How I overcame fear of public speaking

Does the thought of public speaking make you feel ill? Fear of public speaking is called glossophobia.

I’m not a shy person. Far from it. I’m a classic ENTJ. For many years, I thrived on speaking in public. But, one day, I was asked to give a presentation to a group of three people. When I got there, I realized that I’d run into two of the people before. I knew one of them had it in for me. That made it difficult to start talking. To make matters worse, at the end of the presentation, one of those two people accused me of breaking the law during my presentation. He accused me of copyright infringement. I was shattered. I take copyright very seriously. However, this individual worked in a field where copyright was discussed regularly. So I took him at his word. I apologized and left.

Later, I did a little more research and confirmed that, I did not infringe anyone’s copyright. My understanding of fair use and private business meetings was correct. It was the prospective client who was wrong.

But it didn’t matter. The event shook me up enough to keep me from speaking in public for a couple of years. I turned down opportunities. I didn’t want to take a risk again.

Still, I’m an ENTJ. I plan. And then I carry out that plan. I knew that, by taking small steps, I could conquer my glossophobia and start speaking in public again.

So I contacted a tiny organization. I asked if I could make a presentation to a small group. And I did it. And I survived.

Then I started going to professional association meetings. I started asking questions. That brought attention to me. I spoke well. After a while, I was sometimes asked to address the group. No problem. I was among friends.

Next, I applied for a job as an instructor. I’d be speaking in public (albeit to a group of about four people) once a week for a few months. I’d be teaching a subject I knew well. And I did it. And was hired again.

But the client wanted to know if I could teach another subject…one that I wasn’t sure I was good at. I’d have to study to get ahead of the students. I decided to try it. And I got better reviews for teaching that content than I did for teaching the stuff I knew by heart!

Pretty soon, I was teaching several classes. And then a major university asked me to teach a course. I did that, too. And was asked to teach more courses.

So, although I was never a shy person, I conquered a one-time fear of public speaking. Next week, I’ll give suggestions for conquering a fear of public speaking.

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Andrea says:

I have a feeling that there are legions of glossophobes. :)

Whimfield says:

Ah yes, I still have to conquer this one! I was really confident with public speaking for a long time, then I had a terrible experience where I thought I could “wing it” (regardless of the fact that I was completely unprepared), which scarred me for years. I am just re-emerging from my fear now. I’ve always wanted to make time for Toastmasters, but it hasn’t happened yet. Someday!