People are more afraid of public speaking than they are afraid of death. It’s so prevalent and serious that, according to the National Social Anxiety Center, the fear of public speaking, or glossophobia, is a social anxiety disorder.
Experienced by 73% of the population, it affects different fields, from business to the academe to social movements.
We are social beings. As such, it’s normal for us to communicate with others, get our ideas across, exchange point of views, talk to strangers. In the business setting, we present progress reports, pitch in proposals, convene with other entrepreneurs and clients in conferences. These are what we do on a daily basis. But why do many of us fail to go through it seamlessly? And how can we overcome it?
Why We Fear Public Speaking
Overcoming this adversity starts from identifying its causes. Of course, we have personal reasons why we’re terrified to get up on stage, but it all boils to one: rejection.
There are a lot of theories as to why we fear speaking in front of crowds. The most prevalent one is from an evolutionary standpoint. It suggests that fear of public speaking can be traced back to the times of our ancestors where rejection from the tribe meant isolation, hence death. Overcoming this type of fear must start with understanding why it exists.
It makes sense. If you’re a leader and you’re in front of your subordinates, trying to motivate them or inform them of something important about the company. These are the people you’re supposed to lead. Your brain tells you you have to be an example of strength, poise, and confidence. If you make a mistake with your speech, a mispronounced word or voice faltering, this could make them think that you’re not worthy to be leading them.
Or if you’re a startup in your chosen field. You’ll be presenting your ideas to your superiors, people you look up to. In your mind, you need to measure up to their expectations. They haven’t been vocal about it but you’d hate to disappoint them nonetheless.
These two situations have one thing in common: the pressure. You set this set of criteria–your list of must’s–, instilled it in your brain, and pressured yourself into achieving it, no matter how high.
Two things happen when we set impossible expectations upon ourselves, whether it is in public speaking or in something else. Either you fall short or you achieve it, in which case you’d most likely burn yourself out. Achieving great things is amazing. We’re not telling you to stop aiming for them. What we’re telling you is there’s a right mindset to do it.
Relax, everything’s going to be okay – Public Speaking
You must be tired of hearing this advice.
“You just have to relax.”
“All you need is to take a deep breath.”
“Think of happy thoughts.”
We’ve been hearing this that it almost lost its bearing.
It is much easier said than done. However, when someone tells us to relax, we usually just take it at its surface value. We think of slowing down our heart rate, stopping our horrible thoughts, breathing in and out, etc. We fail to see it on another level. After you’ve done your best writing a great speech, practicing it day and night, regulating your speed and voice, there’s one thing left to do: to deliver it. After delivering it, two things can happen. Either your audience will like it or they won’t. If it goes well, great. If it won’t, then there are points that you need to go over in order to improve. You’ll have all the time to ponder on the latter, and that should be after your speech. So this mindset is about dividing these two outcomes and assigning what you should focus on accordingly.
Before the event, focus on the possibility that it will turn out great. You can worry about the other outcome afterwards.So what should you focus on with success on your mind?
- Pick a topic you’re passionate about
It’s important that you’ll be talking about something you can talk about. Something that matters enough that it has to be shared with people. It’s also crucial that you identify your goal. Are you spreading awareness? Are you influencing action? What should be the results at the end of the day?
- Organise your thoughts
You may have brilliant ideas. But it won’t stick to your listeners’ minds if you aren’t able to present them in an organised manner.
- Write your speech
When writing your speech, put in mind that you will be speaking to an audience. This means that, aside from making sure that your information is factual and useful, you’ll also see to it that they will not be bored listening to you. So add a bit of trivia or jokes here and there to break the ice.
Practice your speech. Memorising is okay but we find it more effective to familiarise each part by heart and learn to improvise as you go, in case you forget. What you’re actually mastering here are the moments of what we call mental block.
- Take note of how you look and sound
Speaking in front of the mirror and recording your voice will give you a rough idea of how you sound like to your audience.
- Practice your speed, pauses, and breathing
Some people don’t notice that they speak fast. This will not only make you incomprehensible, it will also affect your breathing.
- Hire a professional
These things can be easier achieved through the help of a professional. He or she will guide you on how to do things properly. The truth is, only an expert can tell you techniques that works when it comes to the points above.