3 Encouraging Tips for Shy Public Speakers

Shyness is not just a barrier that affects public speakers. If your life involves pitching, mentoring, or even just team work, shyness is an all-too-common affliction that can bring everything crumbling down. But take it from me–you can overcome! In my earlier career in advertising, hard work and excessive preparation, coupled with a competitive nature honed as an Olympic athlete, meant reasonable success. However, I learned the hard way (not winning pitches often enough) that my delivery was letting me down. When confidence is key, shyness is a barrier.

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To tackle this obstacle, I did what any athlete would do to improve their game: I developed a training program. This involved learning, studying experts, reading widely, finding the best insights, and taking some help from Aristotle and his friends! And, of course, I practiced. For the athlete this calls for repetition of a skill until perfected. For a speaker, frequent rehearsal is much the same.

Today I’m still shy, but when I need to rise to the occasion, I do so effortlessly (or almost!).

In my book, IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SAY, I explore many concepts that helped me live up to the title: ‘It’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it!’ and these three tips inspired me a lot:

  1. Don’t hide your (shy) self behind brilliant a argument (or charts.) It was Oscar Wilde who said: “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.’ Aristotle said it differently: “Character may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion.” People buy people. Before they can be persuaded by you, they need to like you as a person, to feel they know you as you.
  1. Recognize and embrace risk, rather than shrink from it. All performances carry risk. And for the shy person this means a larger step outside the comfort zone. However if you embrace it, you become more comfortable with it. “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” — Pablo Picasso
  1. Remember that nerves are normal. Even the most experienced suffer some degree of nervousness–it is part of great performance whether on a platform, on stage, or on the field. Too much of it can be an issue, but preparation, practical tips like breathing deeply, and most of all rehearsal will bring confidence. “I get nervous when I don’t get nervous. If I’m nervous, I know I’m going to have a good show.” —Beyoncé

~Post by Michael Parker, author of It’s Not What You Say: How to Sell Your Message When it Matters Most, available now:

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