We fear public speaking more than death
Are you terrified at the thought of making a public presentation or being called upon to offer a report in front of your peers? Do you break into a cold sweat every time it is your turn to make an oral presentation at work? Would you rather go to the dentist for a root canal than perform as the featured speaker or workshop facilitator at your next conference or convention?
If so, you are not alone. According to the Book of Lists, the fear of public speaking is number one in the minds of the majority of people when it comes to fear in general. Fear of public speaking even ranks ahead of fear of death and fear of disease! In fact, between 15%-19% of the general population admit that they would rather do just about anything than to stand in front of a crowd.
There might be an evolutionary explanation that humans were prey to many bigger, faster and hungrier predators millions of years ago. That’s why we learned to live in groups to either alert each other of danger or fight it off collectively. However, nowadays it is not important to hide from predators in groups, so it is important to understand that there is nothing to be afraid of and learn to overcome the fear of public speaking.
Suffering from a fear of speaking in public can be a huge handicap. In fact, some people have turned jobs down and students have dropped out of classes because they dreaded making presentations or offering oral reports.
The importance of confident speaking for leaders and managers
A leader needs to be able to communicate effectively in a variety of situations, and a communicator who can speak well and articulate ideas clearly and succinctly is often sought out to be a leader. Like the proverbial chicken and egg, there is little point in discussing which is more important than the other, or which comes first. Both are necessary.
Don’t let a fear of speaking keep you to having a shot at your dream job. Many people share your fear but they have overcome it… or at least they are minimizing it with practice. It is possible for you to develop your skills and your confidence level so that the next time your boss calls on you for an impromptu report, you don’t have to fight the urge to dive under the table. Instead, you will be able to present yourself and your thoughts confidently with poise and purpose.
5 Actions to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking
1. Know your subject
If your speech is about something you are an expert in, it will be easier for you to speak about it. Make sure that you fully understand the topic. That way, you are less likely to not just make mistakes in the speech itself, but be less surprised by questions at the end.
2. Practise your speech
Speak to yourself in the mirror or to your friends, family or work colleagues. If you practise, you will spot some errors in your speech or in your style of speaking. Furthermore, others will be able to find things that you could have omitted. As a result, the speech will be optimized so you will be more confident in this aspect.
3. Visualize the success of your presentation
It is proven that visualisations help to change your mindset to a more positive and optimistic one. Visualise yourself walking out confidently on the stage, speaking with a controlled and loud voice and making your audience cheer and applaud you at the end. It is more likely to ‘rewire’ your brain and for these things to actually happen.
4. Don’t memorise your script
Everyone feels some stress, but if you memorise your presentation word for word, it is very likely that you will forget a word or two. This will make you extremely stressed.Instead, prepare the major points that you want to cover. If you have a summary of your whole speech, you will remember the overall structure. Depending on how your speech goes, you can expand on some points more than others. You will not be stressed as much and you will have more freedom to improvise if you make a mistake.
5. Join Toastmasters
If you still feel paralysed by the thought of public speaking, join a professional group. If you happen to be one of the millions of individuals worldwide who dreads the thought of speaking in public, it is a relatively simple thing to find a Toastmasters club near you. Toastmasters International is an organization that is devoted to helping members improve upon their communication skills and to overcome the fear of public speaking for thousands of people.
Practise, practise, practise…
You too can overcome the fear of public speaking. It is not something rare incurable. Just like with any other fear or even building confidence, it requires change. It is a process of teaching your mind that everything is okay, that there is nothing to be afraid of. Apart from using a variety of psychological techniques to help soothe your fear, the most important thing is practice.
By stepping out of your comfort zone and facing your fear, you will see that it is not as scary as you have thought. Yes, you will make mistakes. Yes, you will get hard questions from the audience. No, it’s not the end of the world.
Do you feel paralyzed when you think of speaking publicly? Have you found any strategies that work for you? Let me know in the comments!