One Simple Mind Game That Can Make You Feel Better About Public Speaking…

By Laura Bergells on
public speaking head trip

People say they’re scared of public speaking, but are they really? I see these people speak in public all the time. They’re relaxed, confident — and they seem to be enjoying themselves.

Take a friend of mine. Let’s call him Greg, because that’s his name. Greg insists he’s terrified of public speaking.

Yet, I’ve seen Greg at parties. I’ve seen him at work. He enters into conversations with ease, even with strangers. He tells engaging stories. He’s a good listener. He encourages other people to tell stories with his eye contact and body language.

“Well, sure,” he said when I pointed all those things out to him. “But that’s not public speaking. That’s just talking to people.”

ARE YOU LISTENING TO YOURSELF GREG?

Because that’s the definition of public speaking. Greg’s not afraid. Greg enjoys it. And he’s good at it.

So why does Greg promote the idea that he’s scared of public speaking? What’s wrong with Greg? Why is he such a dirty, rotten liar?

“No, no, no,” Greg laughed. “Give me a microphone and a stage, and I’ll clam up. I’d get the shakes. I’d stammer. I’d probably faint or fart or both. It’d be ugly.”

Oh, I see.

Greg’s not really afraid of public speaking. He’s afraid of the unknown. He doesn’t speak in big rooms or on a stage. Greg’s never used a mic.

Instead, Greg is afraid of the idea of Public Speaking, with a capital P and a capital S. He’s not afraid of speaking in public. He does it all the time.

So what’s the difference between Public Speaking and speaking in public? A microphone? A stage? More people, less interaction?

According to Greg? Yes. Yes. And yes.

All these unknowns? That’s what makes Public Speaking terrifying for Greg. He’s laid a big, scary head trip on himself.

So I laid a different head trip on him. I suggested Greg might want to change his relationship with the idea of public speaking. I asked him a question:

What are the factors that make you feel most confident when you speak in public? 

“Easy,” he said. “I’m at my best when I’m interested in the topic. I also like talking to individuals or small groups of people. And I like interaction, so I get to hear what others have to say and react. I prefer being spontaneous.”

Great. Why don’t you rebuild your relationship with public speaking? You’ve got a strong foundation: so why not grow from these strengths?

Think about it.

If you identify with Greg’s feelings on public speaking, you might want to consider changing your relationship with it, too. Rebuild it from a place of strength. Ask yourself the same question I asked Greg:

What are the factors that make you feel most confident when you speak in public?

Be specific. What kind of audience, room, content? What level of interaction?

Identify your current public speaking strengths. That’s your foundation. Grow from there. If you’re afraid of something, it could be the unknown.

But you can learn new skills and approaches. You can build upon your strong public speaking foundation. You can layer in new techniques as you learn. And you can grow stronger with practice.

Whether you’re nervous or confident, you have plenty of opportunities to practice public speaking. You can learn and grow every day. Because every time you speak in public, guess what?

You’re a public speaker, my friend. Grow from your strengths. Be open to learning new techniques. You’ll get there.


Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a #LinkedInLearning author. You can take her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking.