Shaking, sweating, stuttering, blushing, forgetting your words, worrying about forgetting your words, nervousness, involuntary gestures, quivering voice, dizziness, nausea, panic or anxiety attack, heart palpitations, dry mouth, freezing up, breathlessness. These are all the Symptoms of Fear of Public Speaking.
Fortunately for me I was never at the extreme end of that scale. Yeah sure I was nervous. In fact it was after hosting as well as being the keynote speaker during one of my earliest public speaking exposures to an audience that I decided I had to make learning the art of public speaking a priority.
It’s one thing to do public speaking in a business capacity where we have the material or knowledge of whatever we’re going to talk about as a kind of cushion. It’s quite another when we’re talking about issues that matter to us and affect those around us. Suddenly the spotlight is very intensely focussed on the speaker. And the speaker doesn’t want to look like a fraud.
Now it may be that some people find public speaking for business more difficult than public speaking for social and community issues. But for me I found business speaking easier, especially if I would be repeating the same thing to different audience.
An example of public speaking for business was when I presented the business opportunity of a network marketing company in order to promote and expand the business. I’d seen the formula of the presentation performed a number of times. It was something I could do. I soon did do it. And I soon learnt to enjoy doing it. It’s me talking about a business and a business model. No sweat.
But in public speaking for community or social issues, unless we are taking over from another speaker, we won’t have the opportunity to learn what to say. And this type of speaking is less mechanical and more personal. We have to reach out and try to connect with an audience on an interpersonal level. Unless you work the public speaking circuit, this probably isn’t going to come easy.
But I’m not talking about that kind of well experienced professional speaker. I’m talking about the person that has hardly ever, if ever, had to talk in front of an audience on a personal, social or community level where much of what they have to say is coming direct from their own beliefs, opinions and interpretations of whatever it is that they’re speaking about. Or the speaker that somehow has never managed to feel comfortable with public speaking.
In my early days of public speaking I had an intense fear of “Do they think I’m genuine?” “Do I look and sound good enough?” And at times those kind of thoughts did lead to me having a quiver in my voice. But I didn’t let my fear of how I thought the audience may have been perceiving me be greater than the fact I was delivering an important message for people. But I certainly couldn’t describe my experiences back then as fun!
So certainly one of the first things you need to start with when public speaking and you notice those symptoms of fear of public speaking coming up, is to work on your mindset. Stop yourself for a moment, and imagine the worst thing that can happen. Then imagine the best thing that could happen.
Here’s the good news, what is likely to happen will be somewhere between the two. Have faith in yourself. Make sure you know well enough what you’re going to talk about and make sure you arrive early leaving yourself time to prepare and take some deep calm, relaxing breaths before you speak, rather than having a panic or anxiety attacked because you arrived late.
So try to work on that mindset. Of course this may take a while to get the hang of. Learning a new skill isn’t always easy. That’s why we call it a skill – it’s something we have learned. Something we’ve gained knowledge about, and in the case of being a non or beginner public speaker engaging in some public speaking event or task, it’s something we also have to learn by doing. There’s a saying, often attributed to Les Brown that “You don’t have to be great to get started. But you do have to get started to be great.”
Of course, it helps if you have shortcuts and other means to support you on the way. Hence there are tools you can use like joining Toastmasters International where you can learn and practice in a supportive and encouraging environment. Or you can consult public speaking materials.
CDs and DVDs can be especially good as you can then hear and also in the case of DVDs see public speaking in action.
To your rapid elimination of the symptoms of fear of public speaking, and your increasing confidence at gaining public speaking success!