Public speaking is ranked the number one fear in Americans (death being ranked 5th). People ask me all of the time... "How do you speak in front of people; don't you get nervous?" 

The answer is YES!  I get nervous. EVERY. TIME. And if I'm not nervous, I'll get nervous over the fact that I'm not nervous... So yes, I feel it. Fear is real. Anxiety is real.  The fear of the unknown. The fear of forgetting everything you were going to say. The fear of putting yourself out there publicly and being humiliated. The fear of being misunderstood. Fear of being up there alone. Yup, I have those fearful thoughts as a public speaker. 

It's not about getting rid of the fear, it's about working through it. I feel the fear, and I do it anyway.

Participating in sports has taught me how to manage my emotions and work through them to still perform at my best, even when my confidence level is low.  When I was on the UCLA softball team, we had the pleasure of working with the former amazing sports psychologist—Ken Ravizza. I remember when I was struggling with my performance on the softball field and letting my nerves get the best of me, Ken Ravizza told me, “being confident is overrated.” I couldn’t believe that he said that; I always thought that confidence was EVERYTHING.  He then proceeded to tell me that athletes have 3 games they bring—their A game (when they feel great and have 100% confidence and are completely un-phased), their B game (they feel good, not great but still moderately confident and ready), and their C game (their lowest level of confidence and struggling to be at their best mentally).  He told me that most athletes have their A game only 10% of the time. They spend most of their time with their B and C game, so the trick is to learn how to play through it, even when you don’t feel at your best. He said “you’re not SO bad that you need your A game to get the job done. Feel the fear, and do it anyway.”

From this perspective, it helped me look at fear in a whole new way.  Going from athlete to public speaker, I remind myself that it's okay to have fear (I'm human and I care) but I can't let the fear dominate the way I feel. I focus on the things I can control. 

I'm a firm believer that no stage is too big for a well-prepared person, so I study and practice the craft constantly. I stay true to my authentic self and I don't try to be something I'm not. If I'm not passionate or well-versed in the subject, I won't speak on it. Authenticity is a core principle to being a great speaker.

Beyond the preparation, I visualize myself doing it well. Just like in sports, the mental game is just as important as the talent/skill. I speak positive thoughts to myself about it going well before I step out. When I'm out there, I connect with people in the audience that are engaged and I lean on them throughout the presentation. And lastly, I remind myself that it's not about me. I have a gift in public speaking, but it's about the message and impacting the lives of people that need to hear it. Focusing on the purpose and the why behind the things I do helps me override the fearful thoughts.

Feel the fear, and do it anyway.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.


Blessings and love,

Marti Reed

Marti Reed