Overcoming Fear at the Big Show

The Cover Slide for my presentation at the Big Show

A key factor of personal development and growth for any of us is overcoming our fears. For me 2012 was a year of breaking down barriers and ended with me finally overcoming my fear of speaking in public, something that used to terrify me.

In fact, the thought of public speaking is something that sends a chill down the spine of even the most confident individual. In his book ‘…and Death Came Third!: The Definitive Guide to Networking and Speaking in Public’ Andy Lopata refers to a New York Times Survey on Social Anxiety that listed people’s biggest fears. Perhaps surprisingly, ahead of the fear of death in third place and walking into a room full of strangers on second place came speaking in public.

I, like so many others, can remember anxious, sleepless nights before having to give presentations in front of my high school peers. The fear of making a fool of myself was overwhelming. At university I decided to confront the problem and signed up for a public speaking class. I gradually became more confident and must have appeared more at ease than I felt as I achieved the top grade in the subject and walked away with the award for most creative presentation.

It was a few months ago that I was approached by Quach Tuan Khanh, widely recognised as Vietnam’s top public speaker. He asked if I would be interested in joining him as a key speaker at the Big Show, the largest public speaking event in Vietnam last year. Although the idea was daunting, and I had arranged to spend Christmas with my family in Sweden,

Nick presenting at the Big Show in HCMC

I knew the chance was just too big to turn down. I cancelled my travel plans and started researching topics I felt qualified to present. Together Quach Tuan Khanh and I decided my subject should be ‘Failure Before Success’. I am no stranger to adversity and I have had my fair share of failures. However, I have always tried to rise above them, learn from them, and turn those failures into success.

During my time with Oriflame and Sophie Paris Vietnam I have delivered hundreds of talks, training seminars and lectures; the largest of which was in a stadium filled with 3,000 people. However, I was now being asked to speak for one-and-a-half hours in front of business professionals. Each was paying US$60 to come and hear what I had to say, a significant portion of their monthly income. This was serious and I knew I would have to prepare and practice thoroughly if I was going to pull it off.

Nick with the most famous speakers in Vietnam

Throughout December I toured Vietnam with a number of well known public speakers addressing some 1,700 business professionals in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Can Tho.

It was after my final major presentation to a crowd of 800 in HCMC that I realised I was facing my fear of speaking to large numbers of strangers and winning. Following my talk I was thrilled to be asked to pose for photos with members of the audience and sign autographs. I was even asked to sign books. Many of the people I met on the tour were moved to tears and thanked me for inspiring them. The feeling was incredible and I have had endless emails, phone calls and texts since. I cannot describe how proud I feel to have been an inspiration to others or how thankful I am not to have let my fear of public speaking beat me.  I am looking forward to more presentations and to further inspire and help other people overcoming their fears. As Brian Tracy puts it “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help other. Unsuccessful people are always asking. What’s in it for me”.

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    1. Andy Lopata says:

      Congratulations Nick and thank you for the kind reference to ‘…and Death Came Third!’.

      Your achievement was even greater because, I assume, you were speaking in your second language to an audience who naturally speak a third. That’s no easy feat and even more nerve wracking.

      However, having seen you engage a Sophie Paris audience masterfully, I was surprised to read of your fear. And that’s an important lesson to anyone who shares it. You are often much better and more able than you imagine yourself to be; your nerves are often only apparent to one person – you.

      Most importantly, the sense of achievement when you successfully conquer your fears far outweighs the discomfort you experience in the process.

    2. Håkan Lagesson says:

      Wow Nick!

      It may sound weird but I’m proud of you, you have really come a long way in your personal development. It’s also a really interesting topic you’re talking about, fears.

      Fear I believe is one of the biggest hindrances to a personal development, sometimes you will just have to lean out a little bit out of your comfort zone to grow as a person.

      I agree speaking in front of people is surprisingly one of the greatest fear and that’s really strange, I mean people can throw themselves out from a cliff bungyjumping or parachuting without a problem but when it comes to holding a speech they freeze, I know I do.

      Just like you, when holding a speech in school it was overwhelming. I remember the physical stress, how my throat constricted and I started to sweat, stammer and then the speaking part became even worse, at one time I started to cry, not a pretty sight ;o) I would like to know why it happens, what physical and mental progress is going on in the body to cause such a reaction from something that’s not really dangerous? Is it our desire to fit in, the fear of making a fool of our self as you say, how can that be such a big intinct in our lives?

      The thing is that something happens when you are up there doing a presentation or a speech, it’s hard to explain but it’s like you only have access to 1/3 of your minds capacity. It’s becoming easier and easier the more you do it and nowadays people say my presentations are really good and I that I don’t look nervous but inside I’m shaking and the presentations aren’t as good as they can be.

      One of the key factors to a good presentation I believe is preparation and if using powerpoint to use just keywords, you want the people to listen to what you have to say not to read a powerpoint.

      Social networking is another thing, I actually don’t want to talk to people because I don’t thing I have anything important to say. I guess it’s an insecurity withing myself and my profession.

      I like to thank you Nick for making my morning here in a snowy blistering cold Sweden by reminding me of some of my fears. I might just pick up that book you mentioned, Death came third… what a great title :o)

      Lots of hugs from Öland, Sweden!

      Take care mate/ Håkan Lagesson

    3. Angel Vera says:

      Congrats Nicks.. I remember taking the same public speaking course.. 🙂

      Was your speech recorded? I want to hear it!