Sunday, June 17, 2018

How to conquer the fear of public speaking

This is me.
Four months ago.
Sharing my story about acceptance in front of  a crowd of at least 30-40 people.
My volunteers work had decided to start up a new project called YX Arnhem.
It would allow teenagers and young adults to share their story with the theme 'acceptance'
When they required a last speaker, I stood up and said: 'I'll do it' - just before my brain could interfere with the whole thing.
I knew that if I would have said: 'I'll think about it' I would never have done it. My mind would have thought of at least a 100 things that could go wrong, worst case scenario: fainting on the spot.
Like I had before when I had to do class presentations in school.

Did you know that the public speaking is on the list of worst fears to face?
It is in a stunning number 7 place in the top 10.
I always wanted to brave that fear especially since past experiences have been rather traumatic for me. My nerves would have the best and I would be at a loss for words.
I started writing out my story about acceptance, which was really personal for me.
It took me back to my childhood and one of my most painful memories of being bullied.
It was eventually a story about learning how to accept myself after everything I'd been through. I knew that it was important to share as well. That through sharing people may recognize things and being able to relate.
I finished writing my story and got to the next stage. Practice. 

I would stand in my living room and just do my story over and over and over again, until I'm pretty sure my neighbour must have thought that I have imaginary friends.
When the moment came that I was announced onto stage, something magical had happened. Not a single sweat or even nerve came up. I did my story, and I did it quite powerfully.
Afterward I received beautiful feedback. A girl came up to me, told me I'd made her cry. That she had similar experiences and that it gave her hope to see I had overcome the low self esteem I had back then.
So, in that magical moment of presenting my story I wonder what the heck had happened that had me so comfortable just doing it.
My reflection on it has resulted in the following realizations, so I get to give you some tips!

It really helped that I had written down the bigger lines of my story before I started practicing it. It took me a while. I did a lot of. Yes to this, and no to that.
I determined the order of my story so it would have a logical beginning, middle and end.
In preparing it, I also watched a lot of motivational speakers and took notes about what they did that I liked and how they shared their story.


I knew my story so well, because I practiced a LOT in my living room. 
It was too uncomfy for me to stand in  front of a mirror, but I hear that this actually really helps to improve the whole way you speak as well. Your use of voice, hands, posture and so on.

I explained the bigger lines of my story to some people around me, and did another round of editing and adjusting the order of it. I left out what people said may be so emotional that I could actually burst to tears on stage (oh the horror!), and repeated the step practice once again.

Use positive self-talk 

Tell yourself: I got this, I can do this, I'm gonna rock this.
All that beautiful stuff. Whether you believe it or not. If you do it enough, your mind somehow is tricked into believing it. Fear needs a reprogramming to positivity!
It also helps to realize the fact I mentioned before. Almost everyone is afraid and nervous doing public speaking. A few weeks ago I met a comedian who told me he was terrified to go on stage. Yet his nerves weren't even noticeable. Yet there you are doing it, while the crowd is watching. Congratulate yourself for that.

Not nervous, excited! 
They say being a little nervous is healthy. Recent studies show that almost the same things happen in your body when you talk being nervous and being excited. Your heartrate goes up, adrenaline is activated so your body can get into action. Both feelings are arousal related.
And here's good news: you can actually trick your brain by saying that you are excited instead of nervous. Such a powerful tool!

Engage & connect
I started of my story with an exercise that involved the crowd. My purpose for it was to activate the little voices in their own brain that make them feel nervous as to understand how I was feeling. 

What I did: I put envelopes under their chair. It had a card on it with a colored star.
I told my crowd: "Who has the red star? Because you just won a prize. You get to come up here with me and share your story about acceptance." I saw the nerves of the people in my audience. I paused and continued: "Don't worry, haha. There is no red star. So, what do you reckon I wanted to achieve with this exercise? A mindfuck perhaps? Exactly. Now you know how I feel and we established more connection" It kept my audience alert and I had them listening to me from beginning to end. 

Another great way is to give them food for thought. Ask a question that will make them think.

I hope you enjoyed my tips and tricks.
And here's your food for thought:
When was the last time that you braved public speaking?
Would you take the opportunity when being offered?


  1. I can totally relate! I hate speaking in front of groups of people, whether that be a few or hundreds! I always feel much better giving presentations though if I thoroughly understand the topic and I've practiced it to death! Great post x

  2. I don’t mind public speaking myself as my parents instilled tips like yours when I was younger. Though I still found this post very useful as we are getting married soon and some of the bridal party are nervous about making a speech but I will definitely share your article with them. Great read!

  3. This is such great advice! I hate public speaking, it doesn't matter how well I know my stuff or how prepared I fee, I always get so nervous and jittery when it's my turn to speak. Great post x