Do You Fear Public Speaking?
Fear of public speaking is a very common ailment. There’s actually a name for it: glassophobia. Maybe fear isn’t always the exact word. How about aversion to public speaking? Anxiety? Discomfort? Stress? “Just not your cup of tea”? Do one of these apply to you? Why?
Fear is a normal human emotion. Fear warns us of danger – it’s a survival instinct. Consider the fear of riding a motorcycle down the highway during rush hour at 110 mph with no helmet. What would failure entail? Loosing control of the motorcycle? Crashing? What would be the result? It would probably be serious injury or death. Now, that would be a rational fear.
Now consider a public speaking engagement. What would failure at this engagement entail? Putting forward a poor performance? Making a mistake? Freezing or forgetting? What would be the result? Embarrassment maybe, but serious injury or death would be very unlikely. This does not necessarily mean glassophobia is an irrational fear, but the fear of public speaking is definitely not part of the human survival instinct. Not in the life or death sense anyway. Therefore, consider fear of public speaking as an unnecessary fear.
Fear of public speaking can be detrimental to your career. Think about what would happen if you were called upon in a meeting and couldn’t speak. What would happen if you had that “great idea” and couldn’t present it – or worse – someone else, a rival, could and did? These are examples of why fear of public speaking can hinder your corporate survival.
The best way to overcome an unnecessary fear is to face it. Start by selecting a topic you know about or would like to know about. Then prepare a speech. Research the topic thoroughly so you know it inside and out. Then practice in private. Practice over and over and over. One of the key elements of overcoming the fear of public speaking is preparation. The keys to preparation are to thoroughly research your topic, then practice, practice, practice. When you are comfortable with your speech and your material, practice in front of in front of family or a few close friends. The more prepared you are, the less fear you will have. You will likely find practicing in front of even one or two people can be completely different than practicing by yourself. Ask those people for feedback. Even if they don’t understand technical material, they may be able to comment on your delivery. They may notice idiosyncrasies you weren’t aware of. Then ask a trusted colleague to listen to you practice. Your colleague may be able to comment on your technical material. As you receive feedback, revise, revise, revise, then practice, practice, practice.
Listen to the advice of your family, friends, and colleagues but remember you are the one giving the presentation. If the advice makes sense, follow it. If the advice doesn’t make sense or doesn’t match your personal style, don’t follow it. If you receive contradictory advice, use the advice that makes the most sense to you. Use your judgment and be comfortable in your own skin. Being comfortable in your own skin is an important step in overcoming the fear of public speaking.
As you practice, revise and improve your speech. Eventually you will know your material inside and out. Then you can begin to put aside fears of failure. Imagine the audience listening attentively. Imagine the applause you will receive at the end of your speech. And you WILL receive applause. As you imagine success, your confidence will grow. Ever hear the advice for nervous speakers to imagine the audience members in their underwear? If that works for you, then use it, but better advice for most speakers is to imagine success. Your audience is on your side. They want you to be successful. Almost as much as you do.
When the day of your presentation comes, don’t worry about being nervous. Keep in mind that even experienced speakers will feel some degree of fear and nervousness. A little nervousness is actually desirable. Your nervousness will cause your body to release adrenaline. That adrenaline will help get you “pumped”, which will help your passion and enthusiasm shine through.