We all have a fear or displeasure of something don’t we? Those of us who’ll admit to them anyway. Flying, heights, spiders, cartoon characters in the flesh, public speaking (I’m not a huge fan of any of these!).

On Thursday I took to the Conference News Pavilion stage at International Confex to deliver EWL’s first pop up campfire discussion on EventFit for Purpose; resting body and mind after a big event in preparation for the next. My 5th appearance on an event industry stage in only six months.

So how does someone who has a fear of public speaking get past those stomach turning jitters and lumps in the throat to speak on stage to a live audience?

For me, it’s taking time and I’m not 100% there but these are the things that are helping me stay focussed and on top of my stage fright and nerves.

1. People are coming to see you!

People are genuinely coming to hear you speak, they are interested in what you have to say and want to hear your thoughts, insight and experience.

This is an incredibly empowering thought, not from an ego perspective but simply a boost to your confidence that’s enough to take away some of the angst.

2. Your experience is unique to YOU!

This leads on nicely from above; no two people will have exactly the same experiences. You may have worked together on a project or during an event, or have similar life experiences but your interpretations will not be carbon copy and almost certainly be different.

Have you ever talked to two people who witnessed the same event but can give different stories about what happened?

This makes your view and thought-leadership unique to you and of interest to others, and successful people will always collate their information and logic from a number of different sources and references.

People may agree with what you say but it’s very unlikely they will express their thoughts and experiences in exactly the same way, and this is what is uniquely special about panel sessions, everyone participating has something worthwhile to offer the audience.

This is also why panel sessions are a great place to start if you want to give public speaking a try.

3. People will have different opinions and views to you, and that’s ok!

Healthy conversation and debate requires all attendees to be able to see things from a different viewpoint or perspective.

As human beings we naturally have an interest in other human beings, it’s the reason that social media has taken off to such a scale that it has completely changed how we live our lives and interact with each other

Some people also like to challenge and question, and this is ok, do we really want a society where we all think in exactly the same way?

As long as people are not inciting hatred then freedom of speech is important and necessary for us to evaluate and come up with the solutions that are for the benefit of society as a whole.

Learning from and listening to others also enhances your experience, your wisdom, your empathy and compassion for others.

People may not agree with you but it doesn’t mean that what you’re saying is wrong, they just have a different viewpoint. And they’re entitled to no matter how ludicrous their opinions may be to you.

4. The size of the audience does not matter

An audience of 200 or 20, the size makes no difference, it’s the quality of the message and the take-aways that matter.

Remember No 1, people have come to listen to you and your experience no matter how many are sat there.

5. Everybody gets nervous!

This is absolutely true. I chaired a panel last month and every single one of us going on stage was nervous beforehand.

The nice thing about this is that we shared this with each other beforehand, there was no ego, and it brought us together as a team with a bond and common aim for appearing on stage that day.

Some of the most experienced speakers, actors, presenters still get last minute nerves, and it’s a good sign as it also shows that your passionate about what you’re going to be sharing.

Embrace those nerves, they’re a sign that you care!

The above seems to be working for me as I keep being invited back to speak, and the anxiety and panic attacks I would have historically suffered from don’t really affect me now.

I also use breathing exercises and mindfulness to help keep me focused and in the moment, and can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed each time I’ve been on stage and even experienced a buzz of excitement rather than relief when it’s over.

At the end of the day what’s the worst that can happen, someone may not agree with you? I can guarantee that what you share will resonate with the majority and always remember that we can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Until next time #eventprofs…