becoming fearless

“Tonja, it’s your turn.”

My heart started pounding so hard I could feel it jarring my ribcage and the butterflies in my stomach were so intense I thought I might be sick. My cheeks were flaming from the sudden flush of heat that swept over my body and I could hardly stand on my weak, trembling legs. The air seemed thick and heavy – I was practically gasping for breath…

How I Became Fearless

Twenty years ago I discovered I had a seemingly irrational fear of public speaking. The symptoms, only a fraction of which are described above, are excruciating. They make you want to avoid public speaking at all costs, which is exactly what I did for many years. But unless you are living in a cave, you eventually get cornered. At work, at a friend’s wedding, at an awards banquet…you name it.

The older I got and the more responsibility I took on at work, the more often I was cornered. I finally decided to do something about it. It was quite a roller coaster ride, but I was determined to get over this fear. Ever so slowly, it got just a little bit easier.

One day as I was giving a speech to my Toastmasters group, I realized that for just a moment I was enjoying myself. I could not believe it! All I dreamed of doing was giving a business presentation or speech with some dignity – I never imagined it could be fun. That changed everything. I began pursuing speaking with a passion.

Today, I am a professional speaker and I find every moment on the stage absolutely exhilarating. But even more exciting is the work I do to help others become fearless, too. Nothing makes me feel as valuable and worthy as to help someone find their voice, confidence, and freedom.

more about public speaking fear

Public speaking anxiety is a well-known problem for anyone who has to give public presentations, speeches, or toasts. However, it can also cause problems in other areas of your life, such as interviews, phone conversations, striking up conversations in social settings, or asking questions at a work meeting or in class.

Over the many years I struggled with my own speaking anxiety, I discovered practical and easy techniques to overcome speaking fear much easier and faster than the long route I took. These techniques include immediately effective methods for controlling and eliminating physical symptoms of anxiety. I put together a “Speaking Without Fear” class in 2005 to share these ideas and help others just like me, which I still teach today.

Interestingly, even in my work with advanced speaking groups, such as Sales Professionals, Executives, and even Professional Speakers, I find that I have to pull out a number of these tips for them as well.  So take heart, those of you with speaking anxiety – you are not alone, and becoming fearless in your speaking is achievable.

– Tonja O’Neill, Public Speaking Evangelist