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Sarina Mann

Sarina Mann on breaking through in speaking

By Sarina Mann

Public Speaking Coach - Breakthrough Public Speaking

Since Sarina Mann faced her own fear of public speaking, she has not only become an award-winning speaker herself – and is also the as the current Toastmasters District 91 Champion for impromptu speaking – but is now supporting others to find their voice through her business Breakthrough Public Speaking.

Having lived in multiple countries from Hong Kong to Singapore and Canada to New Zealand, Sarina studied Philosophy and Politics followed by a Masters in International Relations at the University of Southampton. But it was the art of speaking that became Sarina’s pivotal ability, and the realisation that public speaking is a skill that anyone can learn.

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Was there a moment that prompted you to overcome your own fear of public speaking?

There was a powerful moment a few years ago when I delivered my father’s eulogy – it was something that I really wanted to do, but I was overcome by fear.

It hit me that sometimes you are called upon to speak in life and it how much better your situation is if you don’t need to worry about your fear of public speaking, just the task at hand.

When I stepped down from that podium, that was the moment I decided to overcome my fear of speaking.

When someone close to you dies, their death invites you to reflect on what's important in life – to move beyond fear and share the things that you want to say.

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How have you applied your own experience of overcoming that fear into a business?

I realised that many people want to speak about things that matter to them but are distracted by nerves and fear. As a person who used to have high levels of anxiety, I really wanted to level the playing field so that everyone has a voice: because everyone has something to share, and fear doesn’t have to hold you back.

Breakthrough Public Speaking is all about breaking through the fear that holds you back from speaking either in person or to online audiences.

I take people through a five-step process. The first step is confidence mindset which is about developing authentic confidence – so you actually feel confident, you’re not just putting on an act and repressing your emotions.

My second step is about being confident with the tech. With both in-person and online presenting there’s lots of tech which can be a huge distraction if you’re not confident in using it.

The third part is about how to use words and language in a powerful way to convey your message using things like rhetorical devices.

The fourth part is presentation skills – from body language to vocal variety.

And the last bit is action. Once you develop all those things, practicing is the best way to become confident – the more you do it, the more confident you’ll feel.

What are your top tips for becoming a more confident speaker?

One of the most powerful techniques is to take the attention away from yourself and focus on your audience and message. Focusing on yourself by worrying about what people think of you will worsen your anxiety. Even positive affirmations can put unnecessary pressure on yourself and can lead to impostor syndrome.

I don’t believe that positive thinking alone can help you overcome your fears because using affirmations to tell yourself you’re confident can create an inner conflict in your mind – you’re not being truthful to who you are and it’s actually very stressful. I use meditation to not just change thoughts but to change into a calm state and then speak from there.

Another tip is be prepared and know presentation skills because confidence comes from competence.

It can help to think of public speaking in a more straightforward way – it’s just a skill, you can learn it, practice it, and then naturally feel more confident.

"Faking it until you make it is probably the worst thing you could tell yourself before a talk."

What are some common misconceptions about public speaking?

There’s this huge myth that being a great speaker is a gift rather than a skill. If you tell someone to swim when they don’t know how to swim, of course, they would be anxious – but it’s not because they’re an anxious person it’s because they don’t yet know how to swim.

Another misconception is that people think that they need to be someone else when speaking but faking it until you make it is probably the worst thing you could tell yourself before a talk. My definition of authenticity is being true to your values and your personality in the context in which you’re speaking. Sometimes it’s the quiet, more reflective people that are the more powerful speakers.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I meditate regularly. I’ve been a meditation teacher for over 20 years at various Kadampa Meditation Centres throughout the UK and currently at the Southampton Kadampa Meditation Centre. I love being around people and community is really important to me.

I’m one of the speaking mentors at Toastmasters; I love the camaraderie – everyone’s super positive, wanting others to do well in their speaking and it’s a great community to be to be part of.

I also enjoy the area in which we live. I like being in nature – visiting the coast or the New Forest.

"There's this huge myth that being a great speaker is a gift rather than a skill."

Sarina Mann - Public Speaking Coach, Breakthrough Public Speaking

Do you have any personal philosophies that you live by?

One of the things that I feel is important is changing your state. If I’m getting a bit frazzled, I think about changing my state, focusing on the breath to just relax.

Another is focusing on others – values of kindness, compassion, and love are important to me. Having an open and accepting heart to both yourself and others – when you have this state of mind, you feel happy and you also get on much better with others so it’s a win-win situation.

You’re inspiring others through your personal journey, who inspires you?

I see extraordinary qualities in the people around me like kindness, working through adversity, and overcoming things.

There are also famous people in the world that are amazing for the qualities of mind that they’ve developed. People like Nelson Mandela – it’s a particularly extraordinary thing to go through such hardship but remain kind at the end of your suffering. And many people within the communities that I’m part of have inspired me over the years to see that it’s a strength to be patient and to be kind.

Sarina Mann