The ability to speak confidently is a powerful asset that helps in all areas of our lives, yet for some us, the fear of public speaking is something to avoid at all costs. Its not uncommon to take a failing grade in school or shy away from a career advancement simply to avoid public speaking. What’s interesting is that many of us who have a fear of public speaking are very confident and articulate speakers until there’s a label of “presentation” to our talk. Then suddenly we become afraid that we will freeze, forget what we’re talking about and appear nervous or foolish.
With the label of "presentation" seems to come the notion of needing to put on a façade. Suddenly those of us with the fear of public speaking feel like we need to be perfect, that we can’t show any weakness, make a mistake or be ourselves and herein lies the root of the problem. Trying to be someone we're not, which includes being perfect, brings immediate discomfort.
After helping many clients with the fear of public speaking, I’ve found that these three rules of thumb go a long way in creating confident speakers.
This being said, the most important rule of thumb in releasing the angst over public speaking is to be yourself. Being yourself means accepting who you are with all of your flaws and idiosyncrasies. As long as you're trying to hide character flaws or be someone you're not, you're going to feel nervous! Accept the fact that you may make a mistake or that someone may not agree with your message but that doesn't define who you are as a person.
The second rule of thumb is to trust yourself in the moment. People often try and forecast what's coming in the future and prepare for it, but when it comes to public speaking, you need to trust that you're going to know what to say in the moment. The worst thing you can do is try to memorize your content word for word. Not only is it unnatural but it's going to add a ton of stress that will show in your presentation. Prepare for your presentation by knowing your key messages, but once you're prepared, trust that you'll handle the unknowns as they come just like you do in your regular life. Think of going out with a good friend for coffee. You wouldn't rehearse your conversation word for word, nor would you worry and fret that there would be a question or part of the conversation you couldn't handle. When you show up as your authentic self, trusting that you’ll know what to say in the moment, the fear will diminish.
Finally, prior to your presentation reinforce the belief that you’ve got this. When you’re nervous or afraid of speaking it’s normal to perpetuate thoughts of worry which serves to increase and engrain the fear even more. Instead of focusing on the fear which will inevitably create more fear, come up with a positive mantra that you can say over and over, such as, “I’ve got this!” It will help you reprogram the habitual thoughts of fear and worry and replace them with confidence.
For more help in getting over the fear of public speaking, you can book a session with Dawn. She uses cutting edge tools to release your fear and anxiety so you can deliver your message with confidence and impact.