How i got over my fear of public speaking

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Public speaking used to scare me as hell

I still remember how i was an extremely shy teen years ago. I didn't just have serious problems asking questions to teachers inside the classroom but i also had problems speaking whenever there was a group of people around me.

Even if the environment was friendly and even if i knew most of the people around i just had a serious problem speaking my mind or expressing myself.

One day i got fed up of the fact that i am not as confident as i wanted to be and so i decided to change. And looks like i did that job really well to the extent that i started enjoying public speaking years later.

Nowadays i don't feel energetic if few people attended my presentations and i only enjoy it to the max when all the chairs in front of me are full.

That's me talking speaking at a TEDx Event

How i got over my fear of public speaking

How would you expect to be able to ride a bicycle in front of a crowd if you are not able to ride it when you are alone?

Most of public speaking issues happen because you lack the needed skills to deliver an interesting presentation. You first need to develop those skills on your own before practicing them in front of people.

The first thing i did was practicing the presentation skills i had in front of my close friends and i found that there are many wrong things that i used to do. Whenever i found a mistake with my presentation i learned how to fix it then i delivered the same presentation again to that close friend. Sometimes it took me days of learning and weeks of research to learn how to fix a certain mistake.

I still remember how i repeated the same presentation more than 10 times to some of my close friends before i first said it in public. I discovered that there are so many skills that people ignore such as the ability to draw people's attention, to ask interesting questions, to pause in the right time and to keep them hooked. (see also 10 ways to boost your communication skills)

Most people just attempt their first public speech without bothering to learn any of those skills and that's why they fear public speaking.

Imagine you were told that you will have a fight with the world's boxing champion in two days while you know nothing about boxing. How will the experience be like? You will be terrified as hell simply because you never trained! Now why do you expect to perform greatly in a public presentation when you have never trained?

The fatal mistake so many people make is that they assume that public speaking skills are things that we are born with and that's why they never bother to learn or develop those skills.

Progressive improvement

The first presentation i gave wasn't that good, i was too scared and i didn't feel i did well. The next one was much better and the third was even better. With each presentation i carefully listened to the feedback and fixed that mistakes in the next attempt.

After sometime i started getting very positive feedback because i became more capable of delivering good presentations and as a result my self confidence increased. In the Solid Self confidence program i said that so many people do the mistake of trying to bring confidence before the good performance and this never works.

You need to perform well many times while you are afraid before your mind starts to have faith in you and give you the confidence you always wanted to.

The process of getting over the fear of public speaking doesn't differ from any other learning process. You just have to mess up and make mistakes, get feedback, improve your skills then give it another try. By repeating this cycle until you master the needed skills public speaking will turn into an easy task instead of a dreadful one.

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