Public speaking is tough.
There are not many things we have to do as part of run-of-the-mill business that can strike such fear into our hearts as being asked to speak in front of a group of people. It could be a presentation you have to deliver to your peer group, some subordinates, or superiors. No matter. The fear, the sense of danger, the taste of perceived failure-to-come are all too real.
In this article you’ll learn how to overcome your fear of public speaking.
If this is your first time speaking it is impossible to completely remove all fear and anxiety but you can manage your feelings effectively.
Let’s have a look at Jerry Fernandez.
Today is D-Day.
Jerry needs to deliver a speech in front of 30 people from his department. Among these 30 people are his boss, 26 team mates, and 4 of his own staff.
This presentation is seen as Jerry’s first test of leadership along the road to his next promotion.
Normally cool, calm, and collected, today Jerry is jittery. He has been up all night (and the past several nights) revising his speech, adjusting slides, and practicing in front of the mirror. Today is the day when all Jerry’s work comes together.
But Jerry is panicking.
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Jerry’s mind is racing. Everything that could possibly go wrong is keeping him focused on problems.
- What if the slides don’t work?
- What if I make a mistake?
- What if I forget my lines?
- What if my face goes bright red?
- What if I embarrass myself in front of my team? How can they ever take me seriously again?
- What if they think of me what I think of others when I’m in the audience?
- What if this ruins my chances of promotion?
- What if someone asks me a difficult question?
- I can’t remember everything I need to say
- I’m not credible
- I just can’t do this
Subconsciously, Jerry subscribes to the if-I-think-about-it-it-might-not-happen philosophy.
Jerry’s brain is actually rewarding him for his negative thoughts.
Trouble is, Jerry’s negative thoughts are setting him up for failure. Jerry’s fear is enemy number one.
And guess what?
Jerry’s speech delivery goes terribly. He stutters. Despite extensive practice, he forgets his lines. He avoids eye contact. Throughout the presentation he feels his face burning. When the audience laughs, he knows they are laughing at him.
Jerry’s presentation is a disaster. A disaster for the audience whose eyes and ears were abused for the 10 minute talk and a bigger disaster for Jerry whose credibility is now shot.
Here’s how to overcome your fear of public speaking and avoid making the same mistakes as Jerry:
Jerry’s biggest problem is his negative forecasting.
Because Jerry is consumed by everything that could possibly go wrong he is actually inviting problems into his presentation.
He is focused on all the things that will derail his speech. When one of these happens (no matter how small) he proves himself right. Then his mindset shifts even more negative and it becomes only a matter of time until something else goes wrong and he is proved right again.
It’s a slippery slope to disaster.
How does this help you?
It is hard to stay positive about something as scary as delivering a speech. But if you change your thinking it is much easier to deal with. It is much more likely that you will succeed. Much more likely that you will overcome the fear of public speaking holding you back.
Instead of running through your mind all the possible things that could go wrong and how you will feel, stop!
Remember that, no matter how accomplished a speaker you are, there will always be some kind of slip-up. No matter how many times you have spoken, no matter how many times you have done the same speech, there will always be a point that doesn’t go as planned.
So, think about your speech like this:
I am certain something will go wrong along the way, but I will deal with it.
Most times, what goes wrong are things the audience doesn’t even notice (unless you draw attention to them).