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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking: how one step out of my comfort zone became the best experience of my life!

fibo usa member benefit public speaking the women in fitness association wifa member women in fitness women in fitness association womeninfitnessassociation Nov 19, 2019

My heart is pumping like crazy, my hands are sweaty and I know that my mouth will get dry. I will speak way too fast, begin to stutter and turn red like a tomato… that was me, just before I had to present the FIBO USA strategy in front of 30 international co-workers.

I hated public speaking and never volunteered to present anything. I was convinced that it just was not my thing and that you have to be a natural to rock it on stage! I admired people that stood on stage, their ability to create amazing energy and to captivate and influence an audience. I was fascinated how some speakers touch the audience emotionally and so personally, catch their attention. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and we have to accept that, right? RIGHT? RIGHT?!

NO! DEFINITELY NOT! That was the conclusion I drew after a sleepless night, thinking about my future and my next career developmental steps. I realized that I cannot accept that and I wanted to be more comfortable as a public speaker. Someday, I want to be able to win the hearts and minds of my peers with a professional presentations.

In order to do this I needed to overcome my stupid fear of public speaking and get out of my comfort zone. Not allowing a second thought, I sent an email to Lindsey Rainwater and Emma Barry, at 4AM about an idea. I asked them if I could present my personal story about my experience with the Women in Fitness Association (WIFA) at the American Health and Fitness Forum at FIBO USA. Oh my god, I was so nervous what they would think about the idea. Inexperienced, Maike on stage representing WIFA in front of industry leaders like Phillip Mills, Jon Canarick, Dave Long just to name a few. Was this really a good idea?

Luckily, they loved the idea and offered to support me. I was so happy and flattered! But then the hard part was due, writing my speech and practicing it! OMG!

I still had 2 months until FIBO and I can tell you- I needed that much preparation time!

It took some time to get my story on paper and I was glad that Emma, Lindsey and my WIFA mentor Jennifer gave me many helpful tips and feedback. It was great to hear different opinions and thoughts. I rewrote my speech a couple of times, considering their feedback, but still making sure it was my story. It was important to me to be authentic, because I knew that was the easiest way to present it.

To practice I presented the speech by myself thousands of times. Recording and timing it, editing phrases and words to make it perfect and give it a natural flow. With all of this, I also started to practice my body language, gestures and facial expressions. A couple weeks prior to the presentation day, I did a live rehearsals in my office, via FaceTime and with my roommate. I got very excited to finally share it with a real audience. But I can’t hide it, I was super nervous and didn’t sleep well for several nights before the presentation. It was a big thing for me! Fortunately, I felt super calm and relaxed once I met Lindsey and Emma onsite. They spread such a positive vibe and said “We will have fun today!” And then suddenly the big moment was there. I got up on stage dancing to my intro song “All I do is win” and crushed my presentation. It was so much fun! And it went really well! It wasn't perfect, like I left out two passages. But, no one noticed because the audience doesn’t know what I had planned. In the end, I was so proud of myself, I did it! WOW, what a feeling! The hard work and all the practice was worth it!

After this experience I am convinced that every person can be a great public speaker. My personal recipe of success is:

  • You should really want to make this happen and believe in yourself.
  • Be willing to get out of your comfort zone by having a positive impact in mind.
  • Speak about something you are passionate about or very knowledgeable in.
  • Be authentic and always yourself.
  • Find people that support you.
  • Practice, practice, practice!

If you are interested in reading my story and speech about “Getting out of your comfort zone” click here

Author: Maike Kumstel