Fear of public speaking? Here’s why you should do it anyway

with FG co-founder Kirsty Jackson

Grow /
Fear of public speaking

Last week I did something scary. The heart-racing, adrenaline-pumping kind of scary. I got up on stage and pitched our business to a room full of (mostly) strangers and a panel of judges. It was River Rival, the annual pitch competition run by River City Labs in Brisbane to mark the end of the week-long Something Fest conference.

While some might say that’s nothing to be scared of, the idea of presenting to a room of people has always made me sweat. I can’t sleep until it’s over, can’t think about anything else – it’s all-consuming.

At the same time, public speaking has always been on my list of fears to conquer. So while it’s scary, I’ve always said yes to speaking opportunities when presented.

This one was different though. It wasn’t a few prepared questions on a panel or a podcast interview. It was a competition, with live feedback from a panel of judges including Stew Glenn, Managing Partner at Ten13, Siobhan Casey, Director of Scaleups and Innovation Lab at ACS, John Kerney, head of Startups at AWS and Peter Laurie, Mentor in Residence River City Labs and Director at Junta.

There was a surprise intermission which meant instead of fifth up, I was first up after the break. Then the slides stuffed up and I was stuck waiting halfway up the stage for the AV team to get it sorted. So scary.

But despite all of those elements, I felt ready. And I nailed it.

It wasn’t by accident – it was the result of hours of preparation and coaching by wonderful mentors including Peter Laurie, Juanita Wheeler and Pauline Fetaui, and a serious attitude change. I can’t count how many times I recited that speech to myself, my husband, my kids and anyone else who would listen. It’s easy to decide you don’t have the time to write a speech, create the presentation and practice. I’ve never been more time-poor than I am right now – so if I can find the time, I promise you can. I whispered my speech to my baby while rocking him to sleep (I promise I tried to train him, he just loves me too much), I recited it over and over in the shower, then again while pacing my wardrobe just before bed, and one more time in my head before drifting off to sleep. That’s at least seven times a day all without having to find extra time in my day.

I was determined, this time, to use my nervous energy for good, rather than letting it take over and distract me. So you bet I performed some deep breathing exercises while holding a superhero pose before getting on stage.

While my next speaking gig will still scare me a little, I can say with confidence that I have conquered my fear of public speaking.

I wonder if you have done something that really scares you lately. What’s on your list of fears to conquer? I’d love to know and maybe I can even help.