It is often said that people fear public speaking more than death. But if there is one person who can attest that the fear of public speaking can be conquered, it would be me.
Two years ago, I was a shy guy who was self-conscious about his accent and was extremely fearful being in front of a crowd. Failure had a lot to do with it: I bombed most of my speeches as a student and an employee. Even when I became an entrepreneur, I still had a really tough time with speaking in public.
Fast forward two years – now, not only do I speak all the time with ease, composure and humor, I actually do it for a living. I frequently talk at companies like Google, and conferences like the World Domination Summit. My TEDxAustin speech became one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.
Of course, I do have something to talk about now days. I lived through an unusual story, and people love to hear inspiring stories. But plenty of people with good stories and great content are still crippled by fear when delivering them. So what happened to me – the shy dude who got rejected a lot?
Well, a lot of rejection happened. More precisely, rejection training happened, especially with these two:
In each one of these episodes, I was honestly scared beyond my imagination. When making an announcement in front of a plane full of passengers, I thought someone was going to mistake me as a terrorist and tackle me. When doing unsolicited speaking on a street corner, I had no idea how I was going to be treated by people walking by.
However, by not retreating from these types of mentally challenging environments, and actually carrying through with my speeches, I gained the toughness and confidence that I would not have been able to obtain under any other circumstances. When I finally went on real stages with a real audience, I relied heavily on these tough experiences.
This was my speech at World Domination Summit one week after my street practice.
In his book The Obstacle Is the Way, author Ryan Holiday discussed that obstacles not only don’t inhibit success, but actually create it if we respond to obstacles the right way. The same goes for public speaking, when we are put in the least welcoming environment and endure the situation with our actions, we gain enormous courage and confidence as the result.
Since you might not always have the challenging environment at your disposal, such as company presentations in front executives or startup pitches in front of investors, what you can do is to create these environments, like I did on the plane and the street. In other words, you can manufacture obstacles.
I can’t promise that you will become a professional speaker afterward, nor can I guarantee you success on Youtube. What I do know is that you will become a better public speaker in whatever you do by facing rejections head on, and use them as your tools.