Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fear of Public Speaking: Speak Anyway

Over the last few weeks, I've been working with a client who is simply scared to death of speaking in front of other people. Despite this acknowledged fear, he has come to the decision that he needs to put on seminars and make himself available to local groups as a speaker in order to create a clientele - hence he hired me to help him develop content, polish his presentation skills, and, ultimately, conquer his fear.

Frankly, the first two are far easier to handle than the fear itself - because fear is often built with emotional anchors from past experiences, outside forces seemingly beyond our control, the belief that we won't be good enough, and/or that an audience member will, at some point during our presentation, pull out an Uzi and blow us to bits because we weren't perfect.

Fear manifests in many forms in speakers at all levels. Even the most experienced speakers will generally admit to have some fear before going on - they've just learned to deal with it. Others break into a cold sweat just thinking about it, start to get an upset stomach right before going on, or literally have to let go of their last meal in the back room before taking the stage.

Whatever your individual fears, or the intensity level of them, they are real, tangible, and potentially crippling. I won't kid you - there aren't simple, cookie cutter answers to overcoming your fear, but there are some strategies to manage the fear, and Speak & Deliver anyway.

1. Accept Your Fear. It's OK. It's normal. It can actually be useful. Denying it will send you down a myriad of other rabbit holes as you try to determine what's wrong with your speaking, or lack thereof.

2. Pinpoint the Origin. I've had clients whose fathers repeatedly told them to shut up. Others were embarrassed at school. Some forgot their lines in a class play. Whatever the reason, pinpointing it allows you to look at it in a new light, especially with the help of a coach, and move beyond it.

3. Move Forward Anyway. That's one of the best qualities of the client I mentioned in the open. He's moving forward by hiring a coach, setting a date, and inviting attendees. He knows the day will come, and he'll have to speak. He'll be better than he thinks, and will be dramatically closer to managing his fears and accomplishing his goals than if he just sat focusing on his fear every day.

4. Practice. Wow, mind-blowing concept, isn't it? Even without an audience, forcing yourself to practice creates more confidence in your material and builds valuable mind-memory to fall back on in the moment. If you haven't given the speech from start to finish before you HAVE to give it, you are self-sabotaging your presentation, creating a situation for both failure and the excuse for why you failed, simultaneously. You deserve better. Practice in front of your lamp or into your hairbrush or a peanut gallery of stuffed animals, but practice.

5. Change Polarity. Negative energy is still powerful, and when you learn to harness it, much as a cowboy breaks a wild horse, it can generate enthusiasm, vocal power, and physical energy on the platform. See #7 & #8 to find where you might find a Speaking Cowboy.

6. Fail. Because you will. You will invariably fail to fulfill the image you've created into your brain of what you have to do to become a speaker. You will fail repeatedly, even when you've given the audience the most amazing performance, shared the most valuable information, and gotten a standing ovation. Because that's how most of us are wired - to find the one or fifty things about our presentations we didn't do well, even while our audience is leaving with a pad full of notes and minds filled with new ideas. Fail, and Speak Anyway.

7. Find a Toastmasters Club. A great way to ease yourself into speaking in front of a supportive audience, many of whom have faced similar fears, and continue to conquer them. Not a great way to get ready for a speech you have to give in the next two days, two weeks, or two months. See #8.

8. Find a Coach. A third party who will help you focus on what you've done right while helping you add new skills to your speaking - speechwriting, delivery, marketing, whatever you need work on. Find someone you respect, or is respected by those you trust. Get together with them and discover if you have rapport - if they are a good match for you. Not all coaches are perfect for all clients. Need me to help you Speak & Deliver? Email me at

There is nothing wrong with being afraid of Public Speaking. My client is still fearful, but he's giving a seminar this weekend anyway. I can't wait to hear how it goes, and start work with him on his next one.

Unless you let the fear stop you from sharing your value with an audience who needs to hear you despite your fear. We think you're better than you do. If what you say can help me, entertain me, educate me, inspire me - I will forgive a myriad of imperfections from you as a speaker. But I'm cheated out of all the preceding if you won't find a way to Speak & Deliver, even while shaking in your boots.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...