I find myself speaking publicly way more often than I ever imagined I would. In fact, just yesterday I participated on a panel at a conference here in NYC. Even though I do these types of things frequently, I still get nervous. (Maybe one day I’ll share my Conde Nast elevator story…. Not pretty.) It’s funny because I’ve heard Maxie speak countless times and she always seems extremely confident and nails every speech… I had no idea she gets nervous, too.
Conquer Your Public Speaking Fears
Guest post by Maxie McCoy
Everyone knows the age old factoid that more people are scared of speaking in public than they are of death. And not to get all dark (because it’s Monday and who wants that), but just like death, speaking in front of people is something that is pretty hard to avoid. From class projects, to brand building, to family events, getting comfortable in front of groups of people, large and small, is a skill that will be tremendously useful. And I promise you it doesn’t have to be that bad.
Last night I was talking to a fellow bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding about the reflection I’m giving at the ceremony. I’m the only one speaking at the wedding other than the officiant and I was telling her how stinking nervous I was, to which she reacted with surprise – “you get nervous about that stuff?”
Yes. Yes and Yes. BUT those of us that are up in front of groups all the time know some things that most people assume to be otherwise. I’m going to let you in on a few secrets learned over the years of speaking with groups as big as 500 and as small as 5. Remember these the next time you get the opportunity to speak. And take it.
Nerves are the process
I responded with “of course I’m nervous” to that bridesmaid because it was true. It’s expected. And it’s part of the process of preparing to speak. So many performers (hello Queen Bey) openly talk about their nerves before they go on stage. It’s important to remember that your nerves don’t mean you can’t do this. They’re simply a step in the process of getting ready to deliver something awesome.
Take any chance you get
If you’re even remotely interested in speaking in front of people, then take your opportunities. When the floor gets opened for toasts, say one. Even if it’s off the cuff. If a professor asks for an opinion in class, share yours. These moments prepare you for the bigger ones – the presentations, speeches, and workshops you’ll seek opportunities for one day.
Do you want your notes up there with you? Print them out and have them. Need bullet points? Bring that draft on your phone. Whatever will make you feel ready and supported. Do that. I learned this lesson from an awesome mentor who was helping me prepare to deliver a workshop to the largest group I’d ever been in front of and it was being live-streamed. I asked her if I should do something differently than I normally do given the elements. Her answer was a ringing no and to do me – whatever will give me the most confidence and comfort. I took her advice and had such a successful experience.
It’s been done before
Most performance athletes will tell you that the game they’ve just won has been won many times over in their head. What that means is that they’ve envisioned each and every play and point many times before. They’ve seen themselves in the exact situation, doing an amazing job, in their minds. And it works. There’s not a single speaking engagement I go into without having done a visualization of the exact situation with the outcomes I’m hoping for – down to the details, hand motions, smile on my face, and reaction of the crowd. It’s a technique not many people talk about but that leads to getting over those nerves and totally rocking it.
You’ll get over your public speaking fears when you realize that we all have them and choose to step into that discomfort anyways. One day, both personally and professionally, you’ll be so happy that that fear isn’t one that keeps you from going after opportunities.