Overcoming Fear Of Public Speaking

The story of one man who is overcoming fear of public speaking. It's a fascinating insight into how it can affect you, and how it can be dealt with.

This is no self help fairy tale. It's a real guy who's working every day on getting past an irrational fear that's held him back. He's not there yet - but he's like so many people who quietly but surely refuse to let it get the better of them.

If you're one of them, this article's dedicated to you.

Jeremy's Story

A few weeks ago during our regular Toastmasters Meeting, I was Chairman and I asked Jeremy to come up the front and give a 2 minute evaluation of another speaker. He said he just simply couldn't do it, and asked to be excused from the task. He'd been overcome in the moment by something like a panic attack.

After a bit of encouragement he bravely did the evaluation from his seat, and it was a great job.

A few weeks later we talked over a coffee about what had happened. I think the results of that chat are well worth sharing.

First I have to acknowledge Jeremy's courage for one main reason. He still comes to Toastmasters.

I've seen plenty of people in similar situations simply take themselves out of the game. You never see them again. Obviously Jeremy is made of sterner stuff and that's the key really, and why he will beat it.

Was there a bad experience from the past?

He wasn't able to say for sure but he did recall one event which sounded pretty horrendous to my ears.

As an 11 year old he'd broken one of the school's cricket bats and been ridiculed in front of the whole school for it. He recalled crying his eyes out in front of the whole school from the shame and guilt of what he'd been caught doing.

I'm no psychiatrist but I guess it's possible an incident like this could have an effect.

How has it affected you?

Jeremy told me he'd deliberately pulled out of several University courses because he knew they involved giving oral presentations. These were courses he really wanted to do.

He also said he'd turned down several jobs because of his fear of public speaking. One in particular was a ski tour guide's job at a resort which he would have absolutely loved to do. Again the fear stopped him.

He has also had the experience of being Best Man at a wedding, and having to apologize and sit down without fulfilling his speaking duties.

This is the ugly reality of the fear of public speaking in a person's life. Sadly for a lot of people the pain at the time is nothing compared with the torture inflicted by the mind over the months and even years to come.

What does it feel like?

He described it like the feeling of being crushed by a ton of bricks. It was like being suddenly overwhelmed and completely unable to do it. Just wanting desperately to be somewhere else.

I also recall him saying at one meeting how he spends all weekend feeling sick at the thought of our Monday afternoon Toastmasters meeting.

Can you see why I admire the guy's courage?

So what has helped you?

He has sought help in overcoming fear of public speaking in two main ways. Toastmasters and NLP.

He really values the gradual step-by-step nature of Toastmasters. In fact he thinks we should make that aspect more prominent in our marketing of the Club. I agree. It has helped him take small, relatively non-threatening steps to becoming a more confident speaker.

After the incident above he sought out the help of an NLP practitioner and he feels that has helped too. They helped him be more aware of what triggered the attack of nerves, and put in place some alternative strategies when confronted with the same stimulus in the future.

To Summarize

Jeremy has suffered because of his fear of public speaking.

He has not shied away from it, and for that he has the admiration of a lot of people.

He has proactively set about overcoming fear of public speaking. If he keeps practicing despite his nerves there is no real doubt he'll make it.

When he does succeed in overcoming fear of public speaking, his life will be much more free in a very important way. He will no longer be imprisoned by thoughts and emotions which stop him from expressing who he truly is.

For both Jeremy, and anyone who knows him, that inspirational story will be well worth the effort!

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