Have you ever come across someone who tends to freeze in front of an audience, even a couple of people? They find that their mouth dries up, their voice goes weak and their body starts shaking. They may even start sweating profusely, go red in the face and feel their heart thumping rapidly.
Has this happened to you sometime? Do you often shy away from any opportunity to speak in public? Does the thought of speaking in public leave you frozen with fear?
Glossophobia – fear of public speaking
Yes, there is a cool Greek-inspired name for fear of public speaking as well! And as much as 75% of all people are affected by it. Not surprising really, we have all felt butterflies in our stomachs before going up on stage, and most of us have an anecdote or two about public speaking disasters.
But why does something as straightforward as speaking in front of a bunch of people, cause so much dread for so many people?
Studies across the globe have identified four main reasons –
An Anxious Nature
For some people predisposed to anxiety, public speaking can trigger a threat perception hyperarousal – basically your body senses and experiences it as a threat and reacts accordingly – making it even more difficult to perform well.
You build it up to be more important than it is, you don’t think you are good enough, you think everyone will judge you and so on – basically your thoughts take over and inflate the importance of the situation to such an extent that natural nervousness snowballs into full-blown fear of public speaking.
Did you have a bad public speaking experience in the past? Do you speak in public regularly? Your skill and past success or failure play a big role in how you approach public speaking situations.
New or Unfamiliar Situations
It is natural to feel more anxious if you are encountering a new audience or trying out an untested idea or are in an unknown setting. Even something like speaking in your second language or on an unprepared topic can trigger anxiety.
If you are trying to grow your business or climb the corporate ladder or have a fantastic idea that you need to communicate – you need to look your fear in the face and vanquish it.
How? Well keep reading – we have put together some simple tips to help you become a better and more confident speaker.
Know your Content
With anxiety comes the loss of concentration and memory — the first thing to go out of the window is the speech or the presentation you memorised. To avoid a black-out its best to understand your content thoroughly. Don’t just learn the lines; you should know the content well enough to be able to convey the idea in entirely different words.
For nervous speakers, practice makes perfect! Practice the speech, the pauses, the stance, the gestures and practice in front of a mirror and front of friends. Rehearsing your speech or presentation bakes it in your mind and when anxiety strikes, being over prepared will come in handy.
Relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, meditation or even some physical activity can help you tamp down the anxiety. The goal is to start the speech with a calm frame of mind, a lower heartbeat, and controlled breathing. If you start off nervous, chances are it will keep getting worse.
But relaxation techniques don’t just work overnight – you will need to make them a habit and practice them constantly to see the benefits.
Know your Limitations
Like everything else, public speaking also requires practice and time to perfect. Don’t try to just jump into a big gathering straight away – know your capabilities, start small. If you are having trouble memorising your content, carry bullet points; don’t force a joke or an anecdote if you don’t want to; don’t speak in front of hundreds of people if you can’t handle ten.
Becoming a good orator requires time and experience. Understand which stage you are at and take your time.
Lastly, ask for Help
You don’t have to go at it alone; if a big presentation or an important speech is coming up, then bring in the professionals.
Counsellors can help you structure your content, help you practice, give you useful and actionable tips to improve and also provide the much needed emotional support.
Don’t let the fear of public speaking close opportunities and stunt your professional or personal growth.
Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it so well,
“All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.”
If you want to become a confident and engaging speaker, then don’t hesitate to get in touch!
You might not end up loving the stage, but we promise you will learn not to hate it.
To know more, click on the Request Consultation button above.