I’d Rather Die: 5 Ways to Survive Public Speaking and Slay Your Next Presentation!

public speaking Feb 01, 2019

“There are two types of speakers, those that are nervous, and those that are liars.”

-Mark Twain

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once mused, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I remember at my grandmother’s funeral wanting to share a story about a locket she gave me as a child. In my mind I could envision myself eloquently speaking before the packed room at her service. There would be tears and laughter and I would walk away feeling like I had honored her memory and that she would be proud.

But that’s not what happened. 

Instead, I just sat there, panicking even at the mere mental threat I had created. My anxiety percolated from my gut and through every cell. Worse still, I denied myself the gift of being present for my grandmother’s funeral.

 And for all that, yes, I would have rather have been in the casket. 

The irony is I had always dreamed of speaking publicly. As a little girl with a severe stutter, that’s all I wanted. More than a pony even. By my adult years my stutter had mostly faded, but the fear and humiliation attached to it never did. 

What changed? The funny thing is, in some ways, nothing has changed. I’m still me. But my mindsets and stories I tell myself have changed. And I’ve learned how to align my vision of what I want with action. The me today would have gotten up and told the story of that locket. Sure I’d still be nervous, but I’d do it anyway. Because that’s my mindset today – I can feel fear, but I make a choice to do the thing that scares me anyway. And if I completely bomb, that’s gonna hurt temporally but chance are I won’t die from it. There’s a much greater chance that I’ll learn from it instead. 

So, if you are like most humans and you would rather die than speak publicly, these strategies will help you.

And if you desire more personalized support please do reach out to me, I’d love to hear your story AND help you tell it. With confidence. 

  1. Change Your Mindset, Not Your Nerves.

Accept that you will be nervous. You may always be nervous about public speaking. And that’s OK. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it’s true. Nerves mean you care. Take that nervous energy and change your mindset. Instead tell yourself you are excited. When we tell ourselves that we are excited it actually makes us more excited. We can transform that nervous energy into a similar but more valuable positive energy. 

2. Own Your Darkness and Vulnerability 

Sounds like a scary solution to already being scared, but stay with me. If you are an adult human, chances are you’ve hidden much of what you dislike and fear about yourself deep within you. But it’s time to dig that up and dust it off. That’s where much of your vulnerability lies. And within your vulnerability is your creativity. Work on accepting the darkness you hold within yourself – give it a hug, talk to it, take it for coffee. Then don’t try to hide it when you are speaking publicly – just let those parts of yourself be accepted. I learned this first hand when I stopped trying to hide my stutter and anxiety and instead just accepted it. Eventually I even highlighted this part of me and when I did that – I found my most powerful story.  

3. Rehearse, Don’t Memorize 

Know your material well enough by rehearsing it at least three times. But do not memorize. TRUST that you are ready. Make an outline or allow yourself index cards but also allow yourself room for spontaneity. Spontaneity can’t happen if you memorized your material, let yourself be flexible so you can feed off the audience’s energy and allow for pauses. 

4. Set Intentions

Take a few moments either hiding in the bathroom or in your car to set a very clear of intention of how you want to show up for yourself and how you want to feel after your talk. Do you want to feel exhilarated afterwards? Awesome, be sure to take the time to visualize that, it can be incredibly powerful. 

5. Bring Joy 

Stop taking yourself so seriously already! What good is doing anything if we can’t actually bring some joy to it? Allow yourself to simply ENJOY the opportunity to share with an audience and tell your story! Laugh, breath and be playful. That playful energy will affect your audience and they will feel more joy too. 

Wishing you a story-filled journey,