If the thought of speaking in public makes you feel sick to the stomach then you can probably relate to these entertainers and entrepreneurs.
They felt the fear too, but prove that you can develop winning tactics for overcoming it.
Many of the world’s most accomplished entrepreneurs and entertainers seem like naturals when it comes to networking, public speaking and performing. They can wow audiences and seem to connect effortlessly with guests at parties, and events.
Well, we’ll let you in on a little secret: many of the world’s most successful people struggled to become comfortable in front of audiences.
For small business owners as well as billionaire business tycoons and pop icons, setting aside fears can take an immense amount of effort, counselling and support. Regardless of the sizes of their businesses and fan-bases – and the popularity of their brands – there is a common thread among all the entrepreneurs and entertainers you’ll see below. Each person found their business and personal brand grew exponentially when they put themselves on stage for the entire world to see.
1. Warren Buffet
Warren Buffet, an investor worth $73.1 billion, used to have a debilitating fear of public speaking. In college, he’d plan his classes in an effort to avoid any course that might involve speaking in front of others. At one point, he tried to face his fear head-on by enrolling in a public speaking class, but he dropped the course before it had begun.
In his 2009 biography The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, he said he was so terrified of public speaking, “I would throw up”.
At 21, Buffet decided that he needed to change. He enrolled in a Dale Carnegie course with a handful of other participants who struggled with the same public speaking phobia.
The course helped him shed his fears of expressing himself in front of others. Of public speaking, Buffet has said: “You’ve got to be able to communicate in life and it’s enormously important. Schools, to some extent, under-emphasise that. If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential.”
He overcame his fear of public speaking by finding a group of like-minded people to learn and grow with. Today, Buffet’s advice on investing and other financial matters makes headlines around the world.
Even veteran performers suffer from stage fright. Despite performing in front of millions of people during her career, Adele has struggled with being comfortable on stage and admitted she was “scared of audiences”.
“One show in Amsterdam I was so nervous, I escaped out the fire exit. I’ve thrown up a couple of times,” she said, during an interview with Rolling Stone.
The pop star opened up about her tactic for calming her stage fright. She said she found strength in Beyoncé’s alter ego Sasha Fierce. Combining Sasha Fierce with the memory of late country icon June Carter, Adele created ‘Sasha Carter’ – a composite that gives her a boost of confidence to take to the stage.
3. Richard Branson
The founder of the world-renowned Virgin brand is another example of an entrepreneur who had to overcome public speaking fears. The business icon says he, “loathes making speeches, and always has”. He recalls a school assignment where he had to speak in front of his classmates, and a bell would ring every time he stumbled over his words. Decades later, Branson says he still breaks out in a sweat when he remembers that task.
Now Branson has a few simple tips for people who struggle with networking and speaking:
• Imagine yourself in a comfortable situation, like being at home surrounded by family, while you are speaking onstage.
• Practice often so you can get comfortable with talking to large groups.
• Prepare before you speak to others so you are fully confident in what you are going to share.
4. Ana Flores
Ana Flores is the founder of the #WeAllGrow blogging network. Flores has to speak in front of others and network on a daily basis. She has had some major speaking assignments as well, such as the address she gave on gender diversity at the White House.
Like others on this list, Flores was once terrified by being in the limelight. Her advice for overcoming your public speaking fears? Never say ‘no’ to a speaking assignment on topics that you believe in and are comfortable with, and make sure that your passion for a topic comes from within so that your speech is genuine and moving.
5. Mark Zuckerberg
Even Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the world´s most popular networking website Facebook, had to face networking and public speaking fears. When Zuckerberg first stepped into the limelight he received criticism for being a poor presenter. In some interviews he’d sweat profusely or stumble over words to the point where it was distracting for viewers. As a young entrepreneur he had a lot to learn about getting in front of crowds.
Observant viewers noticed that Zuckerberg underwent a public speaking transformation after the Wall Street Journal’s D8 conference in 2010. He started radiating calm and confidence in front of crowds, and his messages became stronger and clearer than before. There’s no clear evidence about what he did to bring about the transformation, but as he relaxed more in public his personality has begun to shine through.
So there you have it – five accomplished entrepreneurs and performers who had to use creativity, courage and gusto to tackle their stage fright and to take their businesses to the next level.