31 principles for a successful negotiation. Speaking is a negotiation, and you organize your talk in their world, with a valid mission and purpose set in your audience’s world, and you add a very KEY piece (stories) to your talks, the butterflies disappear. I recently interviewed former Tony Robbins superstar, Roberto Monaco, on this very thing. Skip to 2:00 for the meat of the interview. http://youtu.be/fy6CIQ9tXJ4

  • Timothy Fish

    Some degree of nervousness is to be expected for everyone. I don’t know that I’m one who should give advice about it, since I actually enjoy public speaking and look forward to each opportunity to do so. Someone once said that a speaker should remember that his audience wants him to succeed. People don’t attend a lecture and hope that the speaker will be boring or stumble over his words or forget his material. So, even if the audience disagrees with what the speaker has to say, they are cheering for him to communicate well.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s a great reminder, Timothy. Thanks!

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I teach public speaking courses at a local community college. But I still get nervous when I speak outside of my normal environment of the college campus. You hit the nail on the head at the start of your article. The biggest reason people fear public speaking is that they are focusing on themselves. We need to focus on the message, and the message needs to be designed for our listener’s best interests. I am working through a whole series on public speaking at my site http://www.danerickson.net.

    • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jonathan Harrison

      Looking forward to this series, Dan!

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        It’s already going, Jonathon. There will be about a dozen posts and podcasts total and I’ve already been posting most every Tuesday since April. It will be complete in early July. There is a category link “Public Speaking” that will take you to the posts that are already up.

        • Chalry Priest

          I took one course of public speaking during my college years, I was terrible. I know there obviously certain techniques but can it be that a person by his or her personality is never going to be good at it, like me. I know you is not to gesture very much or if you are building the momentum to make your point you´ll probably make it looking forward instead of left and right, but I was so freaked out my hands seems like a propeller. Maybe there are people that are unteachable.

          • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

            I don’t think anyone is “unteachable.” I do think everyone can learn by doing. Nervousness decreases with more experience. Even then it never goes away completely and you wouldn’t want it to, as it adds energy to your speech.

  • S Scott Johnson

    Great post, Michael! I love the John Maxwell quote: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” So I think what you are saying works both directions–it works with the person giving the talk and those receiving it.

  • Kelly Moore

    I regularly speak in front of audiences, both large and small. In my opinion, nervousness is normal, however is reduces over time. A small amount of “speaker anxiety” is normal, and even useful because it helps keep you on your edge. I find taking a deep breath immediately before I have to speak provides a “cleansing breath” and helps me to focus on what I’m about to say rather than “they’re watching me”. That works pretty well for me.

  • http://JaredLatigo.com/ Jared Latigo

    Great post Michael. I have a friend of mine that said something very similar to this. He said that all speakers go through three stages.

    1) Me focused

    2) Content focused

    3) Audience focused

    And it’s only when the speaker gets to the last stage that they are able to provide true value and deliver effectively. Great post and thanks for the tips!

  • http://www.livebeyondawesome.com/ Jen McDonough “The Iron Jen”

    Awesome blog Michael! Yes I am still fearful of speaking, however once I am up there it feels like a duck in water as I can see things clicking for folks. It is exciting to see them ‘getting it’.
    Thank you for posting – I am going to be referencing back and referring this post as it is a wonderful reminder for leaders and speakers.
    Live beyond awesome.
    Jen

  • http://marketpunch.com/ Jason Stum

    Thank You Michael, as usual, your insights are an invaluable resource. This post is being permanently saved in Evernote.

  • Curtis O. Fletcher

    You’ve hit on the key thing Michael, great post. Quickly second to focusing on the audience is knowing your material…and of course, organizing it such a way that it is easily deliverable. (But then, I’ve always thought that should be the easy bit for speakers since THEY are the expert on THEIR material.) If you know it and organize it well you don’t need teleprompters, or even copious notes.

    Josue’s comments on audience size above are interesting too. It really has more to do with the vulnerability we feel in front of a small audience than it does numbers. Large audiences are impersonal, we can always find a smiling face and rest there. We feel more exposed in front of a smaller audience. Fortunately, the same rules apply.

  • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

    Love the idea that speaking, or delivering a message of any sort, is a gift you give to the world. Lewis Hyde would agree.

    • http://www.seannisil.com/ Sean Nisil

      Jeff, just looked up Lewis Hyde. Looking forward to checking out The Gift.

      On another note, I also think about public speaking as an opportunity to plant “idea seeds.” I was told the other week by someone who heard me give a speech that the idea I was presenting from the stage planted a seed that changed the way they approach their life. What a gift!

      I’m working towards starting a podcast on my blog. Thanks go to you and Michael for inspiration and the examples you’ve both provided on your platforms.

      Cheers,

      Sean

  • http://www.melaniedorsey.com/ Melanie Dorsey

    I have found that movement helps me work out the nerves. When I’m nervous I tend to physically close in but if I deliberately make myself bigger through larger gestures and taking a few steps away from the podium it helps a great deal. That and sharing a laugh at the offset eases my nerves and those of the audience.

    You mentioned three well known speakers in your first point, The Gift of Clarity. In a couple of weeks I will be speaking to a group primarily made up of women who are pastors’ wives. Since I am not a nationally well known speaker, they have not heard me speak. Therefore I don’t believe they are looking for anything specific from me. However the person who booked me asked me to speak according to the meeting’s theme, “Set Free.” She also stated that her one goal for me as the guest speaker is that after hearing me the women will leave encouraged as they return to their various churches.

    Only God knows the specific needs of the women who will be in attendance. Turning to Him in prayer as I prepare helps me take the focus off of me and even off of my doing a good job. While I certainly WANT to do a good job, it’s more about my trusting God to do a good work IN me as I minister to these women.

    That also helps relieve me of anxiety. After all, I am not the one who effects change. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. My job is to prepare and pray and deliver the message to the best of my ability. Thank you for all you do and share with us Michael.
    I blog at http://www.melaniedorsey.com.

  • http://convergenceinthecommons.com/ Deborah Owen

    I love this Michael. As a teacher, I think the exact same thing holds true. Teachers are public speakers every single day, and we are always trying to figure out what we can give to our learners. I love how you have whittled it down to these three things: clarity, courage, and commitment. Definitely sharing!

  • http://www.nathanmagnuson.com/ Nathan Magnuson

    Those are really good points, Michael. You did a great job at this by sharing your takeaways at Chick-fil-A Leadercast. Here are some compelling reasons I came up with to engage in public speaking: http://www.nathanmagnuson.com/six-reasons-you-should-give-public-speeches/

  • Gene

    Good word!! Thanks for reaffirming some things for me!!

  • Elizabeth Cardenas

    As someone who was terrified of public speaking, I can attest that fear can certainly paralyze a person. I will have to remember your three points here when I do public speaking again. Thank you, Michael.

  • Peggy Salvatore

    Michael, this is a great post! I love your three pieces of advice. They are going to help me very much in focusing my message both on paper and in live interactions as I am writing a book on Working with Subject Matter Experts for corporate trainers and have a proposal to speak at a national training convention. I, too, had a paralyzing fear of speaking and joined Toastmasters to help me overcome it. During one of my speeches, even though I was “among friends” , I froze and actually walked off the platform in the middle of my speech in tears. I went on to complete the course, got my Competent Communicator certificate, and have spoken in front of people both as past President of our ASTD (American Society of Training and Development) chapter and now as a trainer for nursing home staff – believe it or not! And yes, it was definitely taking the focus off me and onto the people I wanted to communicate with and help that solved the terrifying fear. I still worry, I still sweat, but I’m focused on the message and the audience now. This is so true. I wish I had heard this message five years ago. For anyone still in that place, I cannot strongly enough encourage you to break out of your fear and take this advice.

  • Dave Unger

    TED curator Chris Anderson has an article in the June 2013 Harvard Business Review about how to give a killer presentation. One of his many suggestions that jumped out at me is the admonition to rehearse enough.

    According to Chris, everyone preparing for a speech goes through a “valley of awkwardness” where they haven’t quite memorized the talk. According to Chris, “If they give the talk while stuck in that valley, the audience will sense it. Their words will sound recited, or there will be painful moments where they stare into the middle distance, or cast their eyes upward, as they struggle to remember their lines. This creates distance between the speaker and the audience.”

    http://hbr.org/2013/06/how-to-give-a-killer-presentation/

    Having your speech memorized will also do a lot to reduce your nervousness because you’ll know exactly what you plan to do. You’ll have a sense for how fast or slow to talk, how long you’ll be on stage, etc. Rehearsing properly (not just hastily or perfunctorily) will greatly improve your public speaking efforts.

    • http://www.winningagent.com/ Richard M. Hartian

      Dave, I’ve always disliked the memorized word for word speech – I’ve preferred using key points and talking from knowledge and experience…perhaps it depends on the topic, but how do you engage your audience if your just going from memory?

      • Dave Unger

        Great question, Richard.

        To me, the best analogy is watching musicians. If you go see an elementary school band, they’re going to be focused intently on reading the music and trying to play what it says. To me, that’s a lot like a beginning speaker trying to read a written speech and stumbling their way through it.

        If you go see a high school band, the musicians are generally much better. They’ll still need to follow the music in order to ensure they get the notes right. But they’ll be able to vary the pace and the volume. They’ll also be able to look up and look at the audience now and then. To me, that’s a lot like an intermediate speaker who still uses a full written copy of their speeches.

        At the collegiate level or even a professional symphony, musicians practice enough to memorize each piece but still use copies of the music when they play. They’re using the music as an outline rather than intently reading every note. They mainly use sheet music to keep in sync with everyone else.This is how a lot of memorized speeches come across – as if the person is giving their speech at someone else’s pace. They have enough skill to add dramatic flourishes, perhaps, and to look at the audience while talking, but it’s still often a predictable experience and might not make a strong emotional connection to the audience.

        At the top end of the spectrum, think about gifted soloists like Yo-Yo Ma on the cello or Itzhak Perlman on violin. They might use sheet music sometimes but normally don’t. They don’t often follow a conductor’s pace, either. The conductor guides the orchestra in following the soloist. And the end result is far more engaging and moving. To me, that’s like a truly great speaker who has fully memorized their speech but isn’t bound by it. They can vary the pace by adding pauses. They can throw in some flourishes. They can focus on feeling the music and emotionally connecting the audience to it. That’s what truly great speakers remind me of – musicians who have practiced enough to go beyond the content of their speech and mechanics of delivery to where they connect strongly with the audience.

        There’s clearly a time and place for world-class music performances that aren’t as fully rehearsed. Jazz, for instance, facilitates improvisation. So does hip-hop. But most genres don’t.

        To tie this back to a speaking context, think about a gifted speaker you’ve seen more than once. For instance, I’ve seen John Maxwell at least a dozen times. And I’ve definitely seem him give some content multiple times. Because of the quality of his content, his thorough preparation and his speaking ability, I have found that I’m still focused on the content and what I can glean from it the second time through. It’s not until I’m hearing something for the third time that I realize just how thoroughly rehearsed Dr. Maxwell’s speeches are.

        For me, I think the bottom line is that we’re best off preparing and delivering speeches in whatever way best suits our audience’s needs and expectations. If people are giving me their time and attention with the expectation of learning something specific, I want to do the best possible job of teaching them. If they are coming with the expectation that something unique and special will happen, I’ll be more open to improvising. If I know an audience would prefer me to turn away from my script and engage directly with them, that’s the only time it makes sense to me to specifically aim for being generally prepared and planning to improvise.

        Last thought – improvising actually comes very naturally to me. Given five or ten minutes of notice, I can usually extemporize a credible speech on just about any topic.I enjoy speaking in that fashion. But I don’t think it benefits the audience nearly as much as a speech that has been written, edited, and rehearsed.

        • http://www.winningagent.com/ Richard M. Hartian

          Great detailed response Dave – I understand the analogy about the musician, although a musician song always has to be the same.

          Memorizing would be difficult for me as I speak on a large amount of subjects (historcially) and they all vary a bit.

          • Dave Unger

            I definitely understand that memorization is costly both in terms of the effort required and the time consumed. For many types of speaking, it may not seem worth the effort. A preacher, for instance, may have to prepare a new talk every week and may only have 20 hours or less of total time to spend researching, writing, editing, and rehearsing.

            Corporate executives, politicians, and many other types of speakers also only give any given speech a single time. Most of my own speaking opportunities are in a sales context where I’m presenting a customized solution to a specific client.

            There are lots of scenarios in which rehearsing to the point of memorization seems like more work than it is worth. But I suggest looking at it from a perspective that goes beyond the one speaking opportunity. Think of it as working to perfect your craft. With that in mind, my own focus is on rehearsing as much as my schedule allows.If I have written any phrases that strike me as particularly powerful, I start by memorizing them so that I can deliver them while making eye contact and using motion and body language to emphasize the point. If there are moments when I know I want to pause, I’ll make a point of memorizing the bits just before and just afterward so that I don’t ruin the moment by glancing at my notes.

            There are undoubtedly some elements of showmanship that come into play. Those only become possible when you’ve practiced enough to get to that level.

            To go all the way back to your original question, “How do you engage your audience if your just going from memory?” The answer is that, with enough rehearsal and practice, you stop “just going from memory.” You become able to merge your memory of your content with audience interaction in a way that you can’t do while trying to decide on exactly how to express your next point. If you have to give some brain power to choosing your words, you’re taking it away from your connection to the audience.

            You will connect better to your audience if you can give your attention to thinking about them rather than thinking about your next sentence.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            I don’t believe in memorization. It comes off as too canned. The message comes off as “from the head” rather than “from the heart.”

          • Dave Unger

            I chuckled when I read your comment, Michael, because it immediately called to mind your own advice. My paraphrase is “don’t let labels define or restrict you.”

            You’ve shared that the content for the Platform University promotional videos was scripted. Clearly, you had to either memorize it or read it. The net result certainly doesn’t seem too canned to me.

            Based on that, i would think you don’t actually object to memorization. Your objection, I would think, is really to reciting something verbatim when in a live speaking environment. And I can completely understand that.

            I really like what Jared Latigo shared in his comment that speakers progress in stages from being focused on themselves to focused on their content to (ideally) focused on the audience. My own belief is that rehearsing enough to where you can take your focus off your content and put it on your audience without losing your place or stumbling for words is the point where you have probably rehearsed enough. Until then, I think there’s a lot to be gained from additional preparation.

            The goal should be to engage the audience in one’s speech, not to recite something in their general direction. In my experience, rehearsal helps.

            Again, I may be wrong, but I think your real objection is probably more about reciting a rote speech than rehearsing or memorizing the content.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

            Yes, you are spot-on. I don’t mind short segments, like on a video where you have to get it right. My problem is in front of a live audience when it’s a longer content segment like a speech. Thanks.

          • http://www.winningagent.com/ Richard M. Hartian

            I still believe knowing your topic, believing in your topic and know why your audience needs to know what you know is the best formula – if you have that you don’t have to memorize anything. :-)

  • Peter G

    I’m terrified of public speaking, too, although I’ve never tried it. I did, however, work as an actor for several years, and I never had a problem with being in the limelight. It’s the prospect of having to come up with my lines on the spot—as I imagine one would have to do while speaking (as opposed to acting) in public—that freaks me out.

  • http://www.CharlesSpecht.com/ Charles Specht

    As a pastor, I know how difficult public speaking can be. But I also know that sometimes I am confident & bold while at others times I am overly nervous. One of the things that has helped me most is to repeat one particular Bible verse in my head each and every time, just before I get on the stage to speak, whether it be to preach or speak at a secular event.

    2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control.”

    We can speak [publicly] with power, do it with love, and be in full control over the nerves and adrenaline coursing through our bodies.

    • http://www.kixblogger.com/ Kix Blogger

      It is strange how sometimes no matter how well you know your sermon and no matter how many times you have delivered it, you can still get very nervous.

      I read that Charles Spurgeon (one of the greatest preachers and orators of all time – for those who didn’t know) was a nervous wreck before he delivered his sermons. I believe I read one of the reasons is that he understood the great weight and responsibility that was laid upon him to deliver the message.

  • http://www.winningagent.com/ Richard M. Hartian

    Really needed to read today’s post. I’ve been out of the speaking circuit for two years and am just getting back into it (next month) – I speak to the financial community about mortgage and real estate topics. My biggest take away, which is good for most things in life, is I’m not speaking for myself, I’m there for the those in the audience (my paraphrase of course)…

    Much thanks – Rich

  • Margaret

    Thanks so much Michael. Just finished my message for Sunday and saw your article. It made me go back to see if I did all those 3 things. Thanks it was right on time. I do still get nervous! I usually pray before and trust that God will cover the blunders I make :)

  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    WOW, I’ll have to shift my thinking toward the audience instead of my own inward fears next time I give a speech or presentation.

  • http://quantiple.com/ Steve Tonkin

    I appreciate your perspective because you are highlighting the human side of public speaking that needs to underlie the skill of public speaking.

  • http://www.seannisil.com/ Sean Nisil

    As a child, this was one of my greatest fears. In high school I took drama classes and I still remember the racing heart and anxiety that came before I stepped on stage. Fast forward many years, and I have come to truly enjoy public speaking and it has become one of my greatest strengths in the workforce. I now have no fear when I’m speaking in public, but it took getting up in front of people a bunch of times to get there.

    As with most worries, I discovered that 99% of the things I had anxiety over were all in my head (i.e. fear of rejection, being laughed at, ridiculed, etc.).

    We really are able to bring transformational gifts to the audience and ourselves through this medium of communication. Thanks Michael!

  • Gilda Bonanno

    Michael,

    Thank you for sharing your great ideas on overcoming the fear of public speaking. I love your image of sharing gifts with the audience.

    One of my favorite techniques to overcome any nervousness when speaking to a group is to use a positive mantra. Rather than thinking negative thoughts before I begin to speak, like “don’t screw up” or “what if I forget what I want to say?” I repeat my positive mantra as a means of boosting my confidence and focusing on the audience (because my speech should be about them, not me).

    I teach this technique to people who are anxious about speaking in public and encourage them to find a mantra that is personally meaningful and believable. It could be a song title (Aretha Franklin’s “RESPECT” comes to mind), a
    line from a poem or anything that makes them feel powerful and confident. And it has to be strong enough to drown out the negative, “Joy-Sucker” voice in their heads that undermines their confidence and makes them less able to
    convey their knowledge and experience to the audience. My personal favorite is “You go, girl!” (accompanied by a mental fist in the air).

    Regards,
    Gilda Bonanno
    http://www.gildabonanno.com

  • http://www.kixblogger.com/ Kix Blogger

    I have done a lot of public speaking in my life and I have learned to overcome my fears, but still, at the end of the message, I feel like I have just finished a physical activity.

    As odd as it sounds, I prefer large groups, because it is easier to pick out those who are interested and engaged in what you have to say. Plus, if you are a begginer, you can scan the back wall with your eyes and not look at anyone, while at the same time appearing like you are looking at the crowd.

    People are people and you will have all kinds in your audience. I like to pay attention to those who are paying attention to me. It is so much easier speeking to someone who is nodding and smiling at you than those who have a frown or “don’t care attitude.”

  • http://www.kenzimmermanjr.com/ Ken Zimmerman Jr.

    I enjoy speaking in public now because I have done so much of it. I have found that focusing on delivering a clear, helpful message and not focusing on how funny it was, how many heads were shaking, etc. made those things happen naturally.
    One thing that I like originally liked but don’t like at all now is the podium. It feels like a physical barrier between the audience and me. If I have to use one, I tend to stand to the side of them now. It was probably a crutch of safety in the beginning. Thanks for another good post, Michael.

  • http://www.smartselfdevelopmentplan.com/ Jantje

    I get very nervous when I speak, but similar to you, I have to find a new focus, away from my weird thoughts. Just five minutes before I have to speak, I get so concentrated, it is unbelievable. I get so much out of speaking, training etc, I happily accept the crazy minutes upfront. It makes me a human being, I guess :-)

  • Gabrielle Hall

    Great advice Michael. What works for me is taking a few breaths, affirming that I feel relaxed and calm’ then if I have time before speaking I try to smile and get eye contact with several members in the audience before I begin. When I started I wanted to speak too quickly but now when I consciously slow myself down the words do seem to flow and the confidence increases. I shall remember your tips for next time.

    • Jim Martin

      Gabrielle, I really like what you practice before you speak. I suspect these habits are very helpful.

  • http://marcsviewonstuff.wordpress.com/ Marc Pekny

    Up through undergrad, I used to really fear public speaking. I was always very nervous and talked way to fast.

    But when I got to grad school and in my professional life, I changed my approach and just chose to try and enjoy it, flirt a little with the audience and just try and have a good time. It made all the difference in the world!

    I don’t get the opportunity to present often but if that were to change, I know that this forum have plenty of good resources to get some more ‘schooling.’ :)

    Have a great weekend and feast of the Sacred Heart!

  • Joy

    Thank you for this very timely post…I can’t help but believe you’re a part of strong and desperate prayers being answered. Tomorrow I am to present to a large number of people for the first time in twenty years, and I’ve been overwhelmed with fear and panic. Your post helped fine-tune my goal and shift my focus, and I feel very much less anxious. How perfect! Thank you for being willing to speak truth and to be transparent.

    • Jim Martin

      Joy, I wish you the best tomorrow as you speak to this group. So glad that Michael’s post was helpful. Please let us know how it went.

  • Josh Glaser

    Thank you for this, Michael! So helpful.

    I had a revelation several years ago before a speaking engagement for which I was under-prepared. I would have been nervous anyway, but because I hadn’t prepared well, I was all the more anxious. As I stood to the side waiting for the moment when I would stand up to speak, I sensed God whisper simply, “Love them.” It was like a lightbulb that shifted my view of the audience I was addressing.

    It also revealed that I had a hidden metric I was using to measure success: How much the audience liked me. In contrast, when my focus is on loving well the men and women to whom I’m speaking, the metrics change completely and have little to do with me.

    I still don’t do this perfectly, but I do recognize now when I’m overly anxious that I’m looking too much at me and not enough on them. A question that expresses this is, “Am I seeing those to whom I’m speaking or am I using them as a mirror to try to look at myself?”

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom and experience so generously!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      That’s a great revelation to have Josh. @disqus_oIQ1Rj9ECi:disqus also mentioned something similar in his comment. Focus on the people and you will do well.

  • Bonnie Clark

    I love how Nancy Duarte describes it in Resonate:

    Nancy says that as the presenter, she isn’t the hero, she is the mentor. She’s Yoda and the audience is Luke Skywalker. The audience is the hero. She’s simply one voice helping them get unstuck in their journey. Her insights will help the audience make a decision to change. If she presents well, they’ll cross the threshold voluntarily and jump in. She also views the audience as a long line of individuals waiting to have a face-to-face conversation with her (rather than a room of 1000!)

    For the call to action, she says the audience can consist of four distinct types of people capable of taking action: doers, suppliers, influencers, and innovators. Think about how you frame your call to action to elicit a response from these groups.

    Finally, I love a quote she included:
    Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it “to whom it may concern” – Ken Haemer

    • Jim Martin

      Bonnie, so glad for your reference to Nancy Duarte. I’ve learned so much from her books. Love that quote by Ken Haemer.

  • allison

    I get nervous, heart pounding, rapid breathing, all of that. I focus on the audience’s needs, but how can I get over the fear of forgetting something that is crucial for the audience to know? That’s what makes me more nervous than anything else and is what makes my heart start pounding out of my chest before I speak.

  • Oliver Karstedt

    Thanks Michael, this is great and powerful advice! Can’t wait to try this out on my next conference.

    Did anyone ever try out the old trick of picturing your audience naked to lose your fear? I’ve knownThanks Michael, this is great and powerful advice! Can’t wait to try this out on my next conference.

    Did anyone ever try out the old trick of picturing your audience naked to lose your fear? I’ve known this for ages but never got to try it out, I’m always too focused on not tripping when I go on stage and when I start speaking it’s already too late to do anything else than order your thoughts and try not to blabber. this for ages but never got to try it out, I’m always too focused on not tripping when I go on stage and when I start speaking it’s already too late to do anything else than order your thoughts and try not to blabber.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      I haven’t done that before Oliver. Some swear by it but I just can’t do it.

  • http://morethanadventure.com/ Kurt Swann

    Part of the fear is because the speaker has an almost adversarial view of the audience as if they are just waiting to render a harsh judgement. It’s helpful to remember it’s actually more likely the audience is on your side. They want you to do well when you speak. They are more like friends than critics. I’ve never been in the audience and sat there thinking, “I hope this is a terrible speech!” And they will cut you some slack since they probably have their owns speaking fears. The audience is not full of jaded theater critics just waiting to write a scathing review :)

  • http://www.davebratcher.com/ Dave Bratcher

    One of the best things I did to get comfortable speaking was to join a local Toastmasters club. It is very inexpensive and the value you get from it is great. Practice does make perfect, but you want to make sure you are practicing the proper way. As always Michael, thank you for sharing your insight on a very scary experience for so many of us.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Toastmasters is a great organization. I’ve got a couple of friends in the group and they love it. What’s been your greatest takeaway from Toastmasters?

      • http://www.davebratcher.com/ Dave Bratcher

        The greatest takeaway for me was someone giving me immediate feedback. Often when we speak, we do not get any feedback and if we do, it isn’t constructive. You also have no idea how many filler words you are using until someone starts counting.

  • Cindy Cole Nelson

    Someone once told me to think of whatever discomfort, fear, anxiety you are feeling as an offering up to God. It’s something you are willing to endure in order to live out His purposes for you and ultimately help your audience. – Just another way to get the focus off of yourself like you said because that is so key! Thanks for the reminder!

  • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

    How can I give? How can I serve? How can I help my audience live it forward?

    Empowering others to show up and shine is what speaking is all about and it’s what allows a speaker to succeed long-term.

    Outstanding post, Michael!

  • http://propreacher.com/ Brandon

    Great insights Michael, thanks! As a pastor, preaching every week is a huge challenge. I completely agree that often when I get overwhelmed and my stress and anxiety rises the most is when I am too focused on myself and not the message and my audience.

  • Gary Wright

    Amen! I struggled with this for years. Over the last year the Lord had really given me a burden for people to hear a specific message (of some things The Lord had done in my life) as doors have opened for me to share this message I’ve been relaxed, seen incredible response, and enjoyed it so much more. I realized it was because I was truly focused on the people, trying to impact them – rather than trying to give a great talk. Major eye opener for me!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Gary, thanks for sharing on Michael’s blog. Your answer has given me an idea on how to control my fear of public speaking. If I can focus on the people rather than the great talk, this could help me.

  • http://juliesunne.com/ Julie Sunne

    Good stuff, Michael. You’ve nailed the cause for my anxiety. Time to remove the focus from me and put it on those who I’m desiring to serve.

  • Beth Marshall

    Michael, thank you for your insight. I just left a Marketing Boot Camp and we covered this exact topic two hours ago! I will definitely think more about audience focus next time I speak!

  • Susan Sage

    I’m not so afraid of public speaking except that I get so passionate about whatever I’m saying that I turn beet red and people think I’m going to pass out. Maybe it’s nerves working their way out but I don’t necessarily feel nervous until right at the end when I begin to wonder if I said everything God wanted me to say. Prayer works greatly!

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    Boy do I ever get nervous before I speak Michael. For me, it’s not so much sweating or cold hands that get me. It’s the fact that I can’t control my umms and ahhs and ya knows when I’m nervous speaking.

  • http://www.peterdehaan.com/ Peter DeHaan

    Michael, when you said “Everything shifted when I started focusing on my audience,” that’s want I needed to hear. Brilliant!

  • Lois Ridley

    I agree with you Micheal! I recently had to speak to parents on internet safety. As the date came closer I felt more and more overwhelmed. I was surprised because I usually do not bother to get so nervous. Eventually it was too much for me to handle until I reconnected with my why as you stated. I wanted the parents to know tips but mostly they have hope and Help available =) Then, I asked my friends and family for support and prayer…. I will never forget the concerned look on the faces of the parents during the talk. That was when I reconnected with the WHY of sharing and speaking.
    I will need to rethink when you mentioned the specific call to action. Do you give them a step by step action plan when you are done? Or a where to start plan with a timeline?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      It depends on the talk. Is it a persuasive talk (where I am trying to convince them of something) or an enabling talk (where I am attempting to explain how to do something). Even in a persuasive talk, I try to end with an enabling conclusion and call them to take at least one action.
      (By the way, we teach the difference between these two kinds of talks at the SCORRE Conference. We also teach you how to prepare and deliver them.)

  • Simcha Simpy Green Gluck

    Great post Michael! I find public speaking just comes out better when it’s a topic that I’m passionate about. As an entrepreneurial trainer, the more I speak, talk, run workshops, etc on anything within that category…the words seem to glide ride out. Because it’s coming from a place of sharing and excitement, there is a natural flow.

    Another way to rid fear of public speaking it to view yourself as an educator instead of “someone giving a speech”! As an educator, I give over something to you but as a speaker it feels like I look for something from you to me. It’s subtle but has made all the difference in coming from a clear place and being self generated in the giving over of your message. Hope this helps!

  • http://www.alexbarker.org/ Alex Barker

    I love this perspective Michael. I frequently ask myself when speaking, “What is my goal?” My root goal is usually “To promote the best outcome”, whether its speaking to patients, students, or health care professionals.

    The best advice I have to for those who are scared is practice. I was once terrified of public speaking and now it’s an environment where I come alive. I arrived to this point because I practiced and took opportunities to speak.

  • http://herchristianbusiness.com/ Rhonda White

    I had speech class in college and was horrified as such a shy person that I had to take the class. I was shocked that I ended up liking it so well. For me, the key was good preparation and knowing that I took time to come up with some creative things to share. It gave me that extra nudge of confidence. I think I actually find it more challenging in smaller groups where the pressure of frequent conversation exchange is at stake.

    • Jim Martin

      Rhonda, great point about the value of preparation and having confidence in the work you have done to be prepared. You are right. It really does make a difference. Thanks!

  • http://potential2success.com/ ralphjp

    I always say that a speech (depending on where you are speaking) is a conversation. You give and you take, you talk and you “listen”. Focusing on what you are saying to the audience and how they are receiving it instead of how you feel up there really makes a difference.

    • Jim Martin

      ralphjp, good point. Not only does this approach make a difference in how the speaker feels but I have found it to be so much more effective.

  • Stephen Braswell

    Thanks for the advice… I have noticed that I tend to be more performance minded when I am before a crowd… I want to put my best foot forward, but I worry that I am too consumed with what people might think about me… Do you have any comments or advice about this?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Congratulations. You are normal. ;-)

      This is where I think we have to intentionally shift our focus. One way to do this is to ask questions? “How is the audience feeling? What do they expect? How do I want them to feel when they leave today? What take-away’s do I want them to have?”

      • http://www.winningagent.com/ Richard M. Hartian

        I think this is a key
        “What take-away’s do I want them to have?”” This is how I make my outline…I can’t believe how long it took me to figure this out…

    • http://sparkvoice.wordpress.com/ DS

      I used to worry about how people would feel about my delivery. Instead of focusing on being me, I tended to try and guess what they might prefer.

      Instead I have now chosen to embrace my personality & strengths in my delivery. If you’ve answered the questions below, trust your gut, and be you when you deliver.

  • lutramon

    While I feel totally at ease at speaking to a small group or an individual, I have a tremendous fear of speaking to a large group of people. Michael hit the nail on the head in this article. If I examine the root of my fear, I find that it is pride – “what will people think of me?” becomes my all consuming thought. When I choose to focus on the “what” of my speech and not on “how” it might or might not come across it liberates me from my fears. Great word.

  • Carmen Peone

    Fear keeps me from speaking. But I love how you put to focus on the audience and not me. Just what I needed to hear. Thank you!

  • Gabe Nies

    it makes it a lot easier when you shift your focus to giving the audience something they don’t know, or need instead of focusing on yourself. great blog thanks!

  • http://soulofatlas.com/ Mark David Henderson

    This is the most helpful post I have read in a long time. What a tremendous gift to reorient my entire perspective! Thank you for sharing this. It will reframe my preparation for a speech this Wednesday and two radio interviews next week. Many, many thanks.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, Mark. I am glad you found it helpful.

  • http://www.thadthoughts.com/ Thad Puckett

    There are some venues that I am comfortable in, like, say, a church setting. I started speaking publically when I was a freshman in college (it is amazing how charitable a retirement home of retired missionaries can be to a 19 year old). My first sermons were horrible. But as with anything, the more I spoke, the better I got, or, at least the more comfortable I got.

    About a year ago I was invited to speak at a breakout session at DreamForce (the Salesforce.com annual event). Obviously that was a very different venue than that retirement home, and I was nervous.. I felt much as I did when I was 19…because the venue was different, and the topic, though familiar, was not something as powerful as the Word of God. And the crowd? Well, they stayed awake. But they weren’t nearly as encouraging as those retired missionaries.

  • Ramakrishna Reddy

    Very well written article and I think it touches the soul of fear. Another simple question to ask is – “Why are we there in the room speaking to them?” A deep answer to this question would work wonders. At least for me. I am a big fan of toastmasters contests. Even though I am comfortable at platform – I keep asking this question and come up with the best possible answer. This helps mitigate all other factors – including fear

  • Stephanie Shott

    LOVE this post, Michael! I really love the take aways that come from focusing on our “GOALS” as a speaker rather than just dealing with the fear of public speaking. Mapping out our messages with the goals in mind gives us the confidence to step behind the mic with a plan and a purpose. LOVE IT!

  • Ankit Gindoria

    Hi Michael,
    What do you think of toastmaster for public speaking, to remove fear and for practice? Do you have any better options? Thanks a lot and keep good work…

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I think Toastmasters is great. They are highly regarded. If you want to get up to speed faster—like 4 days—my company offers the SCORRE Conference. I think it is the best speaker training available today.

      • Ankit Gindoria

        Thanks a lot for information.

  • Standswithafist

    In junior high I never got the opportunity of public speaking. In school we didn’t have any trainers so the school picked up the best ones and they always went for public speaking competitions. I did apply for it but since I wasn’t one of the best, and wasn’t liable enough to get a trophy for the school I didn’t get selected and flt left out, worthless and under confident. I hated the feeling of sitting in the dark, the back seat, even though I had ideas, ideas I wanted to share. In college I finally got the opportunity to take part in public speaking classes. It’s he’ll scary but I force myself to get out of my comfort zone. Because I want to start over. I want to prove it that I could do something. Sometimes when the topic is on th spot I’m not prepared and just blab a point or two. And I feel really scared and I just want to get over with it. Its as if I force myself to just fulfill my responsibility and I just sit after speaking feeling satisfied that I spoke. I hate it. I spoke once when a topic was given before hand and I went a bit prepared and when I spoke I felt good. Really scared but good. But I cannot face my audience. I get scared that they are better speakers and I’m making a fool out of myself. I get scared that I’m not good enough. I try to work hard and gain confidence but it’s not easy. I get really negative and I try to be better. I try to hide the fear and sometimes I do a good job at it but I hate acting confident. I hate acting trying to be fearless and just a good speaker. Because honestly, that’s not what I want. What I want is to influence the audience. I want them, like you said ‘gift them’. I just need help with it. Sorry for the long post but I will be thankful and will appreciate your help. As a beginner, I need some tips.

  • judy

    My heart races beat louder im extremely nervous scared to death and when I deliver the speech I’m so frozen in fear that even my written down notes come out mumbled and miss read word and it’s true I do focus on myself and what the audience are thinking of me I’ll use your advice if ever I dare again

  • Judy

    I have no problem speaking one on one. As a matter of fact I’m so comfortable with one on one most people are surprised when I fall apart in front of a group. My voice shakes, my stomach tightens and I’m a bundle of nerves. I have not been able to overcome these fears and I am looking for help with this problem. Are speaking classes recommended or some sort of therapy?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      First of all, this is pretty normal. You are not alone.

      I would consider joining a local Toastmasters group or coming to our SCORRE Conference. We’ve helped thousands of people just like you move from fear to confidence.

  • Sara

    I enjoy meeting new people, getting to know them and what they believe. I can laugh and make jokes and be personable. But as soon as I step up to talk to the same people I just met, but in front of them not in a conversation, I become nervous. I get very serious, sweaty, and formal. I talk quickly and look around nervously. I get upset with myself the more I realize that I’m doing a terrible job. I want to be good at it, but maybe it’s just not my thing?

  • Grant

    I just don’t know what to do anymore. I had a bad experience in high school and ever since then Ive been terrified. When I start speaking or reading my heart is racing so fast I can barley even say anything. I go into a state of shock and break down. What should I do? It is affecting me greatly in College.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      First, realize fear is normal when it comes to public speaking. Second, put it into perspective. You won’t die. It only feels that way. ;-) Third, focus on the audience, as I suggested above.

      • Priya

        Thanks so much for the great techniques. I will try them. However, how do I focus on the audience when I’m already consumed with a million thoughts while I’m at the podium? I get so nervous that I lose focus.

  • Michele DeFilippo

    This advice really works. I was a TERRIFIED public speaker before I heard a small part of this advice elsewhere. This post is much more complete and will be even more useful.

  • Craig Lunsford

    Yes, I am fearful before I speak. But I go to Luke 12:12 for holy courage.

  • http://www.powerpoint-presentation-power.com/ PowerPointPresent

    Learn how to use your breathe, that helps ! More discussion at http://www.powerpoint-presentation-power.com/