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  • Writer's pictureDr. Christine Senn, PhD

A Tip to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Interviewing

I listened to the most fascinating podcast recently and it was with marketing guru, Rory Vaden, who talked about the fear of presenting — and one of the ways to overcome it, to have a mind shift change about it. Phenomenal! Because although it makes sense to me, I never would have put this into words. And just putting it into words for you, I'm hoping, will help you. I encourage you to listen to his whole podcast.

The idea he proposed was something that doesn't sound very good at first. You might not like it if you don't like to present. He proposed that if you have a fear of presenting, you are too focused on yourself.

Okay, let's sit with that for a second.

You're too focused on yourself. If you have a fear of presenting, you are not selfish—that's not what he's saying. He's saying that the purpose of your presentation is to add value to other people.

Right now, my hope is I'm adding value to you through my words. If you didn't like it, you’d stop reading. That's all that would happen and that is fine, right? But my hope is I'm adding value to somebody, and if one person gets value, that's a wonderful thing.

What I'd in no way be thinking about if I were speaking in front of you live, however, is if I’d stumble on my words (because I would), or if I’d forget what I'm supposed to present on (um, that could happen), but that's where slides can help in a presentation, for example, or handouts. You might be worried about how people are going to perceive your intelligence, your looks, or anything else. And that focus on you is not the purpose of why you're presenting in the first place, but it’s the thing that's causing anxiety.

My guess is that if you were able to say, “I have to make this presentation to my boss, my department, my board — whomever it is — and I want to add as much value as possible,” your anxiety will go down, because all you have to do now is prepare for it. And you have time to prepare for it, hopefully. Now, if you're speaking in public, that can be a little harder, right? Now you have even more people there and you might not know them. It's the same thing. They signed up to go to your presentation because the title looked like it had value for them. Provide value. One nugget out of a half-hour presentation is all people really are looking for. I'm talking to you about a podcast that was an hour long to give you one nugget from the entire podcast. It wasn't the crux of the entire podcast. So, think about that. What's the value you add? That's the first part. That’s when you're presenting something.

The second part is actually why I'm in a hotel room right now. It's because I am going to have to go in for something like an interview where 4 people that I don't know from companies I don't know are going to interview me within a one-hour period. So, it's like speed dating for interviewing. Last night I was having real anxiety about it. Quite significant anxiety, which is atypical for me. And that's when this conversation hit me. It’s about me. Going in and talking about me is literally about me, right? That's what an interview is. At least this was my perception at the time. The interview is about me, and I have to talk about myself. Well, that doesn't really come naturally to me. I don't have a need to talk about myself; it’s not what I do. I'm here to add value to whomever I'm speaking to. So how do I reconcile that when it's supposed to be that I'm talking about me?

Finally, last night it hit me. It's not about me, right? If you're going into an interview, why are they interviewing you? Because they have a need. They have a need! You have a need to get a job, but they have a need to fill a job — and they might even have more than one job. So, my perspective immediately was able to change from, “Oh my gosh, this is all about me,” to “What’s my value-add to them?” Well, my value-add to them, if this were a job interview, would be that I could be the person that solves all their problems for this job. I fill a need they have. So, in my situation it's not that, but it is still an interview.

My perspective going in is going to be that I'm just going to have a conversation. I don't really know their needs. They want to know about me, but I, like you, am a very complex person. It's not like I have one set thing about me that I want to share with someone to convince them that I'm the greatest person for their job. I don't even know what that is. So I need to learn, first and foremost, what they are looking for. Then, what's the value I add? You know, if they're looking for a banking expert, I can't add value in that regard, but could I talk to them about something else? Could we just connect and I have a new friend and that's it? Friends are value, right? I could have a new colleague, a new connection in the world. Someone else might need a skill set that I do have and we could chat about what value I add there.

Putting the whole thing together, I normally do not have anxiety. I did have anxiety until I figured out my value-add. So focus on that, and I hope you have a great week adding value to other people. Take care!


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