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Conquer speaking fear in baby steps

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in Career Management,Workplace Communication

From a young age, Yaro Starak was a shy introvert. He avoided public speaking assignments in school, and he read from index cards whenever he couldn’t avoid giving a presentation.

Once he established a reputation as a blogger and online marketing consultant, Starak realized he needed to overcome his fear of public speaking. How? He immersed himself in it—and gained confidence from constant practice.

Initially, he attended conferences and stood and spoke briefly from the audience. From there, he agreed to participate in a Q&A on stage in which an interviewer asked about his areas of expertise.

Advancing in baby steps, he also joined industry panels in which he appeared with other guest speakers. Each experience helped boost his comfort level and conquer his jitters.

Like most speakers, Starak realized that his nervousness peaked just before he began to talk. Once he got through the first minute or two, he’d relax a bit. Bracing for this initial anxiety—and persevering through it—made the process easier and more predictable for him.

Finally, he agreed to deliver his first major speech. Fighting off a panic attack minutes before he took the stage, Starak recalls that the first 15 minutes of his one-hour presentation tested his fortitude.

“I felt one part of my brain focusing on the presentation, going through my slides and focusing on teaching,” he says. “Then there was this other part of my brain saying things like, ‘You do realize everyone is staring at you right now?’ ”

As he hit his stride, he shifted his mental focus to communicating clearly.

— Adapted from “How I Overcame my Fear of Public Speaking,” Yaro Starak, www.entrepreneurs-journey.com. 

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