Putting a Leash on Our Nerves and Making Our Knees Strong: How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking
If you are reading this article I don’t even need to tell you the statistics related to public speaking. You already know that it is the number one fear even above the fear of dying. Why is this? Why can we overcome jumping out of plains or driving 100 mph but not conquer the small step going in front of not even two and a half people and one of them is our spouse? In the tone of Seinfeld, What is up with public speaking? We know how to speak and we know how to be in public but we can’t do both at the same time.
This fear of public speaking is one that paralyzes some to the point they cannot breath, see and sometimes hear what is going on around them. Some experience the fear so great that they will pass out or tremble to the point of nearly passing out. Those knees for some reason just can’t take people staring at them from a distance. So how do we make our knees strong, how to we put a leash on our out of control heart beat, our shaking hands and our trembling voice. Well the answer is simple … never ever again go in front of absolutely anybody to speak. Simple enough and my job is done. Thank you for reading and continue looking for my latest work, Spitting In the Soup: Famous Techniques of Adlerian Therapy.
Now honestly we know that this can never happen. We cannot remain in bondage by our emotions and fears. We have to find ways that work for us to overcome them. We are in control of our lives and not vice-a-versa. The following are some steps and suggestions that you can take in order to overcome the fear of the dreadful public speaking.
SEE THE REAL PICTURE
First of all it is important that we see circumstances realistically. If we allow our mind to blow things out of proportion then we have already lost the battle. So remember you are not going war or performing a life-threatening surgery, you are just talking in front of people. Big deal! You talk to people everyday and the only small difference is that there might be a few more than you are used to and that they are sitting facing you in a very intimidating position having their hands folded and their legs crossed and some may not even be paying attention. It’s really okay. Don’t let your thoughts distract you. Disregard the voice which suggests you must not be doing a good job because the audience doesn’t even having the decency to look at you while you are talking. Just because your audience isn’t making eye contact doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention and just because some aren’t paying attention doesn’t mean you are boring. Well at least this is the theory.
If by chance you are boring, change something up or you will never conquer this fear. Nobody wants to waist their time listen to an unconfident drab. It is extremely mind-numbing to listen to a monotone voice. Quite frankly I have listen to some speakers whom have no other that an impressive gift of curing insomnia. Five minutes into the “whont, whont, whont”, I’m sound asleep. Just the tone and frequency of your voice will determine the attention level of your audience. Learn how to project your voice and control your pitch. If you doubt this to be true, observe child-adult interactions closely and you will notice the difference. People enjoy a calm, soothing, lower toned voice rather than a high pitch fast one. Use pictures, use PowerPoint’s, use some sort of illustrations if you have to. These techniques will actually assist you to gain your composure. If people are looking at your visual aids or the lights are off due to the use of technology then all eyes are not on you. Some will even begin with passing out a handout which not only helps the listener follow but diverts attention. Ice breaker activities also will have the same results and allow a nervous persona to adjust to being in front of a crowd. Perhaps even try changing the flow of your talk every 5-15 minutes depending on the length. Ones attention span is not like it used to be.
CONTROL YOUR BREATHING
The secrete in the art of public speaking is breathing. Well duh, hum. Now you are thinking, do I even need to read further. Of course the choice is up to you. And for those of you whom have continued on I truly feel for you because if you are still reading then this means that you are really struggling with this fear and have tried everything imaginable and have said, “Hey reading a few more pages can’t hurt”. Do you like so far how I have broken the flow of this piece to make it much more intriguing? We all know this “secret”, but for some reason we don’t practice it, why? For a lot of us we don’t know how to breathe. This is as I have already said an art. If you learn how to breathe properly and take in deep breaths and exhale through your nose you will get the needed oxygen to your brain which will help control most important your heart rate and also help with dry mouth and scratchy throat. By simply taking two deep breaths at the beginning of your speech can help you master this fear of choking in a literal sense. And remember even if you do choke, it’s not the end of the world. On a side note, if you do know that you suffer from dry mouth always have a bottle of water handy.
AVOID THE “WHAT IF” TRAP
You have to gain the confidence to overlook all of these “what if” scenarios. If you are obsessed with thinking about whether or not the audience thinks your jokes are funny or if they like you or if they think you said something stupid then you will never be able to give your attention to giving the best speech. You cannot worry about what if you trip walking up to the stage or what if you have something in your teeth, just keep trucking. When you are engaged in public speaking you have to only be worried about one person’s opinion and that is yours. You are not going to be so successful that you please 100% of the people at 100% of the time. Not even the greatest speakers of all time can accomplish this. So set realistic expectations for yourself. However this is not to say that you should go on a whim and not check for the broccoli between your teeth.
SET REALISTIC GOALS
Also keep in mind how much time you are given to speak so you can keep your pace. Know that if you have five points and that you have be given twenty-five minutes to present these points you need to take five minutes per point in order to get done on time. If you find yourself after fifteen minute being on your first point you should pick up the pace in order not to get nervous at the end of your time. If you have set realistic goals of how much you will be able to cover in a certain time frame then you will not feel overwhelmed and this will take of some pressure before hand. You cannot present your research findings of three years in three minutes and you cannot have three minutes worth of information to cover a 30 minute time slot. In order to perfect this skill, one has to rehearse in real time and not just imagine what you think you will say. Sometimes it sounds all great in our head but when it actually comes out it is quite different and it takes a completely different amount of time than thought.
BE OVERLY PREPARED
You can never be too prepared. To be a successful orator you have to be prepared, especially if you have nerve issues. If you know exactly what you are going to say, at what moment you are going to say it, and have rehearsed your talk several hundred times then your speech will in a way go on an auto pilot in order for you to gain your composure and overcome your nerves. If you are able to accomplish this success at the very beginning of your talk then you will notice that your heart beat will begin to decrease and your voice will get clearer and this in turn gives you great confidence to continue and will give you the most needed tool, a clear head. Here comes a really good tip, when you have a clear head, you can think. When you can think you can talk logically and not ramble and this all has to do with being prepared and not only with what you are going to say, but with what PowerPoint or note you will use, what handouts you will give and if you will or will not use any public speaking techniques.
BE AWARE OF SURROUNDINGS
Another important note is that you should be aware of your environmental surroundings. It will give you peace of mind to know exactly in which room or location you will be talking. This way you will not have to stress over being late or not being able to find the location. Is this room well lit so you can read your notes, is it cool, where are the air vents. Then make sure you are not standing under a vent if you know this will mess up your throat or cause your voice to tremble. Or the opposite may be true if you are a hot natured person. Be aware of where people will be entering and exiting the location of your talk in order that you are the farthest way so it will distract you the least. Also, if you are using a laptop you need to be positioned and know where the nearest power source is. This awareness can prevent a major mental breakdown when your laptop dyes and you start crying in front of everybody. So in order to accomplish all of these minor, but major tasks it is crucial that you take the necessary steps to be on time. This will allow you a moment to regain your composure and help your body acclimate to the environment and not experience of shock of coming from a hot outdoors to a cold inside or vice-a-versa. It will also allow you time to converse with the people whom you will be speaking in front of so that you can see that they are just normal people like yourself and not super smart critics that just came to make fun of you.
DO SELF TALK
As long as it’s not out loud so people won’t think you are coo-coo, you might want to try some self talk. Yes I know it sounds funny but we all do it and it doesn’t make you crazy. Tell yourself, it’s going to be okay, this is not as scary as you thinking, even rehearse your lines in your head, or maybe even tell yourself once I do awesome, I’m going for ice cream. But seriously a nice reinforcement to look forward to following all of your hard preparation could be just the needed motivator for success. It is also helpful to envision the end goal. If you can convince yourself that you will be successful then there is a greater likelihood you will be successful.
FIND OUT WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
One helpful sight to overcoming the fear of public speaking is to know yourself. Observe what makes you nervous and what makes you calm. Maybe if your fear is associated with low self confidence then perhaps you should take time to pamper yourself before you get up in front of people. Or if you are introverted then maybe you need to reserve your energy and go to a quite secluded place just before you speak. Everybody is different. Everybody experiences the fear of public speaking differently.
If you know that you will have difficulties with even getting the first word to come out of your mouth, don’t panic. Allow yourself a few seconds to get used to being in front of everybody. They are not going anywhere and they can wait. These few seconds, what might seem to you as a lifetime, are really just a few seconds. And keep this in mind when you feel that you are struggling for a word and you think you are taking a half an hour to come up with it this is just your nerves talking and you should put them on their leash; because if you don’t take the time to go slowly you will not be able to continue.
EMBRACE THE BUTTERFLY
Just like any fear, the fear of public speaking can be overcome. And this is not accomplished by avoiding the fear. It is overcome by facing the fear head on. The more opportunities you have to speak, the better. It will get easier. Your hands will begin to be less sweaty and your voice will become clearer the more you practice speaking in front of people. However, do this the smart way. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Start small. Being wise and you will be successful. This success will not come overnight but remember you have to be realistic, be open to learning, and keep on trying. The butterfly in your stomach is a good thing. It is good stress. It is what keeps us on our toes and reminds us that we will always be more successful when we are prepared. It is when the butterflies fly away that we should be worried. So let us appreciate their fluttering wings and remember that this is just a normal part of life.