036: Facing fear of public speaking – Catriona Pollard


In this episode:

In this episode of The Fearless Females Podcast your host Tegan Mathews interviews Catriona Pollard who shares:

  • How she created a business shining the spotlight on other people’s stories
  • The turning point when she realized how much her fear of public speaking was costing her
  • The steps she took to overcome her fears and the rewards she received
  • The day she discovered it was about the impact she can have on others by sharing her stories and expertise
  • How her fear re-surfaced for her Tedx talk and what she did about it

Tegan’s Take Aways from talking with Catriona Pollard:

  1. Who am I not to be in the spotlight and share my story
  2. Where am I saying no in my life because of my fears and what is that costing me
  3. When you are overcoming a fear, start in environments where you aren’t going to fail too dramatically so that you will have a positive experience which will reinforce your confidence
  4. If you don’t put yourself into situations where you have to face your fears, nothing will change.
  5. Sometimes your fear will show up again if you still have some growth to do around it.

About Catriona Pollard

Catriona Pollard is one of Australia’s most dynamic and inspiring entrepreneurs. Her insights into personal branding, communications and entrepreneurship never fail to enlighten, entertain and inspire. Through her PR Agency, CP Communications and her acclaimed book, From Unknown To Expert, she has helped thousands of entrepreneurs build their personal brand, and use PR and social media to grow their businesses and careers.

Contact Catriona Pollard



CP Communications




A Gift for Listeners From Catriona Pollard


Receive a complimentary copy of Catriona Pollards latest book ‘From Unknown to Expert’. All you have to do is cover the postage. This five-star system helps you move from a relatively unknown to an expert in your field.

Get Your Copy of ‘From Unknown to Exper’t Here

Please note: there will be a charge for postage and handling

Show Notes: 036: Facing Fear of Public Speaking – Catriona Pollard

Catriona Pollard’s Fearless Story

The biggest fear I’ve had from growing up, right into adulthood was public speaking. I as a child was quite shy, I definitely still consider myself to be introverted and I never really found a place for myself in terms of sharing my voice or feeling that I was confident enough to step on stage or step out the front of the classroom.

It really did influence my career so it was something that I really, I found really impacted my career as well as my perception of myself.

I have an older sister and both of my parents are quite introverted but my sister is quite extroverted. While I’m quite expressive and very friendly I’m just not somebody that craves the spotlight.

It’s funny being a public relations expert and having spent twenty-five years in this career you would think that the type of person that does this very successfully is somebody who is ‘out there’ and is the life of the party at cocktail parties and so on.

But in fact, you have to be somebody who is happy being behind the scenes to be a good PR person because you put other people in the spotlight. You don’t put yourself there.

So, there was a moment in time where I just had to really think, “Well you know what, who am I not to be in the spotlight?” and “Who am I not to tell my stories?”

Was there a specific turning point?

I really felt like it was always something that was holding me back. Even being at school and saying that I didn’t want to be school captain because I didn’t want to be the person who stands up on stage.

The turning point for me was that I was starting to develop a profile within my industry and I just heard myself say, “No!”. No I can’t do that, no, thank you for asking but I can’t do that seminar, no thank you for asking but I don’t want to speak in front of those people. And I’m actually not a ‘No’ person. I’m very much a ‘Yes’ person. Living my life the best and the biggest I can do authentically.

It was also at a certain point in my life too where I really realised that it was kind of the right time to start pushing the boundaries within what I’m comfortable with and what I am prepared to say no to.

What were you afraid of?

Ultimately, failure. But I was feeling that saying “No” was failing as well because I wasn’t living up to my true potential. But I really think it came down to thinking that I didn’t think I had anything interesting to say and that I didn’t really think I had an interesting story. And really, from the time I decided to start working on that fear of being in the spotlight I realised it was a fear that was beyond me and beyond just learning the technique.

So I started doing a few things and the first thing I started to do was to get hypnotherapy because it was kind of like a fear of spiders or a fear of snakes or a fear of heights, it wasn’t just a technique I had to learn, I had to change the brain waves that were making the decision that I couldn’t do public speaking.

I did hypnotherapy to rewire my brain and to actually go deeper into this fear but I also got coaching. Professional speaking coaching by a woman called Mariette Rups-Donelly who’s this extraordinary coach. She is an actor as well as a presenter.

What she did was really uncover, not just the structure of how to do a presentation but more about the physicality of it as well. She got me doing crazy things like running around the room acting like a monkey and just getting me to do these really out there things but it really worked for me.

This allowed me to physically feel what it is like for my body to be on stage as well as my mind. For me that mind, body connection is really critical. It’s kind of what I do. I do a lot of meditation, I do a lot of yoga and so on and so I needed to make sure those two things were working together.

What was it like when you stepped on stage for the first time after facing your fear of public speaking?

What I realised was that you don’t have to step on stage to embrace public speaking. You can speak up in a meeting, you can start telling your stories in different ways. Everyone can re-define what it means to be in the spotlight. So for me, what I did was start small.

The thing with public speaking is that you don’t get two goes at it. It’s not like writing an article where you can then go back and edit it. You’re standing there and you’ve got to deliver. I think it’s really important that you put yourself into situations where you don’t fail too dramatically. That way you have a positive experience and you are getting positive reinforcement along the way.

For me, I did a few smaller things but then the first time I really stepped on stage was in front of a hundred people. I went there the day I was speaking with Marriette and I cried. I stepped on stage and I was so scared that I started crying and I said, “I just don’t think I can do this.” She was amazing, so supportive and she talked me through it.

It’s not about being fearless. Facing your fear is not about being fearless in any way. It’s actually about stepping into that fear by completely feeling and embracing that fear. Because when you do that, and this sound cliché but it’s so true, that’s when the transformation happens.

I did all of the practice in a way I know I have to do when I am stepping into those situations where I know I am going to feel uncomfortable. I’m like one of those ‘over practicing’ people. And when I stepped on stage that time it was, every single part of my body was trembling, not just my hands.

It was what I had decided to do though. I was ready to do it and I think that’s really critical that we don’t shy away from those things we say we are going to do. Just recently I travelled around Africa on my own and I was scared when I was getting on that plane thinking, “What if I land on an air strip and there’s nobody to pick me up and there’s lions there to eat me?”

But if you don’t do it and you don’t put yourself in that situation nothing changes in your life and I absolutely refuse to have a life where nothing changes.

How has facing the fear of public speaking changed your life?

It’s really interesting because for that particular talk I walked across the stage and I physically stood in the spotlight. There was a spotlight there and I stepped into that spotlight. I then had this amazing experience where I looked out across the hundred people and it was almost like I could see my words drift across the room, into the hearts and minds of those people.

And in that moment, I realised that my stories, my experience and my expertise could change their lives and it could change their businesses and who was I not to do that and to not share that experience and that wisdom? Who was I not to influence those people’s business’ and lives.

So I realised that standing in the spotlight and me overcoming the fear of public speaking that I had wasn’t about me, it was actually about them and about how I could influence them. It gave me this amazing experience and understanding that not everything is about you! We all know that but you know what I mean? It was bigger than me.

I’m just somebody that really likes to make the world a better place and it made me realise that this was one of my ways. Even if it’s just something as small as making somebody understand how to pitch an idea to a journalist. Or something as small as how to uncover some stories in their business that can lead them to getting a few more clients.

No matter how small it is, it’s still something and its still positive energy that can help that person. So for me it just opened up so many things and that ‘yes’ thing was kind of like letting a genie out of the bottle. It was the first of so many yes’ that are just truly filled with magic and wonder. Now, I’ve spoken overseas, I’ve spoken in Austin, and I’ve spoken all around Australia and virtually there’s not a week that goes by when I’m not speaking.

So I’ve been able to share my stories, my wisdom and expertise with thousands of people so it was a really significant change

Most Memorable Moment

The most memorable moment for me has got to be my Tedx talk. That was just insanely amazing. But you know, I had done literally hundreds and hundreds of presentations prior to being asked to do Tedx but I went through this massive confidence issue and fear of failure.

View Catriona Pollards Tedx talk “Being open to yes” talk on video here: http://www.catrionapollard.com/being-open-to-yes-tedx/

What I learnt from that was that even though you overcome what you think is your big fear it still comes up every now and then to remind you that you’ve still got growth to do and you’ve still got to overcome fear no matter what it is. That week leading up to the Tedx talk I was saying, “I don’t think I can do this? What if I forget my lines?”

I went and actually sought out a coach and a few people who knew me really well to help me practice so even though it was such an amazing achievement, I can’t even tell you how incredible it was. It was good too because it kept me real and no matter how confident you are, those type of things really keep you real.

What are you passionate about today?

I’m one of those entrepreneurs who always have a million things on the go. One of the things I am working on at the moment that was separate but is now becoming part of my business life as well, I am an artist. I do sculptural basketry where I use found, foraged, organic materials such as twigs, sticks and plants and I weave and create sculptures from those.

I have been doing that for a few years and I started when I recognised that I was starting to get burnt out and I was spending too long on the computer. I realised that I really needed to move away and feel connected to the earth and connected to nature and do something that was creative.

Over the years I’ve developed that practice. I had a solo exhibition last year and I realised that the type of work that I do and how I got into it has become something that would be interesting to share with other people. This concept around our connection with nature and our inability to disconnect from technology and how that’s impacting, not only us but also our creativity.

Also this idea around play. This idea around creating something. All of my sculptures, I’m not following a pattern, I’m literally looking at the material and listening to the material and turning it into a form which is interesting.

As adults I think we’ve really lost this ability to explore and play, which we do so beautifully as children. So that’s what I’m working on at the moment. Looking at workshops and keynotes and discussing this idea around innovation, interaction and team work but using our connection with nature and our connection with play to be able to do that.

You can see some of Catriona Pollards work at www.theartofweaving.com.au

What is something in your future plan that scares you?

I think for me it really comes down to not having enough time or enough money to do everything I want to do. That does scare me a little bit. From a fear perspective, how can I keep on doing all of these things that I want to do and feeding those into my life but still having balance.

It’s not until I’m out of balance that I recognise things like I’ve had ten colds in the last five months, that must mean I’m doing too much. So I just have to keep myself on check with that.

So, for me it’s really about time and creating that space to keep on creating new things.

Five Fast Fun Fearless Facts about Catriona Pollard

  1. Who inspires you? For me it’s more about what inspires me rather than who and for me I would have to say nature. It’s seeing the beauty in things that often go unnoticed. It’s making sure I look up from my iPhone and see that sunset or that bird flying past. Seeing the beauty in the world around us is absolutely what inspires me every day.
  2. Favourite thing to do each day? I’m really lucky I live by the water but I created that luck, I don’t believe in luck just coming to you. So I go out onto my balcony and see the blue of the water every day and that’s absolutely one of my favourite things to do each day. But, this is the smallest thing to do but I love it, I have a vertical garden because I love gardens but I live in an apartment. I water my garden every day and I love it. I get to watch those things grow. It’s a really simple thing but I enjoy doing it.
  3. What’s something that still scares you? It’s more of a challenge rather than something that scares me and it’s seeing my business around the longevity of it. It’s been fifteen years this year since I’ve had it and it’s that challenge of it morphing into something it’s meant to and I think it’s a fear and a challenge at the same time. The environment changes all the time and we have to change with it but also in anticipation of it changing too. There’s no room for sitting still as entrepreneurs. I remember when I realised that chaos and change are just part of my daily life and I can’t fight it, I just have to go with it. That can be a bit fearful wondering what’s going to happen when I go to work today. What client’s going to do what, and what staff member is going to do what. You just have to go with the flow of that instead of feeling that fear around that idea of change. Trust that you can handle it and if you don’t, it’s ok because another door will open. Being scared of it though, isn’t going to be helpful.
  4. Favourite technique or app or book? My book – From Unknown to Expert by Catriona Pollard and an app called Insight Meditation. It’s got thousands of free meditations where anyone who is a teacher or who practices meditation can upload their own meditation. Then you just go through and pick the ones you like. You can also see how many people are meditating at the same time as you around the world so it’s like this community and I just love it.
  5. If you could wave a magic wand and fix one thing in the world right now, what would it be and why? The world’s a beautiful place but there are so many things I would like to change. As a feminist, the gender pay gap really bothers me and I’d really like to do something about that. And violence against women. But I’m an environmentalist as well and it really concerns me the impact that palm oil is having on the Orangutans in Borneo

Final Question for Catriona Pollard

If you could turn back time what’s the one piece of advice you wish you could give your fourteen-year-old self?

Fourteen wow! I think I would have been sulking about why isn’t my life better as a teenager but realising that I had a really amazing childhood and upbringing. While I certainly had confidence I think it’s about thinking bigger because I can sometimes think small. In hind sight, thinking bigger is a really great thing to do.

Also, I didn’t do all that travelling in my twenties and so at fourteen I think I really should have been planning on having a gap year and going travelling instead of university. I’ve certainly made up for the travel now but I think I would have liked to have done that drunken trip around Europe like everybody else did.

Where can people reach out to you?

I own a public relations and social media consultancy where we work with organisations and entrepreneurs and start-ups, to get them media coverage and get their stories out there.


Catriona also writes a weekly blog where she shares her thoughts and articles around creativity and the world


Plus, there’s Catriona’s book which can be found at:


 Plus all social media channels.

A Gift for Listeners From Catriona Pollard


Receive a complimentary copy of Catriona Pollards latest book ‘From Unknown to Expert’. All you have to do is cover the postage. This five-star system helps you move from a relatively unknown to an expert in your field.

Get Your Copy of ‘From Unknown to Exper’t Here

Note: there will be a charge for postage and handling

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