How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking

“I have recognized that I can put on a better show than I feel, but I still know the show is not at all perfect.”

Kate Purcell


For many people reading this it will be hard to imagine that behind the face of some hardworking friends or colleagues, riding up through the management ranks, is perhaps a shy and introverted person hating every minute of it. Or someone who seems confident enough when standing in front of a group of people is in fact riddled with nerves, fighting to control their shaking, while feeling sick to their stomach.


This was the reality for Kate Purcell and, after constantly feeling pressured into taking higher management roles and hating every minute of it, found relief in the opinion that you do not have to rise in the management ladder, you can just enjoy your job.


Kate has always been a shy, introverted perfectionist who gravitated towards leadership roles. As the school captain in primary school, she always took the easy way out and avoided public speaking. The type to wave to a famous person from afar rather than go up and say “hi”, like everyone else. Now, as an adult, Kate is a team leader in health administration. She is an excellent worker and this role suits her perfectly as it involves one-on-one training sessions rather than standing in front of a group in a classroom situation.


Have you read: The Leadership Journey of School Captains – Taylem Barnard & Robert Bacon


As someone who is consistently trying to be the best she can be, doing what she should be doing to contribute to the organisation, Kate always knew her fear of public speaking, or even the concern of making a fool of herself while participating in any activity in public, was stopping her from doing fun and exciting things. Her normal response, when she knew a challenging activity was coming up, was to feel physically sick all day and not enjoy the event. This followed with utter relief afterwards, combined with the awesome feeling of self-satisfaction – once she calmed down a bit.


The turning point for Kate came after a couple of things significantly rocked her confidence. She realised it wasn’t just public speaking that she needed to improve, she needed to work on her overall confidence to enable her to live her best life. Kate had heard of Toastmasters so, after having the tab opened on her computer for months, she set off to attend her first meeting at Brisbane Water Breakfast Toastmasters Club. Kate did not let anyone know she was coming so she could easily back out and only let herself down.


She arrived and sat in the car park for 30 minutes messaging her husband, who always offered his unwavering support.


Have you read: Are You Stronger Than Your Excuses? – Julie Watson


Luckily for Kate and for the members of the club, she got out of the car, attended her first meeting and has gone on to achieve great things. These include:


  1. Kate has become the President of the Brisbane Water Breakfast Toastmasters Club and is diligently consolidating policy processes, role descriptions and resources
  2. Kate still shakes and can’t speak without her notes, but she doesn’t feel quite so sick anymore
  3. Kate has faced up to scathing evaluations and reciprocated by returning targeted feedback
  4. Kate has been a valued guest on The Culture of Leadership Podcast
  5. Kate has recently won the evaluation contest at her club meeting


Click here to listen to Kate’s story and learn exactly how she has overcome her fear of public speaking. She is not sure that she would have taken her own advice initially but hopes that people connect with her story, take her advice and just give it a shot!



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