Public speaking is one of our greatest fears because it involves exposing our egos to possible ridicule. In essence, the fear is really the terror of making an idiot of ourselves while under public scrutiny. Many people are extremely nervous about the audience being able to see that they’re nervous via their shaking hands, quivery mouth. We don’t like people thinking we’re less competent than others.
Actors with performance anxiety say their fear is about forgetting their lines. Again, they’re really afraid of looking like a fool because…. they forgot their lines. According to veteran keynote speaker Dan Smith of KeynoteSpeakers.info, “When we do not learn self-esteem at a young age and seek outside validation from others, the thought of failing in a public setting is devastating to most people. This is why it is important to learn to overcome this early on during your school years.”
A guaranteed way to conquer public speaking fears
The quickest and most effective way to conquer any fear is to examine it. Really look at it so that you understand what makes you afraid and then face these simple facts about all unhelpful fears.
1. They’re only feelings
2. Those feelings were created by you. By your thoughts, your memories. And…
3. Your thoughts, hence your feelings, are under your control.
Let’s see how.
Think about your next public presentation. You immediately feel that all-too-familiar worry. Just the thought, the memory of your previous event is enough. Standing in your own lounge room, without an audience and you can generate all those negative thoughts. Your mouth goes dry, you can even feel quite queasy. Tune in to the different ways that you feel the anxiety and stress. Now do this – please.
· Write each separate fear symptom on a list.
· Read it aloud.
· Say this: “I produced those fears just by remembering the last time I spoke, or just by thinking about how afraid I’ll be. I’m now going to replace those thoughts with empowering ones.”
Bravo. You’ve just experienced the first step out of the fear. You’ve realized that those fear-filled symptoms have been triggered by you, by your thoughts, your memories.
Now you’ll replace your negative thoughts with alternative reactions. See your brain as similar to a computer. Your program needs to be replaced with one minus the disabling fears. Although our human brain is far more complex than any computer, the part of the human brain in which emotions are stored is the least sophisticated.
Many people write about the ‘act as if ‘ approach to overcoming fear generally and performance anxiety in particular. They don’t explain that to use that strategy effectively you must rehearse ‘acting as if’ you’re calm. Only by rehearsing or practicing can you replace your fear-filled program with a one guaranteed to have you feeling calm and confident.
Your rehearsals of confident public speaking are, in fact, the writing of your brain’s new calm program. Through the repetitive nature of this action, you will be able to train yourself to be a confident and successful public speaker.