According to the National Institute of Mental Health up to 75% of people have a phobia of public speaking, also known as Glossophobia. It doesn’t matter how many times you practice; as soon as you get in front of an audience, your voice starts shaking, your mind goes blank; you forget your own name, your face and neck go red and you suddenly have an over powering urge to go to the toilet.
It can happen when presenting formally or any time when asked to speak in front of others: team meetings, presenting to clients, even waiting for your turn as you go around the table introducing yourself at a training day. Everyone else seems to have come prepared with a great story, but the closer they get to you, suddenly you start thinking ‘why has my life been so dull?’ as the presenter quirkily says – “just say your name and something interesting about yourself” your mind goes completely blank.
magine what it would be like if you knew that the moment you entered a room, people would immediately take notice, want to hear what you have to say, and be eager to earn your approval.
For effective public speakers, this is a way of life. Everyone is impacted by their presence. People are magnetically drawn to them and feel strangely compelled by their every word.
An effective speaker is seen as a leader. People like you, trust you and want to be led by you. However, contrary to popular belief, people are not born public speakers. If public speaking were an inherent attribute, all public speakers would be captivating, and that’s just not the case.
You’re not on your own. Public speaking is one of the most common phobias and there is something you can do about it.
1. Practice Public Mindfulness
If you are not fully present in your public performance, there is a good chance your eyes will wander or that your facial reactions will be a split-second delayed. Since the human mind can read facial expressions in as little as seventeen milliseconds, your audience will likely notice even the tiniest delays in your reactions.
Presence is a learnable skill. You can increase it with practice and patience. And being mindful of your audience means simply having a moment-to-moment awareness of what’s happening. Mindfulness also sets a pace at which the words flow from you. This prevents you from speaking too fast and getting lost in your message.
2. Challenge your thoughts
We all have an internal voice, and sometimes it becomes really loud with negative comments. Neuroscience tells us that our internal voice can actually wire the brain and cause certain behaviours. So if your internal dialogue is unhelpfully telling you that you’re going to die during the next presentation and urging you to run away fast then your brain will associate public speaking as a real threat, causing your fight or flight response to kick in. You must over ride your amygdala (emotional auto-response that causes fight or flight) by getting your rational brain to kick in. Talk to your amygdala and tell yourself the situation is not a threat. Even challenge the internal dialogue and recognise in the moment it’s a feeling driving the anxiety rather than reality itself.
3. Express Power And Warmth To Your Audience
To be considered a powerful speaker, you must be able to affect the people to whom you are speaking. We look for clues of power in someone’s appearance, in others reactions to this person, and most of all, in the persons body language.
Our reaction to power and warmth is deeply wired. We react to these qualities more than we do to intelligence and kindness, as our ancestors survived by having a strong reaction to those who displayed power and warmth in critical moments.Through the combination of warmth and power, you will be able to play powerfully on other peoples instincts
Warmth tells us whether or not people care, and are willing to impact the world in a positive way. Warmth is assed through body language and behaviour. Power can be expressed through clothing, and having a confident posture. Posture leads to assume the person has something to be confident about. In essence, people will accept whatever you project.
4. Accept Feelings Of Negativity And Discomfort
Feeling internal discomfort and negativity is a natural part of life. Everyone experiences it. When it comes to public speaking, these feelings often arise without warning and can hinder our performance if we dwell on them.
We all feel the whole spectrum of emotions, no matter how good we think we are at public speaking. But somehow, we’ve gotten into the habit of viewing our physical or mental discomfort as a sign of something gone wrong.
When you experience unwanted feelings of negativity and discomfort, it is good to remind yourself that you are not alone, and that your favourite public speakers feel the same as you before making their speech. Rather than seeing negativity as one big emotion felt by one person, instead, see it as community of people struggling with it – a burden shared by many.
5. Stop Imitating Your FAVOURITE Speakers
Because we have deep admiration for great public speakers, we sometimes wish we could be more like them. We can quite happily spend time viewing their public performances, learning to imitate their movements, tonality and words.
Excellent speakers have an authenticity about them that cannot be imitated. Their words, movements and tonality represent who they are at the core. If we try to imitate someone else, we lose ourselves in the process. We spend more time trying to be like them at the risk of our own personal development.
Instead, seek to learn from your favourite speakers, and not model their performances. Expect to learn and fail at the process of becoming the best you can.
6. Make Your Speech A Conversation
If you can easily talk about your subject to a friend for many hours, and discuss confidently about it, then your message has a natural flow. If, however, you feel the need to deliver your message by a formulated structure, you risk making errors live.
Instead, you should treat your speech more like a conversation, as if you were talking to a friend or family member. This will also lower the intensity of your performance, giving you a more natural flow. Your audience will feel more relaxed, if you feel more relaxed.
Smiling can greatly improve your mood and reduce stress. Even when “fake smiling”, you still get the same results. Smiling doesn’t just benefit you on the inside, it also works to your advantage from the outside. A study at Penn State University found that people who smile are more likeable, perceived as more courteous, and even more competent. This is reason enough to smile at every person you potentially want to do business with! Lifting those facial muscles into a smile is also contagious; if you smile and they smile, everyone in the room becomes a little happier. So why is a smile so powerful? It all comes down to how smiling can change your brain. When you smile, your brain is aware of the activity and actually keeps track of it. The more you smile, the more effective you are at breaking the brain’s natural tendency to think negatively. If you smile often enough, you end up rewiring your brain to make positive patterns more often than it does negative ones.
8. Think happy thoughts and memories – Distract your mind
The ability to be in control of your thoughts is a great trick to have. When we are in a heightened state of reaction of any kind, our thoughts tend to get hi-jacked by our feelings. Your feelings are driving irrational thoughts and your imagination starts to run wild, filling in all kinds of possibilities of what might happen. Your mind will automatically jump to negative thoughts if you’re feeling stressed. It does this to protect you from dangers and alert you to any potential hazards. The problem with this is that it just heightens our fear of threat. Use your imagination in a positive way. Allow yourself to think of memories of things that made you happy, relaxed, or even something that made you laugh. The more you allow these thoughts into your mind the more you are likely to relax and be diverted from negative thoughts. Write down as many different memories as you can, include things that have made you laugh or smile. Use these as happiness or laughter triggers when you need them most.
9. Remember Points. Not The Whole Speech.
We access information swiftly by association. Simple words have the power to help you access information that you would normally keep locked away. Instead of trying to remember your speech word-for-word, create a list of points you wish to discuss related to your talk.
Using this simple approach of making points will allow you access the information easily, and will prevent you from making mistakes during your performance. You can quite simply keep a small card in your hand, and take a quick glance when needed.
10. Keep going
Do as many presentations as you can, speak as often as you get the chance to in public, and speak out at events. You need to train your brain into thinking that doing this behaviour is easy and non-threatening and, like everything else, the more you do it the better you’ll get. There’s no such thing as natural presenters or speakers, or natural at anything. Science and neuroscience tells us the more you do something the better you get and the easier it gets, it is that simple!