From Severe Public Speaking Anxiety to Giving a TEDx Talk:
Part 1 — The Intention to Overcome
Have you ever been in a situation where you physically can’t do what your mind wants you to?
In 2010, I was about to give a big business presentation to a large potential corporate partner. While being introduced, I suddenly felt extremely hot and my heart began to race like mad. When it was my turn to speak, my voice was barely audible and I was filled with terror! All I could think of doing was running out of the room — and that is exactly what I did.
I sprinted to a nearby bathroom where I looked myself in the mirror and said, “Seth, get your stuff together!” I then forced myself to go back into the room to face the audience. They had a glass of water for me, thinking I just had a scratchy throat.
I remember taking a drink of the water and then beginning to speak while looking at my feet. My fear was so strong I couldn’t face the room, but somehow I got through the first minute of talking. Then I felt my body begin to relax, and I was able to finish my talk.
Afterward, I spoke to one of the attendees who said he simply figured I had a slight cold or something and that was all that caused my shaky beginning. He thought nothing of it! Little did he or others in the room know the hell I had just gone through with a full-fledged panic-attack.
In the following months and years I continued to deal with major fears about speaking, but I kept it mostly a secret. I tried to deal as best as I could and I continued to work on finding a solution.
One day during this process, I set the intention that I WOULD overcome this fear. I decided the ultimate milestone of me achieving this goal would be if I could give a TED talk. TED talks — to me and many others — are currently the pinnacle of public speaking achievement. It’s sharing your “Big Idea” onstage in a concise, relatable and compelling way that will be in front of potentially millions of people online.
This couldn’t have been a more crazy thought given how I was unable at the time to speak to two people in a small conference room without feeling severe anxiety! And here I was making a note in my journal in 2012, setting the intention that I would one day speak in front of a huge live audience while being filmed, facing my ultimate fear in front of thousands of people.
That intention took root, and in the years after I took specific steps to overcome my public speaking anxiety, until I reached my ultimate goal on August 20, 2016, on the Santa Barbara TEDx stage. Here is my 16-minute talk. Let me know what you think.
This is the first article of a three-part series. Coming soon:
Part 2 — Working through Fears
Part 3 — Public Speaker in Training