Jackie Kellso

Fear of Public Speaking is Nothing to Fear

In business, coaching, communication, executive coaching, executives, presentations, presenting, professional development training, public speaking, public speaking fear, training, Uncategorized on July 10, 2009 at 4:10 pm

I once had a client who had the most intense fear of public speaking I had ever seen.  I witnessed this during the first assignment of a public speaking course I was teaching. Naturally, every class member was a little nervous, but this guy, Mike, got up, mumbled his words, looked down at the floor, trembled and sweated profusely.  I thought he was going to pass-out.  But he didn’t — he presented his one minute speech in its entirety.   The class cheered and I praised him for his courage.  Mike smiled and said how amazed he was that he had gotten through it.  Before he left the class that night, I said, “See, fear doesn’t stop you in your tracks. See you next week!”  He nodded affirmatively and walked out the door.  I never saw or heard from him again.

For years I wondered why this guy gave up on himself, even after proving that he could speak to an audience. But I believe I know the answer now, having coached so many fearful speakers since then.  I focused on fear as the prime coaching issue and ended up magnifying the fear instead of diminishing it. I can only imagine the bravado he would have had to muster to get back into class and speak again, not to mention the pressure he might have felt not to disappoint the class. This was a very powerful lesson for me. What I should have said to him was, “Mike, great job. Next time let’s work on keeping your feet planted.” (Or, something to that effect.)

Would that have brought him back to class?   I can’t say for sure, but it would have given him something skill-based to focus on rather than this monster he was battling.  Today, when a client wants to overcome fear, the very first thing I say is this:  We are not even going to try to overcome fear. It’s there and we welcome it.  Being uncomfortable is a preferred state to sustain when stretching the comfort zone.  The fear may stay with you, it may leave you, we simply don’t care.

The goal is this:  focus solely on the skills that make for a powerful presenter.  Learn the right techniques and structures that support the flow and articulation of your presentations. As examples, concentrate on body language, practice making eye contact, focus on choosing words and concepts that help you drive a point, work on being clear and concise, use your natural sense of humor when delivering dry material.  Just start with one and go from there.  Practice getting in front of an audience and doing it again, and again, and again, and again and again.  It will be the key to making your fear powerless.

In the words of the wise, “It’s okay to have butterflies in your stomach, just get them to fly in formation.”  –Dr. Rob Gilbert

Happy presenting,


Copyright, Jackie Kellso and PointMaker Communications, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jackie Kellso and PointMaker Communications with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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