Who else wants to stop being afraid of speaking and presenting to others?
Can overcoming the fear of public speaking have other benefits?
There are many factors that cause anxiety when speaking and presenting, whether it’s in front of a group or one on one. If you are paralyzed with fear, you may feel frustrated but that’s not helpful.
Try looking at this way: when you overcome this fear, you’ll take a huge step in terms of personal growth. The process of overcoming a major fear boosts your self-confidence and is a victory over anxiety in general. You’ll find that you handle many other things that caused anxiety much more effectively.
Why is it important to stop avoiding the fear and start overcoming it?
- First of all, you’ll feel free. Fear is a negative emotion that drains our energy and sometimes holds us back from accomplishing the goals we aspire to. It’s a shame to keep experiencing that drain, especially if you don’t have to.
- Your impact as a speaker or in your career suffers from it. You’ll always have a specific intention when speaking or presenting to others: it may be to inform, inspire, convince, or even to get the promotion… I don’t have to tell you that you will fail to fulfill your objective if you are gripped with fear. People can sense your anxiety, even if you try mask it with techniques and tricks.
- Your overall performance suffers from it. Excessive anxiety triggers a fight-or-flight response: a defense mechanism that produces adrenaline and cortisol that prepares the body to fight or flee. Many people even ‘freeze’! In either case, fear doesn’t exactly make you smarter or better or more skilled when it comes to cognitively complex tasks such as a speech.
- Fear maintains a ‘negative loop’. The human brain is wired to scan for signs that confirm the negative- ‘see, you can’t do it after all’. Unless we choose to identify the negative beliefs and replace them with a new experience, it will always find negative confirmation and then the fear continues and so does the frustration.
How can you gain confidence when speaking or presenting?
(Disclaimer: A little nervousness before you speak is normal. Nervousness is energy that you can convert into positive energy if you choose!)
If you’re still freaked out about speaking, it’s time to do something about it. Addressing the fear is always very personal because everyone has a story, usually from childhood, that triggers the negative emotions about speaking.
Here are two techniques that often help when I coach people who want to become better at speaking and presenting:
- Begin adjusting your mindset and your self-talk. This is often the collection of ‘stories’ that you tell yourself (often unconsciously!) whenever you’re asked to speak or present. Perhaps you forgot what you were going to say in 8th grade speech class and the kids laughed at you, or you remember the sleepless nights of fear just thinking about your Senior Seminar presentation in High School and you keep telling yourself that things will be the same now. If these negative stories are on repeat in your mind, it is virtually impossible to become more confident.
- Start developing a focus on your process, rather than on you as a person. If you consider every presentation to be an evaluation of yourself as a human being, that is a heavy weight to bear. On the other-hand, when you start focusing your process, it’s easier to evaluate the performance rather than the person.
Finally, pause for a moment and ask yourself, “has it gotten any better with my avoidance tactics? “ If the answer is no, perhaps it’s time to stop avoiding the fear and start being aware of the story you’re telling your-self and replace it with this truth : you can overcome the fear but only if you change your thinking, focus on your process, and perhaps, get some help.
If you were a confident speaker,
what doors would that open for you and how would you feel?