Shyness can hold you back in business. Networking events, meetings, public speaking opportunities – all these are great ways to promote your business and painful experiences if you are very shy.

Shyness can hold you back in business. Networking event, meetings, public speaking opportunities – all these are great ways to promote your business and painful experiences if you are very shy.

Alan Donegan used to be painfully shy, he wouldn’t “say boo to a goose” and hated talking to strangers as all.  Three years ago he lost his job. His confidence was rock bottom and although he dreamt of starting his own business, he simply did not have the confidence.

However all this changed when he joined Toastmasters.

Toastmasters’ mission is to provide a mutually supportive environment for improving your public speaking and leadership skills. There are over 250 clubs across the UK and Ireland.

As Toastmasters is a safe environment with no judgement – just feedback - Alan was persuaded to give a talk to his club and to try to tackle his shyness.

“I performed in front of the club and they laughed. They enjoyed my speeches.  It gave me a huge amount of confidence. My fellow members were incredibly supportive and kind.  They helped me to change my style and built my confidence.”

With continuous feedback and encouragement from his fellow members Alan’s confidence grew and his shyness gradually disappeared. It took time, but each month Alan could sense another step on the road towards putting that painfully shy past behind him.

Since joining Toastmasters three years ago Alan has:





  • Reached the final of the 2008 Humorous Speaking Championship
  • Acquired a cupboard full of trophies
  • Done a number of stand-up comedy sets
  • Presented in front of 100,000 people in a day working for Andrex
  • Secured Microsoft as a client of his company, Enjoy Presenting.

After working so hard to battle shyness Alan has developed eight tips to help others who feel that shyness may be holding them back in business and in life;

1. Remember nerves are normal - everyone gets them.

2. Stop thinking about what will happen if you forget what you are going to say, or fall over, or people laugh at you. Instead think about “how much value can I give to my audience?”, “how can I make it fun for my audience?” or ask “how could this be fun for me?”

3. Remind yourself you are there to give your audience the gift of your experience, knowledge and expertise.

4. If you get the opportunity beforehand - chat to the audience. It will help you feel more like you’re talking to a group of friends.

5. The best antidote to nerves is to face them regularly.  The more you give presentations the more comfortable you will become with it. So practice, practice, practice!

6. Remember that they want you to succeed! I have never met an audience that thought “I hope this guy is rubbish, I hope I don’t enjoy it.”

7. Deliver the talk in front of a friendly audience first in order to get comfortable with the process. Avoid testing a new speech on a new audience.

8. Before you start to present take a moment to breathe deeply and slowly.  Try breathing in for three, holding for nine, and then out for six. Repeat four or five times.