“How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking” written by Bren Koger.
What is the one thing most people fear even more than death?
You probably guessed it.
It’s public speaking.
Fear of Public Speaking
This fear is in our physiology and dates back to prehistoric times when being rejected and ostracized by a group could have meant death.
I understand this fear only too well having joined Toastmasters a couple of years ago to become a better public speaker. I had many opportunities to go up to the front of a group of 50+ people to practice speaking. Even though I am a good speaker and even won an evaluator contest for my area.
I never really got over that feeling of nervousness.
The shaking, sweaty palms and shortness of breath.
At the last division competition in front of 100+ people,. I literally wanted to run for the door. I’m so thankful I stuck it out and experienced the thrill of competing at this level.
It turns out I didn’t need to get over the feeling of fear at all, I just needed to control how I interpreted it.
How to Prepare to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking
If you are preparing to speak in front of a large group for the first time and are feeling a case of the jitters. Here are a few helpful tips:
1) Think of everyone in the room as supportive and rooting for you to do a good job.
This was something that was told to me by a very seasoned speaker just as I was about to go on stage and it was really helpful. Part of the fear of speaking in front of a large group is the idea that we will be judged and thought in a negative way. If you think of everyone in the room as supportive and loving; they are all friends or family members and only want what’s best for you. This sends a signal to calm the fight or flight response that is raging in your body. Pick someone in the audience who is smiling and friendly and focus in on them as much as possible.
2) I think the best speakers and performers have learned to recognize the feeling of fear and use it as a strength instead of a weakness. Can you think of the feelings you are having as excitement instead of fear? This way you are not judging the feelings as negative. Instead of thinking I feel jittery and shaky and that means I’m scared. Think I feel jittery and shaky and that means something really exciting is about to happen.
The fighter Jack Demsey could not stand or sit still before a fight. He did not interpret this as something negative like fear. He didn’t judge it or run from it he used the feeling to put more energy into his punches.
Many people place bets at a horse track on the nervous horses. They know the spirited horses perform better.
The feeling before a speech is just more spirit in you.
3) It’s best to keep in mind there are many important events in your life (marriage, the birth of your child) and this isn’t one of them.
It keeps everything in perspective. We tend to make mountains of molehills when we feel we are in a perceived crisis situation. We start to imagine worse case scenarios. It’s the same as asking yourself “What’s the worst that can possibly happen out of this situation?” The very worst is that you mess up and you have the opportunity to learn and grow.
Final Thoughts About How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking
The best part about following these three simple steps is that each time you choose to act in spite of your fear and turn your fear into excitement and opportunity.
So give yourself a pat on the back for having the spirit to face your fears, know you are supported and celebrate your successes along the way.
This will feed your positive momentum and will keep the good stuff coming your way!
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