It’s been said that fear of public speaking is a fear worse than death for some people.
I’m not sure how many people have the fear of public speaking so bad that they would rather die, but many people do consider speaking in front of a group on par with a root canal on the list of their favorite activities.
Nobody is born a good public speaker. As with all fears, fear of public speaking is learned, and what is learned can be unlearned. When someone says “I have a fear of public speaking because I’m not a good speaker” all they are really saying is “I haven’t developed the skills to be an effective speaker.” Becoming comfortable in front of a group is a skill you can learn.
You may someday be called upon to speak to a group, maybe at a wedding or funeral. In today’s business environment, you will almost certainly be required to give reports or presentations to colleagues or clients. If so, consider learning to speak in public as necessary part of your personal and professional development.
If you are someone who gets the fight or flight response (sweaty palms, rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, inability to think clearly) when asked to speak to a group, the good news is that you can learn to overcome the fear response and speak comfortably. It doesn’t have to be stressful. Many people who once suffered from fear of public speaking have gone on to become very good speakers. Here are some other things to remember:
You don’t have to be a master orator in order to be effective. You just need to be yourself. Don’t try to be or think of yourself as a “public speaker”.
The audience is on your side, wanting you to succeed.
The chances of you loudly passing gas, fainting, throwing up, totally forgetting what you were going to say or the audience throwing stuff at you rarely happens and if it does, you can probably make a joke out of it.
You don’t need to memorize a lot of information or even impart a lot of information. That’s what notes and handouts are for.
It’s ok to feel a little nervous, that’s natural.
Of course, there are different levels of fear of public speaking. On one end of the spectrum, you might be challenged by social anxiety disorder to the point where even talking to someone one on one is a problem. On the other end, you may feel fear or nervousness that makes the prospect of public speaking just another stressful thing in your life. Either way, if you want some help, click here to contact me.
Tips for dealing with fear of public speaking
Practice but don’t over- prepare. Have an outline for what you are going to say. Put your notes on 3×5 index cards that are numbered in order. Practice saying the words out loud. Practice in front of someone you trust that can give you some feedback is one of the best ways to deal with fear of public speaking. Record yourself to see what vocal tics you might want to work with. Practice in front of a mirror.
- Don’t be boring. The worst sin you can commit as a speaker is making people wish they were somewhere else. Although there are many situations where one may need to speak, try to craft your message to your audience so that what you tell them has some impact on them.
- Humor is good. People want to laugh, and when they do, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable. Just use common sense to avoid offending your audience.
- Humility is good. Don’t try to come across as an expert if you aren’t. Even if you are, remember, people don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.
- Make sure you eat something. Diet and your level of anxiety are intimately related. Don’t go in front of a group on an empty stomach or over-caffeinated.
- Monitor the conversation in your head so that it supports you. It doesn’t help to say things like “I just know I’m going to screw this up.” or “I have so much fear of public speaking!”. Be realistic in your expectations and show this in your language to yourself. “I can do this, it’s only ten minutes.” or “This is a great opportunity to show my stuff.”
- Do a little mental preparation before you speak. Psyche yourself up, see yourself doing great, give yourself some positive suggestions.
- Use EFT to release anxiety.
I help people let go of the anxiety and fear of public speaking that keeps them from getting ahead. If you want to excel as a public speaker, there’s a lot of instructional material out there including books, DVDs and audio programs. Toastmasters is the most well known and respected venue for people to hone their skills, and I highly recommend that you check out your local chapter. Check out Barbara Rocha’s programs as well. If you have a fear of public speaking, you CAN learn to be comfortable whenever you’re called upon to “show your stuff.”
If you want to hear a podcast of this blog with a funny story, go to tedmoreno.com/podcast, episode 32.