How I conquered my fear of Public Speaking. 3 easy steps you can follow too!

A 3-minute read.


Cassandra (Leong) Lister

2 years ago | 2 min read

Photo credit: StartUp Impact Summit Hong Kong

When I was a child and (younger) adult, I was petrified of public speaking. And not only the ‘stand-on-a-stage-type’ of public speaking (photo reference) either. I was even petrified when chosen to participate in the school Spelling Bee and Debate teams. For any voluntary participation such as the Annual School Concert or Play,
forget it. 🙅🏻‍♀️ I would offer to work behind the scenes instead.

In the workplace, up until about 15 years ago, I didn’t have the confidence either when speaking up in team meetings nor conducting sales pitches to an audience with more than 5 people. So, what was the turning point for me? Because in the last 15 years, I have fully embraced my fear of public speaking. And while I still get a little nervous stepping onto a stage (this is very normal by the way), I am no longer petrified.

Three steps I took towards conquering my fear of public speaking:

  1. Self-realization: As an individual salesperson, I became aware that I didn’t suffer from this calamity when I knew what I was talking about. Then, as a sales team leader, I was confident speaking in front of my team members but did not necessarily have the same level of confidence when I was presenting to peers and/or senior executives. I was afraid of looking incompetent. Cue 2nd step….
  2. Formal Training: During my tenure with a couple of the global banking institutions I worked for, I had the opportunity to undergo formal training. Multiple times. Beginner training. Refresher training. Real results, however, start to show when you practice, practice, practice!
  3. Keep Practicing: Becoming proficient at a skill such as public speaking is no different to learning a new language, a new sport, a new musical instrument, etc. You must practice, practice, practice. Proactively find opportunities to speak in public. Ask for constructive feedback. The more you do it, the less frightening it feels. Use the same method as building a muscle in your body. Build your MOJO!

I knew I had conquered my fears on a day sometime in April 2011. I was on
a business trip in Sydney, traveling with my colleague, the Asia-Pacific Chief Economist. We were running a series of seminars on Global Markets to clients and I was the MC. Post one of the sessions, my colleague approached me and said ‘You love the stage, don’t you?’. I laughed and replied ‘I’ve
LEARNED to love it. It didn’t come naturally, no’.

So, if this shy, young girl, who was born in a tiny rural town in Fiji (pop. circa 20k) can do this, so can you!

In three short words: Knowledge, Skill, Mojo.

“10,000 hours to perfection” Malcolm Gladwell in his book, ‘Outliers’.

The story behind the photo above? At this conference, one of the booths
had this brainstorming competition about ‘Challenging Hong Kong’. We
were put into groups of 5–8 to come up with our ideas and then one
person had to present it to the judges (those sitting behind me) plus
some 250+ in the audience. So, I hadn’t planned on speaking at this
conference, however, in the spirit of ‘practice, practice, practice’, I
put my hand up to present on behalf of my team.


Created by

Cassandra (Leong) Lister

Mother of twins. Commonwealth citizen. Former Global Banker. Aspiring book author. All stories and opinions published are my own.







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