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5 Ways To Banish The Fear Of Public Speaking



Sweaty hands. Not the best when you have to shake hands with your host. Flushed face. Doesn’t exactly instill a vote of confidence in your audience.  This post will offer you 5 ways of thinking to banish your fear of public speaking – for good!

Public Speaking is sure death

Not for most of us, but some of us have landed in a chair with hyperventilation, on the floor with lack of oxygen (i.e. forgetting to breathe) or on a more serious note – in hospital with suspected cardiac arrest. Fear of public speaking can be debilitating and really stop us doing the things we love most – talking passionately about the subject we are most passionate about.

I know many, many people who would love nothing more than share their knowledge and experience with others, to be held back with a sincere fear of speaking or presenting in public.

public speaking

Public Speaking vs Presenting

There can be a huge difference in speaking in public, and presenting in public. Presenting usually involves props, slide-shows and movement. There are many opportunities to allay the fears, and boost confidence (and hide behind things.)

Public speaking often (not always) lacks the addition of props, slides, and can usually involve a pulpit and microphone. Pulpits can hide nervousness, or accentuate it (white knuckles grabbing the edges are a sure give-away.)

5 ways to banish your fear of Public Speaking

# 1.  FEAR

False Emotions Appearing Real. Often the fear of the event can be worse than the event itself. As in, the problem with the problem is worse than the problem. A simple mindset shift can drive you from dread to confidence.

# 2. They are just like you!

Most audiences want you to be successful. If you are successful, it means it has been worth their while coming, and they leave with value. No-one is trying to “catch you out”. You may be unlucky to experience a “detractor” and there are resources available for ways to deal with them!

# 3. They have MORE fear than you

Most people feel secure in a group or crowd. Their worst fear is when the presenter or speaker asks a question. Psychologically the focus shifts from the presenter to the “crowd”. You will notice a audible shift amongst the masses when this happens. Imagine you are at a comedy show, in the front row. And the comedian turns their attention to the audience. This is the main reason people will not sit in the front row (unless you are at an Apple product launch). Take solace in the knowledge that they are just as nervous as you are. Building a rapport with your audience will help dissipate this “awkwardness.”

# 4. The Bored Look

This one is close to my heart. Scenario: I am presenting, the content is relevant and serious. I am excited and passionate. My audience looks bored!! OMG! They must be bored senseless!! Oh hang on; I know what is going on here:

When sitting in an audience, most people think they are invisible. So they often adapt their ‘default face’ (the a way a person’s face naturally falls) that is usually bored or slightly frowning. Like when they are watching TV, or waiting for the toaster to pop, or the kettle to boil. They are in their own world – their own frame of reference. You have helped them get there, by speaking at them. It is completely normal. They are listening, but also slightly zoned out.

How to change this? Break state! Create a sudden silence, move suddenly, or raise your voice a few notches. If you really want to be mean, ask a loud question. Now watch them begin to shift their position – they have come back to you. Message received!

# 5. You are the Subject Matter Expert

You are the one at the top of the room, whether you move around or not, is your choice. You are departing information that your audience want or need. That simply means you know more than them. So rather than thinking everyone is out to get you, simply think it is so important that you help these people understand better. It is so important for you to share this knowledge, as it will help relieve a pain, solve an issue, or inspire them to take an action. What is more important than that?

In Conclusion

When standing up in front of others, simply ask yourself “WIIFT” What’s in it for them? This speech is not about you, it’s about helping your audience, and they are there because they want to be helped.

Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it “to whom it may concern” ~ Nancy Duarte

How do you increase your confidence when presenting or speaking in public? Why not share with us below…

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Images:  ”microphone in auditorium / Shutterstock.com



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The Author:

Elaine Rogers is a Business Training & Development Specialist. She provides training and coaching in the areas of IT Skills, Business Skills, and Soft Skills. Elaine has just launched a new online training store at http://www.thesmarttrain.com that provides videos and workshops in the areas of IT, Business and Soft Skills. http://www.thesmarttrain.com

Add Your Comment

  • http://www.ahaingroup.com/ John twohig

    Good post Elaine, generally I think people need to take a deep breath and keep varying the pace of delivery, make sure there is no monotone. Display your passion for the topic.

  • http://www.sianphillips.ie/ Sian Phillips

    Well you know me Elaine – would be sure death for me :) Brilliant post – I read it thinking how great it would be…..for anyone but me :)

  • John Dawson

    thanks for the article which raises some interesting points. Can I comment on point four.
    I don’t think audience members think they are invisible. What’s happening is that the listeners have simply moved from being active listeners to passive listeners. As an audience member they don’t have to look after the speaker like they would in a normal conversation. So they don’t show approval signs such as nodding and smiling.

    So blank faces are absolutely normal in an audience.

    This means that the speaker needs to shift from using the normal conversational skills where both parties are offering micro-signals of approval to public speaking skills where the speaker needs to STOP looking for those clues. Because you won’t get approval signs from the audience very often. You get passive listening faces. It’s really worth learning these public speaking skills – it makes it a lot easier to be the centre of attention when you realize that the bored look is just standard practice in a normal audience. You might of course get one person who is nodding and smiling – the danger with that is that you spend all your time with that person. If you learn to love blank faces then you can include and connect with all of your audience – even the ones with grumpy faces.

    http://www.speaking-infront.co.uk/

  • http://www.theexecutivesuite.com/blog/ Warren Rutherford

    Great advice again Elaine. Sharp and to the point. I like the outward focus at the end – WIIFT.

  • Christina Giliberti

    Elaine, I know that fear well! But getting better and in actual fact, now I think about it….your tips are why. I started to notice how uncomfortable people were, so switched to sitting down and chatted to them like a collaborative group. Suddenly barriors dropped and we felt much calmer. Obviously this tactic doesn’t work with large audiences, but it does highlight that mindset and approach are key.

  • http://about.me/Lindeskog lyceum1776

    Elaine: Have you participated in meetings by the Toastmasters International?

  • http://www.smartsolutions.ie/blog/ Elaine Rogers

    If we feel the passion, I believe it will show :)
    Thanks for reading John, and monotone is a no-no, I agree!

  • http://www.smartsolutions.ie/blog/ Elaine Rogers

    Once a want to change becomes greater than the need to stay the same, change happens. And change is generally perceived by humans as negative, whereas it can also be positive.

    And just sometimes, it means simply putting yourself in that position to stand up there, and then realise it’s not so bad, afterall. And the sense of achievement and euphoria so outweighs the initial fear.

    Best wishes Sian, perhaps a local toastmasters may be an opportunity to get over that initial hurdle!

  • http://www.smartsolutions.ie/blog/ Elaine Rogers

    Hi John,

    Thank you for your very wise addition to the conversation. I agree that the “blank look” is simply the passive listening face. I would add that it is the responsibility of the speaker to turn passive into active, to ensure interaction and acceptance of what they are speaking about (after all as speakers, we want them to at least remember some of what we say – rather than leave wondering “what was that al about” – a bit like arriving at a destination in a car and wondering how you didn’t notice the journey).

    I believe the clues you speak of are a cue to change state, as suggested in my post. This enables the audience to subconsciously switch from passive to active listening.

    I smiled at your comment about the nodding and smiling person – I have been guilty of that, especially in the early days. It’s still encouraging at least :)

    Great points raised, I appreciate your contribution.

  • http://www.smartsolutions.ie/blog/ Elaine Rogers

    Hi Warren,

    Thank you and just to expand a little on the WIIFT (or WIFT for short). This is the first Q we should ask ourselves as presenters, speakers and trainers. The next Q is WIFM (What’s in it for ME) – also vitally important because if we do not know why we are there, well then all bets are off!

    I have taken this a step further to the WIFE (no not that one but – What’s in it for EVERYONE) – my personal favourite – a WIN/WIN me thinks :)

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  • http://www.smartsolutions.ie/blog/ Elaine Rogers

    Hi Christina,
    I love your response thank you! Indeed, when I am training, or facilitating especially, I much prefer to sit also, as it does indeed break down certain barriers. One important point to remember is that no matter what, you CANNOT become one of them, as they need you to be masterful and lead (if only even a little).

    There is always a danger of the “discussion” getting out of control and becoming a free for all, so it’s the speaker’s job to maintain control and stay on top (whilst remaining calm!)

    Thanks for sharing your experience :)

  • http://www.smartsolutions.ie/blog/ Elaine Rogers

    Hi Martin,
    Although there is a local group in my area, I have never joined, due to the nature of my work. Having just written that, I do realise and appreciate that a group like toastmasters is essential for refining techniques and getting to “Steve Jobs” level of presenting / speaking.

    Thank you for reading the most and making that recommendation, I very much appreciate your input!

  • Elish Bul

    Thank you for the quick soothing pointers! There is a new event series in Dublin called Speaking suppers where you can practise speaking or just go and watch whilst supping. I suspect there will be more such gatherings to help those who break out in a cold sweat each time. I find a big smile as you prepare helps generate a warmer state of mind , the right endorphins and it never hurts to listen to music that motivates you too ( pre speech/ performance)

  • http://www.facebook.com/JonTurino Jon Turino

    The book of lists puts death at number seven on the fear scale and
    public speaking at number one. But it doesn’t have to be that wasy as
    Elaine Rogers points out in this article with five tips for overcoming fears. And I can tell you from experience that they work! Need a speaker on a marketing topic? http://jonturino.com/contact. And I can help you learn to be a better public speaker as well.

  • Storewars News

    Nice
    read! Very informative. Did you know that Coca-Cola sales beat estimates as
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  • http://bloggingwizard.com/ Adam Connell

    Sian, huge thanks to you for including Lynsey’s post on the UK Linkology blog.

    Could you update ‘Linkology’ to ‘UK Linkology’ please?

    I’ll get this shared with my followers!

    Hope you’re having a great weekend.

  • http://about.me/Lindeskog lyceum1776

    Did you do a holiday round-up?

  • http://www.ecwritingservices.com Elizabeth Campbell

    Great post – all very relevant info … I also like to have a look at what’s trending, current affairs, time of year, what’s happening my my business. There’s blog-writing inspiration all around us!

  • intouchcrm

    Great post Sumita! Very interesting points. Everybody experiences writers block every now and then and knowing how to kind your muse, your inspiration and your subject is crucial. Here at InTouch CRM (http://www.intouchcrm.com) we have a few guides to keep us writing-motivated: Know your subject, Listen carefully (to customers, industry leaders and competition – what do they all talk about, what do they want to know), Learn from your mistakes and victories (if a certain topic worked for your audience particularly well, how can you get more out of the subject). I hope that helps! Really nice post!

  • Sumita Das Dutta

    Thank you Elizabeth for liking my post.

  • Sumita Das Dutta

    Hi Sian! you are welcome! Indeed the point you mention can be implemented for better outcome.

  • http://www.krishtechnolabs.com/ Krish TechnoLabs

    Successful bloggers enoy discussing their blogs’ topics from all angles and appreciate a healthy debate.