Did you know that most people are more afraid of public speaking than death? Seinfeld has a hilarious bit poking fun at the fact that most of us would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy. A little over the top, maybe. But the struggle is real. So I’m here to tell you that you can get past the fear, speak up, and share what you have to share. That’s right; you’re about to learn how to overcome stage fright (forever!) with these three insanely fast methods.
But first, let me be clear: when you’re about to speak to a group, a low-grade level of nerves is totally normal. And it’s actually helpful. Being a bit keyed up keeps us sharp and focused. It shows respect for the opportunity and that we take it seriously. The people in the audience are giving us their time and attention. Being nervous enough to come prepared and take it seriously shows we care about them. And that we believe what we have to say has value.
That said, if anxiety about talking in front of other people keeps you from speaking effectively—or from stepping up and speaking out at all—it’s not serving you. And it’s not serving the people who need to hear from you.
So, let’s talk about what we can do to settle down and serve our audience and our message for them.
Ready to Overcome Your Stage Fright?
Here are a few practical things that have helped me that I hope will help you, too.
Thing 1: Get Over Yourself
Whether you need to speak up in a meeting, or you’re about to step onto a stage to speak to thousands, if your nerves are overwhelming you, you’re focused on the wrong thing.
You’re focused on the default thing we all think about if we don’t intentionally shift our focus to something else. You’re thinking about yourself. What will they think of me? What if I make a fool of myself? Or what if they don’t think I know what I’m talking about? What if I trip and fall?
We all do this. It’s natural to have these doubts and worries. We all have them. But you can’t stay there if you’re going to have the impact you want to have.
To put it bluntly: You have to get over yourself and let your ego go.
You have to overcome your stage fright. Your desire to serve your audience and your passion for your message must be bigger than your fear. If you don’t care enough about your audience and your message to risk being uncomfortable, you’ll always play small, stay quiet and miss the chance to make the difference you want to make.
Our brains are hardwired to keep us safe. As a result, we’re naturally risk-averse and most content where it’s most comfortable. But no one ever accomplished anything remarkable by playing it safe.
Step outside yourself, beyond your comfort zone, and do something extraordinary. Teach or encourage or inspire someone who needs it. Once you get a taste of making a difference in that way, fear won’t stand a chance.
Thing 2: Expect Great Things
Have you ever considered that anxiety and excitement are two ways to frame the same emotion? Both are future-focused; meaning, both are ways to play it forward in your mind. To imagine how something might go or what might happen.
Excitement imagines a future where you get what you do want. Anxiety imagines a future where you get what you don’t want.
When you find yourself imagining the worst possible scenarios—you’ve forgotten what you came to say, your message isn’t well-received, you trip and fall to your death—you’re anxious. You can’t deliver your best message with the most impact when your mind is expecting bad things. When you excitedly expect the best possible outcomes, your message hits its mark; the audience is encouraged and inspired, true transformation happens. You overcome your stage fright. You settle in and deliver your message in the best possible way.
The fact is, it takes exactly the same amount of energy to believe for the better thing. So why waste your time and energy on anything else? Instead, lean in and expect the best. Trust that your message will find its way to the people it’s meant for.
(Looking for more support to overcome your stage fright once and for all? I’m here for you. Click here to learn about my “Speak With Confidence” mini-course)
Thing 3: Give Your Gift and Let It Go
As you push yourself to focus more on the people you came to serve than on your concerns about yourself, you’ll find yourself excited for the opportunity. Excited to speak to the audience and help them. You’re able to concentrate on generously sharing your message with them. You can let go of the illusion that you have any control over how your message is received. You show up as your best self, generously giving and sharing.
Think of it this way: Your message is your gift. Your gift is your business. You craft it as best you can for the people who are meant to receive it. Your message isn’t for everyone. But when you step up and share your message focused on the people you want to serve, you can trust that it will hit the mark with the people it’s for. The giving is your business. The receiving isn’t.
It takes time and practice to move beyond our anxiety, to stop thinking about ourselves, and to shift our focus to the audience entirely. And we won’t always get it right. Sometimes despite our best efforts, we miss something important. Or we say something we didn’t mean to say. Or we stumble. You won’t always get the words right. But I can promise you this: When you show up with your hands open, ready to help and give with your heart truly focused on the people in front of you and what they most need, you can’t go wrong.
Give it a try. I promise it’s worth it. Everything changes when you step up and speak out—for us and you! Let me know what you think.
If you are trying to work out your next steps for your speaking career, contact me here!
Did you learn a lot about how to overcome stage fright in this post?
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This post was first published in 2020, but it was updated in 2021 just for you.