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How to overcome your fear of public speaking

Rory Vaden Public Speaker

I am amazed that it has already been over eight years since I came in second at the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking.

And still to this day many interviewers ask me questions about that season in my life, which was so long ago. The most common question asked is, “How did you overcome your fear of speaking in public?”

It really is quite simple.

First, you have to have an understanding of what causes this type of fear in general.

Fear is the result of a self centered perspective. It is thinking about whether or not you’ll be good enough, whether other people will like it, or whether you are ready.

In other words, fear results when you’re thinking about all of the bad things that could happen to you.

That is amplified when you think about being in front of a room full of people. If something goes wrong, you not only have the personal embarrassment you would feel of making a mistake, but it is compounded by the humiliation of having many people witness it live.

In general, fear is your creativity working in the wrong direction.

In this instance, fear results as you allow yourself to daydream about all of the terrible things that could happen to you while you are up speaking.

So the solution to overcoming this fear is very simple…

The solution is to not think about yourself.

The solution is to be others-centered.

The solution is to think about other people-specifically the audience.

The solution is to think about how you are going to help them – and not worry about you.

If you simply direct all of your energy into helping them rather than into worrying about yourself, your presentation, what you’re going to say, and whether or not they are going to like you…your fear will go away.

“It’s hard to be nervous when your heart is on service.”

So right before any presentation I do not think as much about what I’m going to say, or what people are going to think about me.

Instead, I stand back stage behind the curtain and I look out over the room. And then I pick people out of the crowd one by one.

And in my mind I think about what life might be like to be that person. I think about what are the types of things that person might be struggling with on a day-to-day basis. I create a story in my mind about some of the physical, mental, emotional, financial, professional, relational, and spiritual challenges they might be dealing with.

I think about how hard it might be to be that person.

And then I think about how likely it is that this person has only a very small few number of people – if any – who constantly encourage them in their life.

In that moment, when I feel connected to that person, I simply ask God to use me in a way that would help them. That He would give me the words to say that would encourage them. That the ideas that I share would excite them.

And then I move on to the next person.

I consider that as my creativity working in the positive direction.

It takes all of the focus off of me and my fear goes away with it.

The #1 Greatest Secret Technique of World Championship Winning Speeches and Presenters

What if I told you there was one distinctive secret of world champion presentations that separates them from all others?

Well there most certainly is…

I don’t talk about it much anymore these days, but a big part of how I started my speaking career was by competing in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking.

It’s a contest where 25,000 contestants compete over 9 months for the chance to be called the World Champion of Public Speaking.

I joined Toastmasters in October 2005 when I was 22 years old and I saw the World Championship as a way to establish some credibility for myself in the world of professional speaking.

Over the next 2 years, I did 304 speeches for free, received over 2,200 evaluations, watched over 3,000 hours of film, read dozens of books and took dozens of courses in the art of speaking.

In August of 2006, I made it to the World Championships: the top 10 speakers in the world. That year though, I lost.

But in August of 2007, however, I made it back to the World Championship and that was the year that I…well I lost again but I lost higher!

As Jerry Seinfeld would say, I was “the #1 loser.” Because in 2007 I became the Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking First Runner Up. In other words, I came in second place in the world just after my 24th birthday.

But after all of that relentless study, I realized that there was 1 primary secret between the winning speeches and everyone else.

To this day, I’ve noticed the same to be true on the professional speaking circuit and in all of the presentations we see at various companies.

Here’s the secret…

Most people take a 9-minute speech and try to cram it into 7 minutes (the maximum amount of allowable time in a Toastmasters competition).

The champions take a 4-minute speech and they deliver it in 6.

Champions realize that less is more.

They allow time for pauses.

They allow time for laughter.

They allow time for spontaneous connection with the audience.

And that is true for any presenter – whether it’s a CEO at a company meeting, an entrepreneur at a pitch meeting to investors, a salesperson trying to demonstrate the benefits of a product to a prospect, or a professional speaker speaking to an audience.

You have to allow time for space and margin and connection.

It is one of the most challenging but important disciplines of professional speaking.

Most people can’t do it.

Most people instead try to say everything they know in the short amount of time they have alloted.

Don’t do that.

Be concise.

As Mark Twain once said, “brevity is the essence of wisdom.”

And remember as James C. Humes wrote…

There are 66 words in the Lord’s Prayer…most people can recite it.

There are 179 words in the 10 Commandments…most people know a few.

There are 282 words in the Gettysburg Address…most people would at least recognize it.

And then there are 26,911 words in the United States Government’s regulation on the sale of cabbage!

And nobody cares!

Less is more.

The Most Painful, Expensive and Valuable Marketing Lesson I’ve Ever Learned

Pardon the transparency but my newest book, Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time, isn’t selling very well.

Don’t get me wrong; we had a very successful initial launch of the book in the first few weeks of the year when we were driving traffic and telling all of our fans and followers about it’s release.

It sells phenomenally well at the back of the room after I speak.

And it sells nicely to people who watch the free 1 hour webinar about it at

The problem, is that unlike Take the Stairs, it isn’t selling organically well to people who have never heard about me. It sells fine in the channels we control where we own the process and know the people and they know us. But it isn’t doing very well yet in bookstores and on the public Bookscan.

In other words, it isn’t propagating among strangers who pass it along to a friend and a friend of a friend.

And I couldn’t figure out why not?

Because (again pardon the transparency) I think the book is brilliant. Not because I wrote it but because I believe it is truly unique from what you hear in most time management or productivity books. I am convicted that it actually forwards the thinking of what has been done in the space and doesn’t just rehash the same tired techniques we typically hear.

Most of all, the principles in the book actually WORK! They actually help you to create more time and better results in your life. They can radically transform your life and we have stories and examples of clients who have used them to do so.

Plus, the 5x growth of our team at Southwestern Consulting in the last three years is proof that the principles work as we’ve applied them to our own business.

So why the heck isn’t the book selling?

It all became clear to me a few weeks ago when I was sitting around the fire pit chatting with one of my new pals, founder of StoryBrand, and branding guru (not to mention a mega-bestselling author), Donald Miller.

He said, “at first I thought the title Procrastinate on Purpose was genius. I loved how it was catchy and counter culture to everything you ever hear. It was provocative and attention-grabbing. It also seemed like a fun play on what you wrote in Take the Stairs about how to overcome procrastination.”

“Me too!” I replied.

He went on, “But then I realized it had a major flaw.”

“Do tell” I pleaded.

“The problem is the title. And it’s a nuanced problem but the problem is that the title isn’t what people want to do. It may be what they actually do; but it isn’t what they want to do.”

Don explained further, “We only buy things that we really want and nobody wants to procrastinate. Even those that do it don’t typically like that they do it. Plus, nobody needs help learning how to procrastinate. And even though the book is not about procrastination but about how to create more time, the cover says Procrastinate on Purpose. But I don’t want to be a procrastinator and so I can’t allow myself to buy your book. I never even give myself a chance to look to see what is inside.”


That is incredibly deep, truly profound, and starkly simple.

And that was a painful moment for me. It’s not easy to realize that a big part of what you’ve poured the last couple years of your life into (and thousands of dollars) has a massive flaw in it.

But it was also tremendously valuable for me because in that one moment with that one insight from Don, I finally figured out how to title things.

You should title things…

Not based on what you do.

Not based on who you are.

Not based on what you have.

Not based on what people need.

Not based on what people like.

Not based on what is catchy.

Not based on what is popular.

From a marketing perspective, you should simply title things based on what do people want?!

Think about it…

We all want:

a 4 Hour Workweek
to Win Friends and Influence People
to Think and Grow Rich
to know The Secret
to have the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
and to go from Good to Great.

Which by the way probably explains why Jim Collins’ Good to Great has sold over 4x more copies than one of his other books that I believe is far superior called Built to Last.

Fewer people run around thinking “I want something built to last.”

Everyone wants to know how to go from good to great.

When I first started in my career, I had a mentor tell me “Rory nobody will ever buy discipline because nobody likes the word.”

Obviously with the sales of Take the Stairs we have proven him wrong.

But that’s because even though nobody likes discipline, most of us agree that we want to be better at it.

In general, we want to do the right thing, we want to do the things we know we should do, and so even though we don’t like it we do kind of want to Take the Stairs – at least metaphorically speaking.

The simple magic question for you to be asking then is “what is it about what I do that people want?”

Here’s another great case study…

My Ted talk.

My Tedx talk is the most viral thing we’ve ever done. Within a few months of being released we are approaching 250,000 views. And while we’ve dumped thousands of dollars into marketing our book, we’ve done just about zero to market the Ted talk.

Here’s what’s crazy: the Ted talk is based on the exact content that is in the new Procrastinate on Purpose book!

So why is the Ted talk going viral around the world meanwhile nobody is picking up and buying the actual book?


The title of the Ted talk?

How to Multiply Your Time

For the Ted talk title we dropped Procrastinate On Purpose and just instinctively went with How to Multiply Your Time.

And while nobody wants to procrastinate; everybody wants more time! That’s what the book is really about.

The formula fits.

Moral of the story: ask the question “what do people want?” and make that your title.

By the way, I thought about calling this blog “why my book title sucks” which would be attention-grabbing. But it doesn’t have much to do with what people want.

What people want is to avoid painful and expensive marketing lessons and to learn valuable ones, so I went with that. I guess we’ll see how it plays out.

This realization is very painful for me on the book that we just put a huge amount of effort into launching. It’s expensive because the money and time has already been spent.

But it’s valuable because I’ll never make this mistake again.

Michael Port: Steal the Show – Episode 107 of the Daily Discipline Show with Rory Vaden

Michael PortMichael Port – Called “an uncommonly honest author” by the Boston Globe, a “marketing guru” by The Wall Street Journal, and a “sales guru” by the Financial Times, Michael Port is a NY Times bestselling author of six books including Book Yourself Solid, The Think Big Manifesto and his hot new release, Steal the Show. To learn more about his new book, visit

Interestingly, he is probably the only NY Times bestselling business book author to have also been a successful professional actor, guest starring on shows like Sex & The City, Law & Order, Third Watch, All My Children and in films like The Pelican Brief and Down to Earth.

These days, Michael can be seen regularly on MSNBC, CNBC, and PBS as an on air expert in communication and business development.

Show Highlights:

  • Sometimes, it’s good to cut the fluff and get straight to the point. @michaelport
  • Every speech must have a big idea. But that big deal doesn’t have to be different to make a difference. @michaelport
  • You don’t have to be different to make a difference, you just have to care deeply about your message @michaelport
  • The audience needs to know that you know the way the world looks to them @michaelport
  • There are three types of speakers: those that have bombed, those that have yet to bomb, and those that have bombed and lie about it @michaelport
  • The better organized your information is the more competent you seem to be. @michaelport
  • People don’t pay for the value of the ideas, they pay for the organization, structure, and presentation of those ideas @Rory_Vaden
  • The longer the story, the bigger the payoff has to be. @michaelport
  • The more conflict, the more interesting the story is. @michaelport
  • The best stories are the ones that make the audience work a little bit @michaelport
  • Humor works well when you surprise the audience with it @michaelport
  • Michael shares how to tell a successful joke as a speaker
  • Think of your presentation like the perfect gift. @Rory_Vaden
  • It’s hard to be nervous when your heart’s on service. @Rory_Vaden

To learn more about Michael Port or to purchase his new book visit,

For the extended version of the podcast, email and put your first name in the subject line to have the extended version emailed to you!

The Rory Vaden show is a weekly podcast that Rory hosts every Wednesday, which is regularly in the Top 25 of Business News Podcasts and has listeners from all around the world. The show shares “insights and inspiration for movers and shakers in the world of business”™. Each week Rory shares ideas on how to increase your self-discipline and make better use of your time to help you achieve your goals in life. He also interviews one very special expert guest and thought leader every week. Subscribe on iTunes and please leave a rating and review!

10 Steps to Writing a Great Blog

Tips to writing a great blog

I’m getting asked more and more about my writing methodologies. Here is my quick preflight checklist for writing blog posts.

  1. Think of a person or persons in your life that you are writing to and put their name at the top of the page.
  1. In one sentence define what the message of your article is and write that at the top of the page. That is what do you want the reader to think feel or do differently after reading your article.
  1. Write the post. Write emotionally, unapologetically and without editing.
  1. Re-read the post and edit for proper message communication. Cut out anything that doesn’t directly forward your message at the top.
  1. Re-read and edit for proper emotional tone.
  1. Re-read and edit for grammar. Read out loud on this one.
  1. Make a list of targeted SEO words you want the post optimized for.
  1. Re-read for SEO purposes and highlight or appropriately add-in any keywords you want the post optimized for.
  1. Re-read for tweet able moments from the post. List them out separately.
  1. Follow the secret posting schedule.

For more writing resources here’s My Secret to Being a Good Writer and Tips for Writers.

Brand New! Rory Vaden Keynote Speaker Demo Video

Did you know that a large part of our business model includes companies, associations and all different types or organizations inviting me out to speak to them and their teams live?


If you or someone you know is a part of planning conferences that bring in outside experts, strategists and thought-leaders to speak we would love to talk to you!


Watch our brand new demo video above and feel free to pass this on to anyone who you think might be looking for a convention or keynote speaker in the next few years.


You can click here to get more information and check my availability: