So, you received an invitation to speak at an event? Or have you been asked to speak to the Board of Directors in order to get the contract signed? Perhaps, you are expected to speak at your son’s school for career day? Either circumstance brings fear and anxiety to an all time high. What do you do?
You know that you are expected to speak in a clear, concise and professional manner but just the thought of getting speaking in front of people rings terror in your mind. Do you try to convince yourself that it’s no big deal, people do it all the time. If they can do it, so can you. You write down your talking points on index cards to prepare as well as a ensure you do not forget critical information.
You practice in front of the mirror, your colleagues, your spouse, the neighbor…anyone who will listen. You are convinced that at least, if memorize what you are going to say, you will sound smart, prepared and confident. The time has come, you are ready. You are armed in your power suit and they call your name. You stand and carefully walk to take your place in front of the room. You made it!
Are You Really Standing Alone?
You look out in the audience and you are paralyzed with fear. You can’t remember your talking points and you are beginning to perspire!
Did you know that you are not alone when it comes to having a fear of public speaking? In fact there are a couple of psychological reasons why this is the number one fear for so many and why it so common:
- You are standing alone
- You are facing a crowd of people – often unknown
- You are more worried about what they think of you than anything else
If you take those three factors into consideration you can easily see why public speaking is the culprit for so many panic attacks. It is a natural response that is hardwired in us all because most of us have been told, “Don’t make a fool of yourself,” as some point in our lives.
You’re standing there, paralyzed in fear. You literally can’t move. The only thing you care about at this moment is to pull it together enough that you don’t look stupid. When this happens to you, just remember it’s not too late. You can do it. Take a deep breath be prepared to overcome your fears!
One of the first things to remember is that you are not truly alone. You may feel alone up there on that stage, but your audience is there because they want to hear what you have to say. Think about there motive for being there. Are you providing information they need? Remind yourself of the benefits your listeners are gaining from being in the room with you speaking. So, even if the faces are unknown, if they need what you are providing, that’s puts you back in the driver’s seat.
The intention for your speaking is to deliver your message clearly so your audience walks away with the message you intend. Preparation is the best defense against “looking stupid’ while speaking in public. Use any tools available to ensure you are presenting at your best. Your tools include both physical aids such as a stick, slides, whiteboards and any other aids that help you with your presentation.
The great news! You are also armed with the greatest tools of all….your person. Yes, your body is the best weapon against fear. Begin with a smile on your face to give the appearance of warm friendliness. Smiling is also a great way to connect with your audience as well as give the illusion of self-assurance. Use your legs to create a stance of confidence. Open your arms to show openness.
Of course you have heard about the power of eye contact. It is extremely powerful and just making eye contact with someone who is being loud or disruptive can quickly quieten them down. You can use your arms and hands to point out things to your audience. Your body speaks volumes as well and the way you walk and carry yourself will send a message to your audience. You can easily carry an air of confidence or an air or nervousness about you.
So as you can see you are not really going to be alone on stage when you deliver your speech. No one in the audience is out there to see you fail, they are all pulling for you to succeed.
Use the tools we described above to your benefit by using them to gain confidence. Quite often just holding a stick to use to point to your slides can make you feel more comfortable.
Remember too that for most people once you actually start talking your fears simply disappears. It is the anticipation that builds the fear more than the act of speaking.