By: Amel Osman, Head of Corporate Communications MENA at Instinctif Partners

I have a confession to make.

For over 15 years, I’ve been a corporate communications professional, training over a hundred spokespersons across the globe. Yet, until last week, I had never taken to the stage myself. Public speaking had always been a daunting prospect for me. I preferred the comfort of my keyboard, where I could meticulously craft my thoughts and ideas.

As an avid writer, I found solace in expressing myself through words on a page. I was confident in my ability to communicate effectively through writing. However, I realized that there was a whole world of communication that I was missing out on by avoiding public speaking opportunities.

Working closely with leaders, preparing them to craft their narratives and deliver them with confidence, I witnessed firsthand the transformative power of effective public communication. It became clear to me that I needed to step out from behind the scenes and share our organization’s capabilities, challenges, learnings, and success stories with the world.

So, I decided to make a change.

My journey from fearing public speaking to embracing it was not easy, but it was incredibly rewarding. Here are the seven steps I took to overcome my fear and find success in public speaking:

  1. Start by observing: Attend speaking events and watch other speakers. Seeing others shine or stumble on stage demystified the whole process for me. It made me realize that everyone has their own style, and that it’s okay to make mistakes. Take note of what works and what doesn’t.
  2. Ease into it: Begin by engaging in small speaking opportunities within your sector. These closed, small-scale events provide a safe space to start communicating. I found that discussing topics with just a handful of peers helped me find my footing and build confidence.
  3. Craft your narrative: Start crafting a narrative built on storytelling for wider audiences. Draw from your personal experiences and use them to connect with your audience on a deeper level. Remember, people remember stories more than facts and figures.
  4. Practice, practice, practice: Practice your narrative and back it up with proof points. Rehearse your speech until you feel comfortable delivering it. Record yourself and analyze your performance. Seek feedback from trusted colleagues or mentors.
  5. Join a professional network: Surround yourself with like-minded professionals who can offer support and guidance. Joining a professional network can provide valuable opportunities for practice, feedback, and networking. Look for speaking clubs or organizations like Toastmasters International.
  6. Join a panel: Take the next step by participating in a panel discussion. This will give you the opportunity to engage with others on stage and share your expertise in a more relaxed setting. It’s a great way to ease into public speaking and gain confidence.
  7. Own the stage: When you’re ready to deliver your first solo address, use these tips:
  • Visualise success: picture yourself succeeding. Visualization can reduce anxiety and boost your confidence.
  • Engage the audience: make eye contact, ask questions, and interact with your audience. This makes your speech more dynamic and engaging.
  • Use body language: stand tall, use hand gestures, and move around the stage to convey confidence and keep the audience’s attention.
  • Breathe and pause: take deep breaths and don’t rush. Pausing can emphasize key points and give you time to gather your thoughts.
  • Be authentic: be yourself and let your personality shine through. Authenticity resonates with audiences and makes your speech more relatable.

By following these steps, you can overcome your fear of public speaking and become a more confident and effective communicator. Remember, public speaking is not about being perfect; it’s about being authentic and connecting with your audience. Media training, public speaking, and spokesperson training are essential tools in this journey. If you’re afraid of speaking in public, know that you’re not alone. With determination and practice, you too can conquer your fear and find success on stage.