The Fear Of Public Speaking

About a year ago I gave my first non-tech talk at one of 48FWD session. Giving a non-tech talk was a huge challenge the topic was FEAR, and I realized this was the perfect stage for an Inception-like, introspective, talk.

Introducing Mr Ego.

When I’m asked to give a talk, my ego is always like “YES, YES, LOVE IT”.

My ego is bad at projecting itself, and he’s an eternal optimist. A few days before the event, after finding a thousand way to procrastinate on the preparation of the talk, my ego manifests itself: “dude, are you sure about this? I got a bad feeling about it.”. There kicks in the anxiety.

Twenty four hours before getting on stage, fear starts to emerge. My thoughts always follow the same kind of cycle: “What if you just pretend that you’re sick and not do this talk?”

So I used to prepare all my talks last minute pretending it’s not important. Fear makes me procrastinate. Fear makes all of us procrastinate actually.

When I start to think more concretely about a talk I’m about to give, I feel the fear growing in me. Why?


When I give a talk I used to feel the following:
  •  Becoming extremely aware of my behavior and of your behavior.
  •  Am I going to fast? Too slow? How much time do I have left?
  • Why the hell didn’t I prepare better for this talk?
  • Why is my breathing so strong?
What can you do? LET GO OF CONTROLLING. REALISE YOU DONT CONTROL MUCH ANYWAY. BUT PRACTICE MASTERY. Keep in mind things will most likely won’t go the way you want. And it’s FINE.
  • I’m thinking about what you’re thinking when you see me.
  • If you’re quiet I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m boring.
  • If you laugh I don’t really understand why because I don’t think I’m funny. Or I’m wondering how I’m going to keep making you laugh. I become self-aware and that kills it.
  • Humiliation. The ego does not like humiliation. But most people like drama stories. That’s even scarier. And then the next worrying thought kicks in: “Hey have you heard Johann’s talk yesterday? The guy really doesn’t know how to talk! Oh, yea. Boring!”
WHAT CAN YOU DO? REALISE THAT IT IS NOT AS BAD AS YOU IMAGINE. Here is a little exercise: Enter situation where you don’t have control or explicitly loose control. Go out of your comfort zone willingly. Repeat and rinse until you realize it’s really not as bad as you thought and that you can’t control everything really.
  • Choose “safe” ways to train yourself – where failure will only be your ego getting hurt with no other consequences.
  • Keep on doing it. Ignore the outcome, this is something you’re doing for yourself and you only.
  • Forget what the other ones will think about it. Do it. Again. Again. Again.
  • Until mastering it, and the energy you use to spend worrying becomes available to do more of that thing you use to not like doing.
  • Realise that: By doing it, you’re already further than most people. Because everyone is worried and blocked.
  • People have great deal of admiration for those who vindicate their fear to accomplish something.
  • This will encourage you to do more of it, and suddenly you’re in this virtuous circle of excellence and external recognition. By mastering what used to scare you, you’ll enter into a whole new dimension.
  • Work becomes play and play induce flow and a state of happiness.
I still have this sort of love & hate about public speaking. But I learned to trust myself and recognize that it’s gonna be alright. The 10 minutes before a talk are the most nerve-wracking. Adrenaline is your friend though. I feel it pumping up in my whole body and I get ready. I enter the stage and the only thing that matters is now the message I have to deliver. A few other things that help me and might help you:
  • Put on a “uniform”. For me, it’s a colorful pair of pants
  • If you can, get on stage a bit before. Own the room.
  • If things go wrong – you miss a slide, the clicker does not work, etc…Make fun of yourself. People are generally quite empathetic with the person on stage, and if you take things in a light-hearted way, they’ll do as well.
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One Comment

  1. I can relate to lot of what you say here. I’ve seen you speak and present a few times, so it is interesting to hear how you approach it. Thank you for sharing this!

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