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.

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?