“I Hope I’ll Get in a Car Wreck on the Way There”


My client said it half-jokingly, but there was an element of truth in her words.

She was talking about preparing for a speech.

She went on;

My heart pounds when it’s my turn to speak at work. Even when we’re just doing introductions around a table, and I know almost everyone there.”

I felt her pain.

She’s an executive who spends the majority of her time in front of people, and she still gets nervous. 

She’s not someone who;

lacks preparation (she’s usually over-prepared)

doesn’t understand  (she knows how to visualize success)

has never been (she’s been up in front of groups)

Her brutally honest comment made me cringe. She was more open about her fear than most people.

When I started coaching people in public speaking, I taught a  formula for how to “get over the fear.”  If a client would simply follow a set of prescribed steps, they would overcome their fear and be comfortable speaking in public.

While some clients had success with it, the formula didn’t work for everyone.

I ended up with clients who still felt fear before speaking and often felt worse about themselves afterward because the “magic formula” didn’t work for them.

Making people feel worse after working with me isn’t something I aspire to do.

I had a lot to learn about how to guide people through the anxiety that comes with public speaking.

I don’t teach “magic” fixes anymore.  I know now that I’ll be a lifelong student of the craft, and so will my clients. 

So, what do I do with clients today?

Good question.

In general, here’s what I cover with folks;

1.) Acknowledge the fear. 

Vulnerability is viewed as a weakness, not a strength, especially in business. Acknowledging your fear gives them less power and allows you to move forward despite it.

2.) Channel your fear.

The physiological feelings of fear are the same as excitement (rapid heart rate, fast breathing, shaking, etc.).  Relabeling “fear” as  “excitement” about speaking reframes the physiological response. Being excited about speaking makes the experience more enjoyable for you and your audience.

3.) Practice. Practice. Practice. 

In real life scenarios, as often as possible.  Every time you speak, whether it’s in front of one person or a thousand people, it’s public speaking. Take every opportunity to practice in meetings, networking events, and even when talking with family and friends.

4.) Go easy after.

Focusing only on your weaknesses is defeating. Find the five things you did right and celebrate those. Then choose one thing you want to improve the next time and focus on that.

5.) Give yourself permission not to like it. 

While you might be required to speak in public, you aren’t required to like it.  Contrary to what “the world” or social media might tell you,  you can find a task unlikeable and do it well.


These guidelines give the client and me a place to start. Not everyone’s fear or anxiety is the same.  Every client comes with unique perspectives and needs that require individualized planning vs. prescribed formulas.


As for my client, she delivered her speech with great success, despite my attempt to “formula away” her fear.  She avoided a car wreck, figuratively and literally.

















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