How I Overcame My Fear of Public Speaking

If you’re afraid of speaking in public, you’re not alone. In fact, Forbes contributor Nick Morgan says a whopping 10 percent of people enjoy public speaking. For the rest of us, talking in front of others induces hair-raising fear or butterflies or lost sleep or a general feeling that we’d rather be anywhere else.

For most of my life, I suffered from a genuine case of glossophobia, the medical term for a fear of public speaking. I knew most of the answers in class but didn’t dare raise my hand. I dreaded group presentations. I didn’t participate at youth group meetings. My fear extended to nonverbal activities, too. My hands shook on the piano keys during recitals in front of a room full of students and parents, even though I could play the pieces to perfection for the stern judges at music competitions. Early in my soccer career, I played so stiff on the field that the ball sometimes bounced off my foot, right to a defender.

Practice makes public speaking easier, but passion is even more important. I’ve spent most of the last 10 years telling parts of the same story, adding bits here and there to reflect our little organization’s ascension and my sister’s physical decline. I’ve spoken at large and small events, to groups of friends and complete strangers, on live radio and TV, from chilly hotel ballrooms in North Carolina to an emerald lawn overlooking Shipwreck Beach on Kauai.Charlottesville TV interview

I’m still a strong I on the Myers-Briggs scale, but as I once told a friend, Taylor helped me find my inner E. And this fall, I’ll do something I never imagined possible: I’ll deliver a talk on the TED stage.

In a lot of ways, I’m still the girl whose face turned beet red whenever a teacher called her name in class. But my sister taught me that it’s important to push your own limits. Now, I channel her strength, whether I’m pushing my body to run a fast race or write one more paragraph long after midnight or speak in front of 500 strangers. And when I step onto that stage this October to talk about my sister’s life and the impact of rare disease and strategies to fix it, I’ll take a piece of her with me.

TEDxCharlotte 2017 is Friday, October 13. Tickets go on sale in early June. I hope to see you there!

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