Refocus On Your Audience
In all the preparation its easy to let the focus settle on yourself, your performance, your presentation. But effective speakers know that its really all about the audience. Its a fact that will help structure your talk, but can also alleviate some of your fear: youre not performing for your audience youre helping them.
- Look around the entire room in order to include everyone in your conversation, and to gauge engagement. If people are nodding, continue speaking. If people look confused, stop and explain. Knowing the audience is engaged increases your self-confidence.
- Make eye contact to help the audience trust you more, feel included in your delivery, and be more receptive. Have one-on-one conversations with everyone in the audience by shifting to another set of eyes after you finish a thought with one person.
- Pay attention to audience members who appear supportive and focused. They will help you relax and move forward. Blank stares are okay as well: they simply mean the audience is concentrating on your message. Ignore people who yawn, give you strange looks, or appear bored. Some people may be tired, distracted, or simply hard to please. Their actions reflect on themselves, not you.
Strategies To Reduce Speaking Anxiety
Whether you’re about to lead a big presentation at work or you’re simply about to go out with friends and you’ll need to socialize with others, there are several strategies you can implement before the engagement that may help you with your speaking anxiety. These include:
There is an anxiety disorder known as social phobia that can make it harder to speak in public, and may make these strategies a bit more difficult. However, utilizing these strategies can lead to more self-confidence and comfort with the idea of speaking publicly.
Tips To Overcome Public Speaking Performance Anxiety
Do you think you are the only one afraid of speaking in public? That your public speaking anxiety is abnormal and you cant possibly deal with it?
Here are 13 ways to overcome public speaking anxiety:
Although some times if feels like too much work to deal with the fear of speaking in public. It certainly has its merits and its worth it long-term. Dont take my word for it. Let me share with you one of my favorite quotes on the subject:
Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is soprecious as the gift of oratory. He who enjoys it wields a power more durablethan that of a great king. He is an independent force in the world.
Sir Winston Churchill
Even though there are so many benefits of being skilled at speaking in public and influencing others, people are still not quite at ease when it comes to standing in front of others and sharing their voice, and ideas. It can be a frightening experience
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Fear Stems From Public Speaking Anxiety
Plenty of things make people scared. They include, in no particular order, spiders, snakes, heights, and clowns. And then there is the fear of public speaking. This common fear is not about the words themselves, but rather the experience of having to say them.
Here at Throughline Group, weve discovered that for many presenters this fear quickly disperses once the initial jitters subside. A study conducted by Texas Christian University faculty members Amber N. Finn, Chris Sawyer, and Ralph Behnke found that speaking-related anxiety peaks for most speakers immediately before their speech begins and recedes after the first minute or so of talking.
For others, this fear leads to pervasive and persistent anxiety that results in avoidance of all public speaking situations. This can be a serious hindrance to career and personal growth.
For instance, perhaps you have a great idea but are too scared to bring it up in a meeting. Or you routinely let others take the lead during sales presentations.
In the sections to come, we offer information and resources to help you better understand the reasons this fear can become pervasive and how it manifests itself, as well as how to get over fear of public speaking and even use it to your advantage.
Useful Tips To Overcome Your Fear Of Public Speaking
The average person ranks the fear of public speaking higher than the fear of death. The truth is, this fear could be hurting your professional and personal life.
You may have been there before.
You feel nervous, your palms sweat, your stomach ties itself into knots. You dont want to do it. But you can overcome this fear of oral presentations with these simple public speaking tips!
In business, it is essentially important for you to be able to get your point across. It is likely that all of us will one day have to speak in public. Whether we are giving a formal presentation to an audience, or simply asking our boss for a promotion, speaking skills are essential to getting ahead in a professional setting.
The fear of public speaking is very real. However, there are techniques to help you overcome your fears. There are even ways to help harness your energy in a positive way.
Keep reading if you want to learn how..
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Change How We Think About Our Mind Going Blank
De-catastrophize brain freezes. It might feel horrible if it happens in the moment. The audience will usually forget about it quickly. Most people are focused on themselves. Weve handled more difficult and challenging situations before. The long-term consequence of this incident is minimal.
Leave it there. Dont dwell on the negative aspects of the incidents. Focus on what we can learn from it. Worry that it will happen again will become self-fulfilling. Dont avoid opportunities to create a more positive memory.
Perfectionism wont help. Setting unachievable standards of delivering an unblemished speech increases anxiety. A perfect speech isnt possible. We should aim to do our best instead of perfect.
Silence is gold. Get comfortable with silence by practicing it in conversations. What feels like an eternity to us may not feel that way to the audience. Silence is not bad. Lets practice tolerating the discomfort that comes with elongated pauses.
Avoidance reinforces. Avoiding what frightens us makes it bigger in our mind. We miss out on the opportunity to obtain disconfirming information about the trigger.
The Science Behind The Symptoms
I wanted to figure out just why these symptoms occur, so I could start going about finding a solution.
My research brought me to the subject of hormones, and something called the fight or flight response.
The fight or flight response is a natural reaction from the body, intended to protect us from danger. Its a survival mechanism long ago, when faced with danger, such as the presence of predators, our body kicked the fight or flight response into gear to help us fight for our lives, or escape the situation .
Today, most of us dont have to worry about lions or tigers sneaking up and eating us while we sleep. But the biological process is still there, and can be triggered by particularly stressful events, including public speaking.
During the fight or flight response, the body increases the production and release of the hormone epinephrine also commonly known as adrenaline.
Adrenaline makes your heart beat faster, increasing blood pressure. This serves the purpose of delivering oxygen and nutrients to different areas of the body, helping you run faster, jump higher, or making you stronger in a fight.
Most of the physical symptoms mentioned earlier appear to be linked to the fight or flight response, and the spike of adrenaline that comes with it.
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Toastmasters To Practice Public Speaking
All the therapy and yoga classes felt like they were really helping. But to gain confidence in any skill, one has to actually practice it. Public speaking is no different.
Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs.
I found a local meet-up in Chicago, where I was living at the time, and started going each week.
The people running the meet-up, as well as the participants, were extremely welcoming. They had all been where I was, and it felt good to be in such a supportive environment. I also had the opportunity to say a few words each time to get some reps in. But there was never any pressure.
Beta-blockers for glossophobia?
One thing I tried a few times was a beta-blocker, which is a type of pharmaceutical. The most common prescription beta blockers are propranolol and metoprolol. They block the effect of adrenaline and prevent the physical symptoms of glossophobia . In fact, the use of beta-blockers is prevalent among performers who suffer from stage fright.
But I stopped quickly. I realized beta-blockers were only a crutch, and becoming reliant on them would actually hurt my chances of really overcoming glossophobia. Besides, if I couldnt get over the fear of talking to the friendliest group of people at a Toastmasters meetup without medications, I stood no chance of succeeding at my presentation in front of hundreds of people at the conference.
How I Learned About Glossophobia
Glossophobia is the scientific term for it. Its also called speech anxiety, or just fear of public speaking.
It turns out a lot of people suffer from this phobia. One study found 40% of Americans say they have a fear of public speaking. The only fear more common was snakes . Another says that 75% of people in the world struggle with it at some point in their lives .
This is something I had to come to terms with as the marketing lead for a small software startup. For some time, I didnt have to worry about public speaking at all . The job was mostly sitting in front of a laptop, writing articles perfect for someone with moderate social anxiety like me.
But as the company grew, my responsibilities would as well. Eventually, this would come to include presenting on live streams and podcasts with other companies in our industry, to promote our business.
On the face of it, this doesnt sound like something that would spark my fear of public speaking. I would only be speaking into a webcam, there wasnt actually a physical audience in front of me.
But in a way, its worse than doing a presentation in person. You have no idea how many people happen to be tuning in and watching. It could be an audience of thousands.
The thought of it gave me the same tremors as the thought of speaking in front of a packed audience. Even worse, perhaps after all, if I messed up or made a fool of myself, I could always watch it over and over again on YouTube.
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How Fear Is Being Used To Manipulate Cryptocurrency Markets
The bottom line is that if something scares you, you will avoid it, and if you avoid it, you will not get enough practice, and when you dont get enough practice, you will not get better at it, and if you are not getting better at it, you will continue to be afraid of it. This cycle of fear can go on and on. But it doesnt have to. With the number of options available, it is up to you to decide when and how to break this cycle of fear of public speaking.
LinkedIn Image Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock
Train With A Professional
Nothing beats personal, one-on-one training, so you may want to work with a presentation coach or mentor. He or she will provide hands-on training and will be able to review your presentation to help you:
- Develop a rich vocal tone, and a clear speech pattern.
- Craft your unique presentation into a compelling story.
- Create engaging, effective slides to enhance your presentation.
- Prepare for tough questions and confrontations during interviews or Q& A sessions.
- Practice your presentation in front of a helpful audience.
You will benefit from the confidence and assurance of knowing that you didnt just read the right book, but that youve actually improved as a public speaker. The right coach or mentor will be someone:
- Whose character and career you admire.
- Who respects you and believes in your potential.
- Who is trustworthy and understands the benefit of investing in you.
There are a lot of books, blogs, articles, and classes on the market that will attempt to help you overcome a fear of public speakingand some of them are very helpful. But the truth is, every speaker, every audience, and every presentation are different. Private, personal training with a presentation coach is the only guaranteed way to get you where you need to be.
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Is The Fear Of Public Speaking A Specific Phobia
Not necessarily. Feeling some anxiety the proverbial butterflies in the stomach before or during a talk does not indicate a fear of public speaking phobia. However, for those people whose fear of public speaking is so distressing and debilitating as to make speaking in front of any group whether in a social setting, school, or at work an excruciating experience , then the clinical term for fear of public speaking, glossophobia, could apply.
As with any phobia, glossophobia represents an excessive and unrealistic fear of the object, activity, person, or situation that is triggering the fear. For instance, experiencing increased anxiety before addressing a boisterous, unruly crowd is a rational response. But if the mere thought of offering input to a small group of co-workers about an ongoing project leaves you with paralyzing fear, your response to the situation is irrational.
Phobias often bring on a fight or flight response that manifests itself in anxiety-related physical symptoms, such as heart palpitations, nausea, light-headedness, excessive perspiration, and difficulty in breathing. In our work, we occasionally witness a more profound reaction, such as a panic attack. In those more serious cases of fear of public speaking, learning how to overcome public speaking anxiety might require medical or therapeutic remedies in addition to more effective presentation strategies.
Public Speaking Anxiety Symptoms
In working with participants in our online and in-person public speaking training sessions who want to learn how to get over their fear of public speaking, it is surprising how many of them are often off the mark on how apprehensive they look. After a practice speech, theyll tell us they were a nervous wreck. They are sure their quivering voice, sweaty brow, pounding heart, and trembling hands gave them away. Yet, we were unable to spot any symptoms.
Thats the good news. For many speakers, their worry and anxiety about how they come across to their audience are disproportionate to how they appear so it becomes a matter of becoming less fearful about the symptoms themselves and tackling the underlying problems that give rise to the anxiety in the first place.
Of course, some speakers experience symptoms that get in the way of giving effective talks. Simply knowing why these symptoms occur is an important first step toward managing them. When your body is confronted with a threat real or perceived the natural defense is called a fight or flight response. Your body releases hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, to prepare you to stay or go.
Heres a close look at what your fear of public speaking may bring on:
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How To Overcome The Fear Of Public Speaking
The ideal public speaker comes across as
This is the perfect state that WE want to achieve when getting up in front of an audience.
Unfortunately there can be obstacles in our way to reaching this goal. The biggest one we often face is a fear of public speaking.
Although it may seem insurmountable, we can overcome this hurdle using mental and physical techniques that can be learned very easily.
Factors That Contribute To Public Speaking Anxiety
Communication apprehension is anxiety or fear brought on by communicating or even thinking about communicating with another person or a group of people. This fear can be present in personal, professional, or public situations, according to McCroskey. Further, the anxiety or fear can be tempered or turned up by the setting, such as whether its formal or informal.
Through his research, he concluded that speaking anxiety is multifaceted and particular to the person. In other words, experiencing discomfort in a fearful situation is largely a universal response, but what makes one person fearful of public speaking may not make another speaker break out in a sweat.
He identified four types of anxiety that contribute to a speakers communication apprehension:
These are not fixed points, but rather a continuum, with some speakers more intensely affected by one type over the other. Additional factors contribute to the unease as well, such as whether you are in an unfamiliar setting or you are covering new material. Your ultimate goal can affect your anxiety levels, too. If a lot is riding on one speech, for instance, its entirely normal for the anxiety to ratchet up.
Heres a closer look at the four types of anxiety:
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Dont Practice In Your Pjs
Simulate the experience of speaking to an audience in your rehearsals, saysSims Wyeth, an executive coach, business writer, author, and speaker. Wyeth started his career as an actor and has previously taught theater, and voice & speech at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, the Michael Chekhov Studio, the Actors’ and Directors’ Lab, and the University of New Orleans.
“Be well rehearsed, which means you should rehearse under performance-like pressure,” says Wyeth. “Rehearsal is the work, performance is the play, and rehearsing under performance-like pressure acclimates you to the demands of public speaking.”
There are neurological changes that occur when you practice. “Rehearsal transfers your words and ideas from the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for higher order conscious thought, to your cerebellum, which orchestrates the lightning fast motor activation needed to perform complex actions, like speaking to crowds, teaching your fingers to play a new piece of music, or learning your lines for a play,” says Wyeth, who is also the author ofThe Essentials of Persuasive Public Speaking.