How to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety
To be honest, everybody gets anxious when it comes to public speaking. Trust me, even celebrities get nervous. The moment we speak to a group of people, somehow, for some reason we feel the fear. Let us see the root causes of public speaking fear.
ROOT CAUSES OF FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING:
Fundamentally there are two root causes. They are:
The fear of public speaking can be considered a natural response to an overwhelming social situation. The fear of public speaking can be partially hardwired into the human psyche. Considering the conditions of a public speaking event, there is little wonder why the body has such a profound reaction to the situation. One person faces a crowd. The fundamental message for speakers is that there is a danger in the immediate surroundings and they need to protect themselves.
It stands to reason that the body would naturally go into a flight-or-fight response when faced with such a situation. Though you may know that the audience is harmless, you still feel a natural tendency to protect yourself. This makes the fear of public speaking universal to some degree.
Our early experiences teach us to be afraid of various objects and situations. As a child, you may not be afraid of a flame until you touch one by mistake or just for fun. Or you might have become afraid after seeing someone else get hurt. It is important to remember that the mind is a very powerful force that has a profound effect on our fears.
The same applies to public speaking. A negative incident can have lifelong implications. In my short story at the start, I had a bad experience in front of a crowd. The intense fear was felt for just a moment, but the impact lasted pretty long. Hence that intense fear was a learned fear.
Even if the incident is small, you might avoid speaking in public. But if you do, the intensity of the fear will increase and build into a form of glossophobia, which is severe fear of public speaking.
You can really help yourself if you have an answer to the following:
Do you have a phobia? OR Do you just have fears?
Fear: Fear is an emotion that is typically hardwired into our beings to ensure our safety. The body has a prominent response to this emotion. This is the reason why we see those physical changes occurring in our bodies when the fear of public speaking starts creeping in. The autonomic nervous system kicks into gear accompanied by the adrenal glands. You know what I am talking about – trembling, repeated gesturing and rapid breathing are common signs. Increased heart rate, sweating and dry mouth can also accompany this emotion.
Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking
I think if you are a regular person with hardwired fears and with a certain extent of learned fears, then your fear of public speaking essentially boils down to fear of uncertainty. By following the steps outlined in this book, you can become certain and confident about your public speaking ability. The more comfortable you get on stage, the sooner you’ll overcome your fear.
Phobia: A phobia, such as glossophobia, is a very specific fear that is excessive. Phobias make you seem unreasonable. The mere thought of presentation might get you into a state of intense inaction.
There are fundamental differences between fears and phobias. Our fears are necessary components to self-preservation. They may seem a little unreasonable at times but they do not interfere with our ability to function normally on a day-to-day basis. To put it in simple terms, people may be afraid to deliver an oral presentation. They may perspire, shake and lose their train of thought but definitely will be able to attend the event. They may choose to back out of the speech out of fear but are still quite capable. But if they have a phobia, then the mere thought of giving the presentation will lead to intense physical reactions, anxiety and inaction.
Overcoming Phobia of Public Speaking
If you feel you have a phobia, a viable solution is to take therapy. If you are serious, please follow the following tips while looking for a therapist.
- Look for a therapist who excels in cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy.
- Check for the success of the therapist. Have they been successful in helping their clients to overcome the phobia?
- When you contact them for your problem, ask them for a sample session. If you are happy with the approach, only then go for the therapy sessions.
- If travel is a problem, check if Skype sessions can be arranged.
How to Handle the Presentation Day
Presentation day is the D-Day. First of all, you need energy to show energy in your presentation! Eat light food. Breads and salads will work fine. The second thing: If you are going to use a laptop, make sure it is fully charged but still take your charger. If you have a PowerPoint presentation or videos to present, have a backup in a pen drive and in a DVD. Third thing: Dress sharp: If you are not sure what to wear, follow this rule of thumb.
Dress up one step further than the best-dressed person in your audience. Finally, hang around with a supportive friend. You need someone to bounce your content onto. You will feel less stressed if there is a dependable person with you.
I have collated a list of simple additional things that will help you to give a splendid presentation.
1-If you are going to use a microphone, test for the optimum sound. You can ask your friend or colleague to sit in different corners of the room and give feedback about your voice clarity. Do this activity by placing the microphone at varying distances from your mouth.
2-Is there any light that is focused on the speaker? Do you want it on or off?
3-Are the lights working in the room? Do you want the lights to be on or off?
4-Remind the presentation planner or the anchor to ask the audience members to keep their cell phones on silent.
5-If you have an introduction, hand over a copy to the planner or anchor.
6-By the time you are done with the setting, your audience might start walking into the venue. You can connect with your audience even before you start speaking by:
a-Reaching out to members and greeting them, while having a genuine smile.
b-Complimenting them. It could be as simple as “Nice shirt,” “Nice tie,” “Love your smile,” etc.
c-Genuinely conversing with them. Ask what brings them there or what they are expecting. Keep it quick and move on. It should not appear that you are trying this deliberately. It has to be natural.
7-Suppose 10 minutes before your presentation, you are feeling nervous. You can use the following technique to overcome the nervousness. Rub your right palm with your left hand and vice versa for 10 to 15 seconds.
8-When you are called upon, go to the stage with enthusiasm. Smile and pause for a few seconds before you start. Your pause will do two things. First, the audience will start focusing on you.
9-During the presentation, be present, be passionate and exhibit energy.
10-After the presentation, take feedback from the audience.
Now, let us see some simple yet effective ways to connect with our audience.
How to Create a Connection With the Audience
I am sure you have heard or used the term “connection.” For example, “I felt a connection with him” or ‘’I did not connect with him,” etc. I have realized that the sooner the audience members feel your CREDIBILITY, the faster your connection will be. The following will help you create a connection with your audience.
Six Practical Tools for Creating a Connection:
- Your Introduction: In most instances, you will be invited to present on stage by an anchor or a master of ceremonies. If you are talking to a new audience, then your introduction plays a crucial role in building likeability and trust.
2. Use the Pronouns You/We: I learned this tool from 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking Craig Valentine. The idea is to have as many “you” focused sentences as possible.
While creating content, you need to frame it in such a way that you transition and involve the audience using “you” or “we” focused sentences so they understand that you care about them.
3. Speak in the Third Person: Whenever you use “I,” think twice. Unless it is your own original thought, realization, finding, experience or learning, do not use “I.”
4. Be Sincere: Sincerely add value to your audience’s life experience. Adding value could vary based on the purpose of your speech. If you are there to entertain them, give your 100% in entertaining them.
5. Maintain Genuine Eye Contact: Eyes are doorways to form a connection. Not just in public speaking but even in one-on-one communications, we form connections through our eyes.
6. Engage Your Audience: If your presentation has scope, you can use audience engagement to keep your audience interested throughout your presentation.
Ask interactive questions
: By asking interactive questions, you get immediate feedback on your audience’s understanding of your subject. You can create a pop quiz, ask questions about them or ask questions about what you just explained.
Invite a few of them to the stage:
This is a great technique if you are conducting workshops or training sessions. This way you have caught the attention of all the members because one of them is hanging out with you in the spotlight (so to speak).
Create a group activity:
By doing this, the audience members interact with each other and work as a team. This works great for workshops or training sessions.