Molly Shannon and The View Talk About The Fear of Public Speaking

Even Saturday Night Live comediennes can be horribly afraid of pubic speaking.

Molly Shannon, comedy film star and well-known contributor to Saturday Night Live, was a guest co-host on ABC’s The View today (damn, I miss Rosie on the show sooooo much), and she talked about how extremely nervous she gets if she has to make a toast at a wedding or speak in public in any way.

"I get so nervous that I can’t enjoy myself until it’s done," says Molly, "It’s one thing to be a character where you’re disguised, but I’m much more nervous and shy as myself."

This seems to be true for a lot of actors. They feel comfortable in a role, but if they have to speak as themselves, eeek!

One of my big tips for people who are nervous about speaking in public is, Be Yourself. But for some people, this is a hard thing to do. Why? Mostly because they feel that if they just show up as themselves, they somehow won’t cut the mustard.

And maybe some actors feel this same way. Or perhaps there is a certain vulnerability they feel if they are just being who they are. As Molly said, you’re not disguised. You have nothing to hide behind.

But why do we need to hide? What’s going to happen if people see who we really are?

I had a client the other day who told me he was feeling so vulnerable the day before he was to give a presentation that he had been working on for some time. His feeling of vulnerability sprang from the risk of sharing something that he had devoted so much time and love and effort towards.

When we really care about something, we feel vulnerable. It’s as if we are at greater risk of being hurt in some way.

But here’s the truth. You can still feel vulnerable and tender yet not be hurt. You can decide to feel the love and care you have for your message or even for your audience AND not let the opinions or judgements of others effect you in any way. You can create your own safety by deciding that no one’s opinion can really hurt you unless you choose to let it do so.

By the way, Joy Behar only suffers from stage fright when she’s doing her stand up routine. And Barbara Walters only gets nervous when people watch her dance.


2 replies
  1. Lisa Braithwaite
    Lisa Braithwaite says:

    Hey Nancy, I’m just getting around to reading this post from June, and I love it! Part of my background is in theater, and I learned a long time ago that playing a character does wonders for stage fright. So when I got nervous public speaking or going to a networking event or party where I didn’t know anyone, I started playing the character of myself!

    I’m not pretending to be someone else, I’m just pretending to be the best, most confident, most clever and witty version of myself. And once the nervousness starts to melt away after a few minutes, the “real” me comes out – but really, it was there all along. Do I sound crazy? Just a little. 🙂

  2. Tim Gonzo Gordon: Communication Specialist
    Tim Gonzo Gordon: Communication Specialist says:

    What, an actor afraid of public speaking?


    Well, perhaps not. I spent 25 years behind a radio microphone but was afraid of getting up and speaking in front of people. I was okay in a small room with just me and a microphone.

    Finally I ran out of excuses and joined a speaking group. It wasn’t long before I’d given a dozen speeches to the group and gained confidence – and positive feedback. Now I have hundreds of speeches under my belt and can’t believe all that I was missing out on back when I was too afraid to speak in front of people.

    What’s your excuse?


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