Public speaking is the number-one greatest fear for most people. As I shared in How Not To Bomb At Speaking, the reason is simple: We’re all concerned about the verbal lashing we’re getting in the minds of our audience. As we imagine what cruel and painful things they are thinking, we get all nervous and worked up about it. The funny thing is, if you think about how you listen to most speakers, YOU don’t spend your time just ripping them apart.
Well, maybe you do. If so, you’re a bully. Sorry. Anyway, most people are more concerned about the content of what is being shared then how it’s being shared. Unless you’re just really bad at speaking, most folks just want to hear what you have to say. Therefore, you have to make a decision that your attention should always be on your content. If you get that right, you can dial in the presentation part of it. It will come more naturally because your focus is now on what they hear, instead of how you say it. Eventually, nerves lose out to your desire to change lives.
Once you’ve gotten past all of that, you still need to deliver something that’s worthy of the time and attention of the folks listening to you. I don’t care if you’re speaking to 11 thousand people on stage or your elementary homeroom class. God has allowed you the attention of His children, educate and inspire them. Here are some tips on delivering that information without fear:
- It’s not you, it’s me – The first decision you have to make:, Is this presentation about you or the audience? If it’s about you, go ahead and be afraid. No really, you might as well because you are the only thing you’re going to think about. If it’s about your crowd, then there is a switch in your head that you can flip. It usually takes months to do it, but it can be done. Flip the switch from fear to care. Yes, care. I want you to genuinely care about what your group walks away with. Will the information you’re going to share change their lives, even if by just inspiring them? If not, fix it.
- Peyton’s leaving?! – Ok, as I write this, Peyton’s leaving the Colts. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Instead, as I mentioned in You Better Get Ready!, Peyton said something that has stuck with me for years –Only the unprepared get nervous. People ask me if I get nervous all the time. HECK no…well, I don’t 99% of the time. I love being on a stage. It’s my happy place. The times I do get nervous, when someone says, We need you to stretch for five minutes. Ready, go! Now I’m in trouble. If I know what I’m talking about inside and out, there’s no need at all to be nervous. When I don’t, watch me look like practically any celebrity who’s sung the National Anthem.
- Glue those calluses back on –
Malcolm Gladwellsays that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert on something. Some of the best guitar players in the world played until their calluses fell off. Then they would glue them back on so they could keep playing. While I don’t expect you to spend that much time on your presentation, I can tell you that attempting to speak it without practicing at least once is a colossal failure, like New Coke. You will deliver something that your public doesn’t want, and have to backtrack to fix the problem. I suggest a few run-throughs if at all possible. But definitely no less than one.
- Make this your Crossing the Rubicon – Make a decision that there is no going back. No matter what, you are committed to delivering this speech. When not doing something is an option, fear remains to try and convince you this is a mistake. When you have no doubt that you’re doing something, fear loses its foothold.
- Breathe – This is the one thing I see so many speakers not do. They don’t relax enough to breathe properly. Do yourself a favor, and at some time in your presentation, look around the room and realize that you like being where you are. I know, I know, it seems ridiculous, but I’ve had great experience when I’ve taken someone up on stage in front of a crowd, with no mics on, and asked them to just notice how it’s just a room full of people waiting to be taught. Nothing more, nothing less.
As you walk through each one of these steps, imagine fear being a sheet that is covering all of the amazingness that is you. Pull the sheet off and allow yourself to just be you. That’s who everyone wants to see anyway.
Question: What aspects of speaking are you afraid of? Can you take the mask of and share?
34 thoughts on “5 Tips On Speaking Without Fear”
Once again, Chris, you have given advice that is perfectly timed! I love the idea that “it’s just a room full of people waiting to be taught.” The slides did not work in my presentation Friday, but hopefully the audience still learned from what I had to say – and today’s presentation will likely be better.
I will pull off the sheet, be myself, and share this great information that I am so passionate about. Thanks for the inspiration!
Carol, I am so glad this helps. I believe teachers become incredibly better when they are free of fear. Please let me know how today’s presentation goes!!
Chris – I am happy to report that my presentation went great today – thanks mostly to your advice. I just focused on sharing the information with my audience, and I was much less nervous. Thanks again!
YES!!!!!! That’s so good to hear!!! Way to go you.
I am bookmarking this wonderful blog. I LOVE the reminder that “God has allowed you the attention of His children, educate and inspire them.” Wow, that is powerful!!!!!!
Public speaking is NOT something I dreamed of doing when I was young, however, I have a POWERFUL message of hope to share with people and I believe God has placed it in my heart to share.
I joined toastmasters two months ago with the goal of not puking on anyone. VERY excited and blessed that I am attending Kent Julian’s Speak It Forward Bootcamp in May. I am charging my way in to becoming the awesome motivational storyteller I am meant to be. THANK you for posting this Chris – I will be referencing it a few times over the next few months.
Live Beyond Awesome!
Hi Jen! I’m a fellow Toastmaster, I recently joined too. Woohoo! Good luck on getting those speaking skills sharp. God will lead you and give you the courage to share the message.
Jen, I’ve been a part of Toastmasters in the past & will join again. Unfortunately, my schedule has me unable to join quite yet.
HAHAHA!!! I love the part about no puking on anyone!! That’s awesome. And you have it right when it comes to storytelling, that is the main goal. Speaking at people just doesn’t work. Telling stories does. You’ll notice a huge difference. I would love to hear how it goes.
Chris, I can completely relate to what you say about “the stage is my happy place”. I get totally energized in front of a group (I think my largest crowd has been about 1500, so I’m in still in speaking “Little League”). However, even in faith-centered settings I’ve never thought of it this way “God has allowed you the attention of His children, to educate and inspire them.”… now that IS going to make me a little nervous for sure! I think people enjoy listening to the message as much as seeing the “real you” speaking to them. I love the moments when you just let the Spirit work and hear yourself saying things you had not planned or written and think “Hey, who said that?” Gives me goosebumps every time! Thanks for the wisdom and all the great reminders!
Lily, you are so NOT in little league. That is a fantastic accomplishement! And always think that the people WANT to hear what you have to say, or they wouldn’t be there. Don’t let their attention make you nervous. You are blessing them. I can say that you inspire me all the time through your comments, so I’m positive you’re doing it really well from the stage. 🙂
Great post Chris!
I was lucky to grow up & get enough experience in front of people that now, as an adult, speaking to large groups are not a big deal. Yes, I still get nervous. But if anything it helps keep me focused on preparation.
That said, I still need much more experience & improvement on technique. It’s something I have in my near future as a goal…to improve through regular practice.
David, I love to hear that. So many speakers thing that once they’re doing it, they’re golden. No need to work on them. I believe that your talent is what God gave you. What you do with it is your gift to God.
Always remember that generally you know more about the topic than those who are attending your presentation. They are coming to you to learn something totally new or to expand their knowledge. Seldom is there anyone in attendance that knows more than you on the topic and the more mature ones who do will wait til the end of your discussion to discuss with you privately to where they have differences rather than blurt out something to destroy your credibility. Unless you are known not to engage afterwards to have such discussions or it’s a true material flaw in what you’re presenting.
And many of those who take an issue take the issue more from approach rather than content.
My biggest fear is that the mic or the projector won’t work. Each time I’ve gone down a day in advance to make sure everything is functioning, but stuff has gone wrong anyway. I learned to have a back-up story to tell while waiting for people to fix stuff. (It is HORRIBLE to have to depend on strangers for techie problems!)
Hate it. HATE it! But, it is necessary. That’s a fantastic idea to have a back-up story waiting. I usually do a Broadway song and dance.
Oh wow! I spoke yesterday and one of my team asked – are you nervous? I said “only if the technology fails me…” it was crucial to show a video – and I am NOT a technology guru!
I can totally vouch for the idea of preparation. I’m the type of person who “rehearses” bits of speeches while I’m driving, showering, etc. It’s almost an unconscious thing, because the talks are constantly on my mind. So when I actually speak, it’s more like piecing together fragments as appropriate. That allows me to be flexible in some sense (such as when I’m leading discussion) but yet feel prepared.
Great way to continue to be prepared. The more times you speak it, the better it gets. And, it allows your brain to move on new ideas that may come during your speech.
Loren – I do the same thing!
Chris! One area where I still struggle is at finishing well. I can understand the importance of finishing well but when I run out of my alloted time, I fail to finish with elegance due to mental pressure.
It’s amazing how many comments are about overcoming fear. I’m lumped right in there with everyone else! Like most things, I’ve found the more I do something the better at it I get and speaking is no exception. In my “other” job with the Air Force, I regularly speak to bodies of generals and civilian equivalents and their staff members about Public Affairs matters. It gets easier each time as I become more comfortable with the information, my delivery and them.
These are some great points. I’m always have a hard time the first 5 minutes of a presentation. This is because my fear can cause me to speak fast or lose focus. By I have found telling a personal story about myself and asking the audience general questions helps.
That’s a great way to start Dan! Having a starting point that’s personal definitely helps with the nerves.
Public speaking is the number one fear for most people. You know what number 2 is? Death.
Funny, but true. We as a culture have a greater fear of being up on a stage than of falling off of it!
I am no exception. I have to provide monthly meeting updates for my team, and over the past few years, they have become more of a “semi-annual monthly meeting”.
I get the sweats, I stutter, the chin trembles, you name it. And these are around my team of technologists that I work around each day.
Something about all eyes being on me, even for a 10 minute power point presentation with pizzas provided stresses me out unnecessarily.
I’m working on taking the mask off and sharing, but it has been a slow, tedious process thus far!
P.S. Call on me during the class on Friday, and you’ll see what I mean!
(I’m just kidding. Don’t call on me. Seriously.)
Hahaha!!! I’m so calling you out! 🙂
So, Chris, can we see a Youtube video of your Broadway song and dance?
Public speaking is an art that as you indicate needs constant refinining and practice. When i was young, i could stand in front of hundreds of people and argue critical points, to the point where everybody just assumed i was going to be a lawyer when i grew up. My mum is still convinced i could have won a few cases:)
Then for the longest time, i didn’t present anymore, and it’s only in the last few years, I have started doing more of this, starting with coordinating FPU at my local church, and wanting to do more with leadership. My presentations are getting better, and the scary thing is every time, i now stand up to talk, i’m having a lot of fun, and absolutely loving it. The best ones are the ones i have rehearsed on my commute like Loren.
I don’t think people realize just how fun it can be! You didn’t say you’re just getting better, you said you’re having fun. That’s what it has to be…or why do it?
Never thought about it that way, but yeah having a fun is a great reason to stand up and speak.
My greatest challenge when speaking is the technology issue. Will the power point work? Will the video load? Will the AV guy do his part? I always have “Plan B” with me – in the event EVERYTHING fails (the electricity goes off!) – I can still present. When I have prepared like that – I am not nervous!
Wow Chris, this is a great post. I’m thinking about doing some public speaking and this post just has a wealth of knowledge in it.
Thanks Jim. Type speaking into the search and more will come up.
Wow! I wish I had the opportunity to read this earlier! I just started following your blog. Recently I gave a speech for Marketer of the Year in front of a room full of the top marketers in our state. My biggest concern was that I would fumble over all my content and not interest or engage my audience, so I rehearsed in front of my very patient husband until 2:30 am the night before. I will find out next month if I win, but I definitely could have used a few of these pointers. The nerves were nothing a glass of wine didn’t cure though!
@Nicky V HAHAHA….what a great husband. 🙂 I’m sure you did a great job. I would love to know the result. And I’m SURE the wine helped…it always does.