Petrified of public speaking? Believe it or not, Barbara Corcoran used to be, too, and she says there are only two ways to overcome this common fear: “One’s a trick and one’s putting in the time.”
The millionaire celebrity investor’s intense, candid confidence and charisma shine through on Shark Tank. But it wasn’t always that way for the 65-year-old serial entrepreneur -- not back in 1973 when she founded real-estate brokerage The Corcoran Group, which now cranks out an estimated $5 billion in annual sales.
“When I was very young I used to be horribly afraid to get up on stage and talk,” she told Entrepreneur.com on the set of the popular, entrepreneurship-themed reality TV show. “I couldn’t find my place. I stuttered. I had that terrible embarrassment... the kind where people lose their voice, nerves are frayed, your heart rate goes up. All of it.”
If you can relate -- and who among us can’t, to a certain degree -- these two pro tips from Barbara’s own playbook should help:
1. Force yourself to do it and often. When Barbara realized public speaking terrified her, she decided to eat the frog, as they say, and deal with the frog in her throat.
“You know what I did to get over it? I signed up to teach real estate at night, several nights a week.” And teach she did for six straight years, up in front of a classroom full of people staring right at her. She also forced herself to accept “every speaking engagement that came along, and you bet more and more did over time.”
Countless conference keynotes, lectures and Shark Tank smackdowns and victory cries later, Barbara says she’s now super smooth at the delicate art of elocution. “Now, I can give a speech like I’m in my pajamas in my own bed. No big deal.”
Well, most of the time, which brings us to Barbara’s next public speaking tip.
2. Tell your audience you’re scared. Barbara said the following trick “worked wonders” for her years ago, the first time she forgot the words to a speech. Talk about mortifying, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how you turn it around and quick: “Just say, ‘I’m sorry. Give me a minute, please. I’m scared.’”
You’ll be surprised just how quickly your audience will identify with you, Barbara says, and like you even more. “When I told people how I really felt up there, and didn’t just act like a big shot, like I’m so cool… I could feel the love come at me. The audience instantly came over to my side. Let people see you stumble. They love it.”
Feel your fear, fail, and don’t be afraid to fail on stage. Just don’t forget to recover and quickly. Oh, and here’s a little secret, Barbara says she sometimes still uses this little trick today. “I fake it. I stand there and I go, oh, uh, um [dramatic sigh].” Well, maybe not anymore now that this article is live.
To catch Barbara in action, check out Shark Tank’s sixth season, premiering Friday, Sept. 26, from 8 to 10 p.m. ET/PT on your local ABC station.
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