One day, at a women’s conference, a HUGE women’s conference, I had a “hit” that one day I would be speaking to a crowd of women. The thought was terrifying to me. In high school, standing in front of the room to give a talk was as pleasant as the thought of having my toenails pulled out one by one.
In college, I was required to take a speech class, and I received lousy scores because I didn’t breathe, didn’t look at the audience, and the redness of my face stopped nearby traffic. I usually had a sensation of blacking out and was surprised to find myself back in my seat rather than laying on the floor passed out.
Stop Being Scared to Speak? How?
At the time of the conference, I was 23 years old and had just had my second child. I had little ambition to do much more than be a mom. Of course, I knew I was a writer and hoped that turned into something one day, but my mind was focused on being a better person and a better mom, not any career aspirations.
Nonetheless, less than 8 years later, I attended a speaking class and joined a Toastmasters group so I could get more comfortable speaking. It worked. The repetition of having to stand up and talk, along with seeing other people struggle with doing the same, gave me permission to move through my fear and relax more. In Toastmasters, no one ever died from speaking (maybe I should confirm this…) – we may have fumbled and said too many “um’s”, but we all supported each other’s speaking skill building progress.
Bottom line, practice makes perfect. Here are 3 tips I learned to help myself stop being scared to speak and step into something bigger as an entrepreneur:
Stop being scared to speak tip 1: Practice
Toastmasters may not be right for everyone, but I suggest visiting one to determine if it might be a fit for you. If not, there are other speaking classes and groups. Consider leading another group you might belong to, where you would need to speak. I was able to serve as the President of a BNI Chapter and that required me to stand and speak at the weekly meeting. The repetition of doing it took away the ‘charge’ of being looked at and because I had a script to follow, I didn’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing.
Stop being scared to speak tip 2: Believe
A huge catalyst for me was a speaking workshop, where all of us were scared but had a “calling” to speak. We had a belief in something greater. It wasn’t about us and our need to speak, but rather this pull to share our stories and/or our knowledge. Rather than fear, I reframed the feeling of fear to that of ‘excitement’, which has made a huge difference. Today, when I get butterflies and feel I may get sick, I simply tell myself, “Oh my goodness, I’m really excited right now! I can’t believe I am doing this and I will help all of these people with this information!”
It has shifted my energy and emotions, and has been one of the biggest game changers for me in regards to speaking.
Stop being scared to speak tip 3: Try different formats
For some people, speaking live will never be something they can do. If you want to speak in order to share the wealth of information you have in you, consider other spoken formats such as video (they can be re-recorded as many times as it takes), podcasts (where you speak but are not seen) or even webinars. These formats may create some comfort for you to share your expertise, without the looming fear of a live crowd.
As you try different formats and scenarios, you will also gain confidence (which comes with practice), as well as determine what you want and need from your audience and surroundings to feel self-assured and comfortable, and help you stop being scared to speak.
While I still turn some shades of red when I speak live (yes, I still sometimes forget to breathe as well), I have found videos to be much more comfortable. If you are an author, or want to be one, speaking skills are important for readings, book club visits, interviews and more. Plus, using your book to generate income will be more successful if you have speaking engagements. Really, they go hand in hand. If I can help you gain confidence in writing or introduce you to folks who can help you with speaking, please contact me for a free discovery session.