Public Speaking: Why It Can Torment You Forever (If You Let It)!

Public  Speaking Why It Can Torment You Forever

Have you ever been to a primary school play?

There they are, all the kids, all keen to play their part.

And then one kid forgets his part

He stands there dumbfounded. Unable to speak. Frozen in fear. The words seemingly circulating in his brain somewhere.

I was that kid!

Except I wasn’t five years old. I was thirty-three years old and I was giving my first presentation ever on The Brain Audit. Except at that point, it wasn’t even called The Brain Audit. I was, at least in my mind, just giving a one hour seminar.

And about twenty minutes into that one hour, I froze

Nothing. I couldn’t remember a thing. There were twenty five people in the room looking right at me, and my mind was blankety-blank. And time doesn’t just slow down in these moments. It shuts down. You feel suffocated, unable to move or even twitch an eyebrow.

My wife, Renuka saved me that night

She told the audience we were going to take a 10-minute break. Imagine that. A 10-minute break in the middle of a presentation. But there I was ten minutes later, my brain all rebooted. And I gave my first presentation on The Brain Audit ever. But that was my first ever event. Sure I goofed up. But then I was fine.

Fine until Wellington, that is

I had to speak to this group of insurance agents. One hundred and fifty of them. And I was being paid the grand sum of $1500 plus airfare + expenses. And though it was at least three-four years later and forty presentations later, I did it again.

I became that five-year old on the stage again

My 45-minute speech was done in twenty. And I fled the stage. I was mortified because I forgot what I was supposed to say. And I knew in that moment, that I really should stop trying to be a speaker. Heck I might as well go and hide behind my computer and never show my face again.

Moments of doubt creep up in everyone’s mind

But this isn’t a moment. This is a crisis. You’re being mangled, pulverised and every bone in your body is telling you to eject, eject and eject.

And yet you stay on course. You feel the anguish, the shame, the utter doubt. And then when you’ve done enough of your self-pity, you wake up the next day (or several days later) and you get back to doing what you need to do.

What I needed to do was go back to Wellington

Back to that same hotel. Back to that same stage. Back to face a fear so strong that even though I wasn’t going to be speaking to the same audience; or even speaking on the same topic; or the fact that several years had elapsed. I was still petrified of—get this—the very room!

But that’s what you have to do

The only way to face the fear is to face it. You pick yourself, dust yourself off and start all over again. That’s what marks out the people who succeed vs. the people who don’t.

The people who don’t make excuses. They say: I tried this stuff. It didn’t work. Well hello there, try it again. And again. At least so that you get over the fear. If for no one else, then at least for yourself.

Because the moment of doubt doesn’t care

As you get better at what you do, you have more challenges. Some challenges you breeze through. Some make you feel five again. Fearful. Blank. Unable to go on. But you must go on, because if you do there is that so-called pot of gold waiting at the end of the rainbow.

Remember The Brain Audit presentation I was telling you about?

Well, at that point I hadn’t written The Brain Audit. But after that event, someone came up to me and asked me for notes. Of course I didn’t have any notes. But she persisted. So I wrote out the notes a few days later and sent it to her in a PDF. Those notes became the basis for The Brain Audit as it is today.

And today that one book alone has sold over $500,000 worth of copies to date.

One book. Half a million dollars!

In my wildest dreams I could not have envisioned a turnaround like that. But it could have gone the other way as well. I could have given up. Decided to go into early ‘retirement’. And that would be the end.

Doubt shakes our very core

When you’re doing a course. Learning a new skill. Doing something different or scary. And the longer you wallow in self-pity, the more stupid excuses you make, the more that doubt is going to chew you up and spit you out.

Be that five year old

Freeze in fear if you have to. Take your ’10-minute break.’

Then come back to fight.

And win!

P.S. So what was your scariest presentation moment? And how did you overcome it? Share your experience here

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“I first bought the Brain Audit in 2002. It was 32 pages long.
And I thought it was the best damn book on copywriting I had read


It laid down the entire sequence of elements that any successful salesletter or presentation needs to cover to make the prospect say “yes!?”

I really thought that Brain Audit could not be improved upon.

But year after year, Sean has been proving me wrong. He has improved upon it. And improved upon it. And improved upon it.

Sean’s added more details to the Brain Audit. More stories and analogies. Better graphics (and fun cartoons!). He has used every teaching trick possible to make sure that you not only understand the sequence of elements needed to make people buy… but the sequence soaks into your thinking pattern too.

Today, the Brain Audit 3.2 is 157 pages long! And its the best* book on persuasion you will ever read!

* Until Sean comes out with version 4.0 a year or 2 down the line. But you really can’t afford to wait a year or 2 to take advantage of the Brain Audit, can you?

Ankesh Kothari – Biztactics, USA

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  1. Gerry Markee says

    Many years ago, I was elected to office in a local union. I had to speak in front of small groups of people during that election and all was fine. It was not until I had to speak at an International Convention in front of almost three thousand people that I finally found myself suffering from some severe mental cramps. I could hardly remember what to say and I knew what I had to say was important. Others were depending on me to represent them in this serious matter.

    How did I unfreeze?

    An opponent told me that what I had to say was irrelevant and silly. And then I remembered that these people were no different than I was. We had all come to this place to represent people we cared about. I carefully walked up to the stage and looked down at all of those people, held onto the lecturn
    and made my presentation. I knew what I had to say mattered. Strangely, it all went off without a hitch. My knees were weak, but my word were not. Sometimes a negative comment can make you angry and anger can give you strength.

    I am a Trainer now, and every time I look at the students in front of me, I realize, they are important and what wisdom I can pass on matters. But I no longer need the anger to give me strength. After speaking in front of three thousand people, a classroom of 2o people is so much easier.

  2. says

    What an awesome read Sean.

    Stage fright has always been more than an issue for me.

    It has been my worst nightmare through all my oral speeches in academic assignments, including university and of course, professional meetings.

    Now that I’m working for myself, I don’t sweat off in business meetings anymore but as soon as I realized that as an Internet Marketer I needed to record videos, the horror immediately came back.

    I imposed myself a public “video challenge” in which I would have to record a video teaching something for seven days in a row.

    The videos were LOUSY as hell and I literally felt like dying on every single one of them but at some times, I actually felt confident. At least for a few minutess or sometimes seconds.

    Then I would lose the confidence again at a latter time but in the end, I got bored of being scared and I noticed that I actually enjoyed those seconds when it felt good.

    So my only way to overcoming my fear to being on camera was repetition.

    I bet I would faint speaking to a live audience though lol but again, I think the only way for overcoming that, is repetition too.

    Great story Sean, thanks for sharing it! 😉


  3. says

    Good evening Sean!

    My scariest moment came years after speaking publicly for the first time. Having been used to lecturing, talking to large groups wasn’t an issue – but after a year or so ‘out of action’ I undertook a small group engagement, talking about one of my passions – our local stately home.

    Despite – or because of, I’m not sure which – having researched and rehearsed, when faced with the intimacy of the group I froze. Brain death set in and – shame of shames – I started crying!

    The audience were ever so nice and started clapping. I don’t know what was funny about the situation, but I started laughing – hysteria, I think. But it helped get things moving again and I found out later they thought I’d been moved by passion for the subject – not fear!

    With hindsight, I think the intimacy of the situation was the stimulus for fear. It’s easy to look beyond people when there are lots of them, but when you’re ‘up close’ with people the pressure is so much greater.

    Lessons learnt – lots of deep breathing; take your time; and just talk to people, not at them.

  4. Maggie says

    In a former job, I had to talk about my department for new employee orientations. About six months into the gig, I had done the same presentation twice before. Neither proved to be award winning performances, but they weren’t terrible. Until the third one. I’m not sure what happened that day, but five minutes into it my mind froze, my heart leaped into my throat and my entire mouth went dry. I distinctly remember every nervous feeling to it’s fullest: the throbbing of my heart beat in my throat, the dizzying whirl of thoughts in my head and the scratchy sandpaper quality of my tongue. As I fought my need to flee, I searched for anything that would help. Then I saw it, a water bottle. I snatched it off of the table and chugged it all in one big gulp. This was, of course, before I realized that I had stolen an employees (opened) water bottle and slurped it down as she stared at me in shock (and I think horror.) There was no recovery available at this point. I simply put the water bottle down on the table and told the employees “thank you for having me, if you have any questions about Department X, please send me an email.” I walked out of the room and signaled to the next presenter to go on next. I felt like a failure, and idiot and like a scared child. I scurried back to my office, shut the door and cried. In three months I had to give the presentation all over again. This time, I asked to be somewhere in the middle of the presentations…not the first and not the last. I figured waiting too long built up the nerves, but I needed to settle into the room before going up and addressing everyone. It worked, for the most part. I was still nervous. My voice shook and my armpits sweated profusely. But, I didn’t steal any opened water bottles and I made it though my material without freezing. Facing the same room again (with different people in it) was difficult. I had flashbacks from the great failure from before, but I simply told myself over and over, “that was my one big bomb and it’s over now” and I pushed forward to slightly less awkward public speaking.

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