Sweating Bullets!

A few years ago, the following conversation ensued between me and a colleague at work.

Me: Hi Kate! I’ve not seen you in about a month. You must have been traveling.

Kate: Yes, I was at three of our plant locations this past month.

Me: Really! What were you doing?

Kate: I had to deliver customer service training to groups in those places.

Me: How did they go?

Kate: Awful! I was so nervous I was sweating bullets!

Me: That’s interesting! But you’ve been doing those training sessions for a few years now. I thought you’d be used to it by now.

Kate: No! There’s no getting used to this for me. Each time I’ve had to stand in front of a group of people and speak, I get very anxious and nervous. Sometimes, I even start foaming at the mouth as I sweat profusely.

Me: I can relate. In fact, I had the same fear years ago. But after attending a Public Speaking seminar and getting a lot of practice through Toastmasters, I have become much better over the years.

Kate: Much better?! You’re very good! I’ve heard you speak to different groups a few times. It seems so natural for you.

Me: Yes, I’m more comfortable speaking in public now. And the same can be true for you. It’s a skill that can be learned and developed. I’m a living example. I remember how fast my heart used to beat, with just the thought of speaking in front of 5 people. But that’s not the case anymore.

Kate: I don’t think I can overcome this! As you said, I’ve been doing this training for years; I know the material very well. Still, I get very nervous each time I have to deliver it. Do you know that sometimes when I do the training over the phone, I still get as nervous as when I do it in person?

Me: Trust me, Kate. You can overcome this. I think you just need some training and practice to get you started.

Kate: I don’t think so, Sunny!

As you read this exchange between Kate and I, what’s going on in your mind? Do you see yourself in Kate’s shoes? Are you thinking that this fear is not one you can overcome? I assure you — you can!

You can learn the skills needed to speak in front of a group of people without wishing the ground would open up and swallow you whole! All you need is the willingness to learn. So, what do you do to cure your glossophobia tendencies? Here are five simple steps.

  1. Optimism is essential. You must first believe that you can do this. If you continue to tell yourself that you can’t, that’s exactly what will happen.
  2. Organize your thoughts and your message. Thinking is becoming a lost art. Many of us barely give more than a fleeting thought to anything these days. Think about your message and organize them in a logical fashion.
  3. Write down the key points. Ensure that one point logically flows into the next. Use stories and examples to illustrate each point. People remember better with stories. You do not want to write out your entire speech and memorize it. That’s a bad idea!
  4. Practice, practice, practice! I cannot emphasize this enough. Practice your speech out loud, and time it. You do not want to exceed time limits. Practice until your message flows well and you can deliver it within the given timeframe.
  5. Breathe! As you practice, remember to pay attention to your breathing. Most beginning speakers are out of breath after the first few sentences because they forget to breathe.

Remember that when it comes to overcoming the fear of public speaking, constant practice is important. This is a skill that is best learned by doing it. The more you speak in front of people, the more comfortable you will be. As you do, you get better each time. And it will greatly boost your confidence.

Finally, search for local Toastmasters clubs near your home or work, and join one. This will give you myriad of opportunities for ongoing practice and feedback. Use the recommendations as you prepare for your next speech.

Over the last six years, I have seen many people overcome their fears of public speaking. You can do it too!