How I Overcame My Fear of Public Speaking As An Introvert

9 September 2019 | by Rebecca Brothers

Fear of public speaking is a massive barrier for a lot of introverts wanting to progress in their jobs, businesses and lives. It’s no wonder when all our lives we’ve been told we’re too quiet, shy and therefore unable to adapt to the pressure of public speaking.

fear of public speaking introvert

But it’s not all doom and gloom, because in this article I’m going to tell you how I, as an introverted administrator, ended up with a career which involved frequently standing in front of a crowd of people and talking. 

Plus, I’ll give you a few of my tips along the way so you can get your public speaking life off to a good start.

How it all started

As a young girl I was petrified reading out of a book in English literature lessons, I’m sure you can relate. I can tell you, public speaking wasn’t my obvious career choice.

Growing up I was often told “oh you’re too quiet” or sarcastically I was named “Noisy”. This didn’t really bother me as I was a happy only-child lost in my solitary world, either playing make-believe shops or schools. 

Then I entered the world of work and again I was told that I needed to be more assertive. It was also at this time that I started the foundations for my new career much to my shock, disbelief and amazement.  

I was working as an administrator for a training department at a local shopping centre when my manager said that I should have a go at delivering training.  

This was my thought process: “Me, stand in front of a room of people and talk! No way!“ 

I thought back to me as a little girl, hating English Literature lessons. How could I possibly deliver training?

overcome fear of public speaking

How I overcame my fear of public speaking

None the less, with my manager’s support, guidance and motivation I embarked on this terrifying journey. I started by being an observer watching my manager deliver the training, making notes and then she would let me choose which sections I would like to have a go at.

I would start practising delivering these little sections of training. I took a lot of time to prepare, to know the material, have my notes as a safety blanket and also practised talking out loud in an empty room. 

This I found invaluable because saying the words out loud is a lot different from reading them in your head. This also helped with feeling comfortable being at the front of the room.

So at this point in my journey I already had a few techniques to help me overcome my fear of public speaking:

  • Good preparation of notes and material (know your subject/topic).
  • Practice, practice, practice (invaluable and will help you feel more ready).
  • Practice talking out loud and preferably in the room that you will be using (words are different in your head than on paper and if you can use the same room or similar if will help you feel more comfortable).

Then on the morning of those days, my stomach would be in absolute knots. I would dread forgetting what to say, speak really quickly and go bright red.  

Helpfully, my manager suggested having calming music on in the room to help my nerves and make the room welcoming to participants. This technique also meant it wasn’t silent if there wasn’t any small talk going on.  

I used controlled breathing exercises to steady my nerves and an anchoring technique to calm my stomach and I always ensured that I had water to drink nearby so when my throat went a bit dry it was there in easy reach.

What happened next

I progressed to deliver training and workshops to different and more challenging audiences. Something I learned along the way was that no matter who you’re delivering to, you have to think that you’re the expert in the room – that’s why you’re there delivering the topic.

I soon changed companies and started work training other developing trainers. It was at this point when I saw some of my old traits in those trying to deliver presentations or training for the first time.  

This I really enjoyed because I could really relate to those people knowing the journey that I had been on and how I felt at the beginning. It was here that I realised the journey that I had been on and what I had achieved.  

public speaking introvert

How I knew I had overcome fear

In this new team, I suspect I was probably too quiet in their eyes and not speaking enough during meetings. Then on one occasion, a colleague suggested that we went to a Toastmasters evening as an after-work event – learning about how to become a better speaker.  I have to admit I was not impressed with this idea at all but I went along anyway.

The evening started with us watching different members of the group give talks about different topics. Then the toastmaster invited us as guests to join the ‘Two-minute talk round’.  So, after giving us the outline and encouragement, they asked: “Who would go first?”

Silence – no response… until I put up my hand.

Going first was a strategy that I had worked with previously in training sessions or meetings. This way, you could get it over and done with, there was nothing to measure yourself against and you didn’t have to sit there worrying about it.  

I got up much to the amazement of my colleagues – who had until then only seen this quiet girl. I spoke for nearly two minutes on my given question. I used all my training hints and tips learnt over the years – looking around the room at people, pausing and so on. I got a round of applause from the group and went to sit back down and was met by the surprised faces of my colleagues. 

I sat there so full of satisfaction and pride. That was me showing up, after all the years of hard work I had put in, along with the encouragement and feedback from others, I had achieved this unlikely career, that I would never once have thought possible and now, I quite relish the opportunity to speak in front of people.  

My top tips to overcome your fear of public speaking

It just goes to show that people can never know what to expect. They may think you’re quiet. Yes, when you want to be, but at the same time you can pull it out of the bag (which is a surprise to many) and that’s the journey I’ve been on.  

I’ve mentioned so many tips in this article, but to summarise, here are my top 10 tips to overcome your fear of public speaking:

  1. Good preparation of notes and material (know your subject/topic).
  2. Practice, practice, practice (invaluable and will help you feel more ready).
  3. Practice talking out loud and preferably in the room that you will be using (words are different in your head than on paper and if you can use the same room or similar if will help you feel more comfortable).
  4. Imagine you are taking the stage at the front of the room – put on your act (that’s how I used to think about it and it helps).
  5. Find calming strategies that help you i.e. belly breathing, calming music, anchoring techniques, peppermint tea are some that have helped me……
  6. Prepare the opening and close and make sure these are strong.
  7. Always have water close by and drink when needed.
  8. Don’t worry if you lose your place, take your time to recover.
  9. Don’t be afraid of “silence or pauses” as they always seem longer to you compared to the audience.
  10. You are the expert in the room, believe in yourself.

I hope this story serves as some small piece of inspiration to others. Go out there and get speaking, because you now know you can do it.

What was your first experience with public speaking like? Leave us a comment below and let’s share our experiences.

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How I Overcame My Fear of Public Speaking As An Introvert
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How I Overcame My Fear of Public Speaking As An Introvert
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Fear of public speaking is a massive barrier for a lot of introverts wanting to progress in their jobs, businesses and lives. Find out how you can overcome yours.
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Limit Breaker
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