What happens to you when you have a fear of public speaking?
Everyone knows that for peak performance, one needs to have a good night’s sleep, right?
“A study in the journal SLEEP confirms the role of sleep in performance with results that show declines in split-second decision making following poor sleep. Results also showed increased accuracy in well-rested subjects.”
For example, Serena Williams goes to bed around 7 pm. She is attuned to the importance of getting a good night’s rest on how well we perform. Getting on a stage to speak is no different. It is an activity that requires high-level attention and performance to be done well.
I have a fear of public speaking. A visceral fear of getting in front of humans and speaking. A psychological fear that thwarts my progress.
This fear has a formal name – glossophobia!
Picture this. The night before a talk, I get zero shut-eye. On the day of, as I get ready to get on stage and present, I am armed with little rest and a battle begins with my body. My armpits rage on with the torrential downpour of perspiration as if they were rainforests. My heart retaliates from its cage by rebelliously beating at the fastest rate possible. It goes from a resting rate of 50-60 beats per minute to 130-140! Holy palpitations, Batman!!! Oh and my palms sweat profusely as they refuse to be outdone by the raging storm in my armpits.
In addition to what is happening to my body, there is a mental replay that is also happening. “You are going to trip on the cord for the microphone, fall, and break your face. There will be blood everywhere, on your suit, on the audience, on the floor, everywhere. You are going to try to get up and slip in your own blood and fall again breaking another part of you. Then when you finally get up and go to the podium, you will click the clicker and no slides will appear. You will open your mouth and no sound will be heard.”
This was the dance that preceded every single time I had to give a talk. I have a fear of public speaking.
How do you face your fear?
The first step in the process of overcoming your fear of public speaking is to recognize that you have it.
“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows” ~ Japanese Proverb
Once you have recognized your fear, you are now in the position to take action in overcoming it. For me, I decided to put myself through desensitization training by becoming a public speaker and getting on more stages in front of more audiences and starting a podcast to document the journey.
Now that you have recognized your fear of public speaking, let’s go over some practical tips to help you overcome your fear.
Tips for facing your fear of public speaking
1. Take Baby Steps
A. Practice your talk or presentation in front of family or friend supportive audience. You can even convene at the dinner table and go over your talk. This gets you in the mode of being comfortable with the content and provides a practice arena filled with those who are your cheerleaders.
B. Do live streams to get used to doing extemporaneous speaking – rip off the proverbial band-aid. If it is intimidating to do a live stream to your network, you can create a group with just you as the only member and do live broadcasting to it. This is a great way to practice your talk and have a recording of you doing it. This is a great tool to look back on and see how you move, your facial expressions, and your voice inflections. You can then use this footage to help you improve your delivery.
C. Set attainable goals for your progress. You are likely to be more encouraged by having wins under your belt. Keep your goals timely, easily attainable, and specific. When you celebrate small victories, you are more emboldened and encouraged to perform on game day.
2. Not Just Words
A. Your message can come alive to you and your audience if you let it. This can be accomplished by making your talk interactive and incorporating storytelling, yes even if you are talking about science! My husband loves watching shows about the universe and physics. The commentators and guests on these shows make astronomy and physics come to life by crafting intriguing and interesting stories. Think about how you can add storytelling to your talks to make them come alive for your audience. Something really spectacular happens as a consequence of doing this – you begin to find enjoyment in sharing your content with others. The fear mitigates and you start to have fun giving to others from the stage.
B. Bring your personality to the stage. Your authenticity and passion will electrify your presentation. Tell a joke. Ask the audience questions. Do popular trivia. Do a magic trick. Do something that is uniquely you. This will create engagement and a relationship with your audience that breaks the ice and engenders trust.
3. Phone A Friend
A. Think about how you felt when you were at your recital, game, or performance and you looked out into the audience or the stands and saw the smiling faces of your friends and family. If you are giving a talk in a place that you have allies, tap into that. Have your friend or colleague in the audience to encourage you with smiles, head nods, and the like during your talk. There is such a good feeling that comes with knowing that there is someone in the audience who has your back and is rooting for you.
B. What if you don’t have access to an ally to plant in the audience? Get to the venue early and talk to audience members that are also early. Remember the names of one or two attendees and ask them outright if it is okay if you lean in on them during the talk. This works well if you have some planted questions for them to answer or if they okay you to share a quick story about your conversation. This works really well. You feel more comfortable and they feel highlighted.
4. Record Yourself
A. As mentioned above, you can use your recorded live stream to provide feedback about your delivery. The more that you practice the presentation, the more you will be able to refine your performance. The more comfortable you are, the better you will perform.
B. If you don’t have access to video, you can record the audio of your talk and listen to it. You will be able to gauge how your voice sounds, your use of fillers, and your energy.
5. Silence Is Permissible
A. Be kind to yourself. When I started to listen to and watch myself present, I would cringe at how many times I would “um” or “ah”. Let’s just say, there were too many to count. Part of my fear of public speaking stemmed from the fact that I was insecure about my delivery.
B. It is perfectly okay to stop talking for a few seconds to gather your thoughts or to make sure that the audience digests a point you are making. For me, I learned that replacing fillers with a pause is very effective. The other time that silence can be used powerfully is right after you have relayed an important concept or message and you want the audience to ruminate on it for a bit.
A framework for facing fear
F – facilitate your ability to recognize your fear
E – embrace the growth that comes with facing your fear
A – develop an action plan
R – resolve to be uncomfortable
You have recognized your fear of public speaking. Now the question is, are you ready to embrace the growth that comes from facing your face? It has been said numerous times that the most growth happens outside of our comfort zone, this is no different. Once you have embraced this concept, then you are ready to develop your action plan. In this phase, you implement the tips mentioned above and move forward. It is key that during the action plan, you resolve to be uncomfortable. So whether that means ripping off the band-aid of doing your first live stream on social media or recording yourself presenting, you have to do something scary every single day. Resolve to be uncomfortable.
Are you ready to face your fear of public speaking? Are you going to step into your greatness and let your voice be heard?
I know what it feels like to be on the fear fence. It is comfortable sitting there but fear thwarts us from unleashing our true greatness. Perhaps, you were waiting for a sign. Well, here it is…
Let’s not let fear stop us from achieving our true greatness. Your tribe is waiting for YOUR voice! Be strong. Be brave. Unleash your greatness!
Short Article Review
● Glossophobia – fear of public speaking is a common fear
● The FEAR framework allows for an effective way to face fears
● 5 practical tips for taking action in facing your fear of public speaking
● Now is the time to jump off the fear fence and step into your greatness
● Don’t let fear stop you from speaking to your tribe, they are waiting for you
The content in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, tax, investment, financial or other advice. Always seek the advice of a licensed professional regarding any questions you may have.
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