I used to be deathly afraid of public speaking.
The irony is that I now make my living as a speaker, and even better, I founded a company whose main focus is to train others to deliver profitable presentations.
At my college, Florida State University, you had to take a public speaking class in order to graduate. I walked into the auditorium on the first day of the class and looked around. It wasn’t a small group; there were 300 people in there. The professor went up to the podium and told us we would have to do 10 speeches for the class. I felt the cold twist of fear pulse through me. And...I would like to say I stayed there and conquered the class, but I didn’t. I retreated.
Then, 3 years later, I signed up for the class again, because it was the last requirement standing between me and graduation. I hoped that it would be a smaller group (maybe not as intimidating), which ironically, is the opposite of what I want now (as big an audience as possible to speak in front of). But I was faced with the same auditorium packed with 300 people and the same requirement of doing 10 speeches. Again, I wish I could say I conquered my fear and took the class. Instead, I found a loophole so that I wouldn’t have to take it.
I let my fear win.
Now, many years later, I’ve spoken in front of thousands of people, which just shows you that you can overcome any fear with the right mindset. Here are a few resources and mindset tricks to help you conquer the jitters when you go on stage to speak.
1. Shake Hands with Your Audience
One of the best ways to handle your jitters is to get to know the audience before you go on stage. Make it a point to shake hands with the people in the audience, especially in the front row. When you feel their excitement and get to know them, you will start to feel at home and your jitters will go away.
Truly think about the audience before you go up to do your speech. When you look out into the audience from the stage, you will see familiar faces instead of intimidating strangers. Think about how you are going to help these individuals, how you are going to serve them, and you will feel much more confident.
2. Focus on Being in Service
I love what my partner Dave Vanhoose says about conquering stage fright: “When you’re nervous, get into service.”
At Speaking Empire, we focus on crafting speeches that truly serve. We tell stories that help people see what’s possible. We craft our offers so they are a perfect match for our audience and what they need to solve their big challenges. If your speech is designed to truly serve your audience, there’s no need to be nervous because you are about to serve a lot of people. Focus on that, and your fears will melt away.
Steve Jobs is a great example of this. He wore a turtleneck like a uniform so he didn't have to think about his wardrobe. That way, he could focus entirely on his message. His clothing may have been boring, but that wasn’t the point. His point was to get a powerful message across, and his turtleneck didn’t call attention to itself. It didn't detract from his message to the audience.
3. Work for Carnegie Hall
Don’t wait until the night before your speech to finish writing it or creating your slides, as this will only increase your jitters—not reduce them. Instead, use the time for practicing your presentation, as this is one of the best ways to take care of your jitters and bring more energy into your presentation.
When I first started, I practiced in my bedroom. I pretended the bed or the mirror was my audience, and I gave them the best presentation I’ve got. Then when I get to the actual speech, it’s not new. I already know I’m going to give a great presentation.
If you tend to get butterflies before you go on stage, make sure that you rehearse a lot. Know your speech inside and out. You can do your speech in front of the mirror like I do, or even record yourself doing it, play it back, and do it again. That’s a terrific way to improve your skills and to feel completely prepared.
4. Visit Your Venue
Another trick I’ve learned for clearing away the jitters is to go to the venue where you are going to be speaking the night before: walk around, get a feel for the room and the environment, and stand onstage in front of the empty room. That way, you’ll feel more comfortable when you are actually doing your speech in front of a room full of people.
5. Flex Your Muscles
Here’s a trick that not many people know: record yourself doing your presentation. Then go to the gym and listen to the recording while you work out. You’ll feel the adrenaline rushing through your body as you listen to your presentation, and you will get pumped up to speak.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that “about five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.” So, get to the gym and get moving.
6. Keep Facing Your Fears
As I shared earlier, I know how hard it can be to go on stage and speak in front of people. I was so motivated to avoid public speaking that I found a loophole to get out of my required public speaking class not once—but twice!
But once I started speaking, I saw how many people I could impact, and how beneficial it was for me, too. Then I was hooked.