Making a presentation whether it is in front of a few people or a conference full of people can be impossible for a small group of people who are truly petrified and become physically debilitated at even the thought of public speaking.
True glossophobics (technical term given to extreme fear of public speaking) will go to great lengths to avoid public speaking and often suffer with panic attacks and extreme anxiety.
Then there is another group, a small group, but mighty in their love for public speaking. They get a rush from it and eagerly get in front of any size group.
In today’s article…
We’ll talk about the majority of people, who have some of the mild-moderate symptoms of anxiety surrounding public speaking which sometimes intensify. But for the most part these people know they will get through the speech. They have the normal jitteriness performers experience and struggle with physical symptoms which, granted, just aren’t too much fun.
So, no matter where you land on the spectrum of anxieties and the intensity suffered surrounding public speaking, there are strategies that help. I say, good on you for making brave moves to bring some relief.
I’ll show you how to make it fun and E.A.S.E.-y, using the magic formula by James C. Humes where you make 4 note cards and put key points on each one of them.
Let’s say I was going to give a talk on “How to Deal With Public Speaking Anxieties”.
Here’s how each card works…
I’d start with a human interest story of the problem/issue/pain…
Here’s a story that you may be able to relate to…
— Story about Melanie, an HR Executive who is getting ready to give another presentation.
— This time she is speaking about an important policy change impacting managers and their employees.
— She’s remembering another presentation that didn’t work out so well a month ago and is feeling stressed.
— She got a later start on planning that presentation due to personal and other work demands that were unexpected.
— Worked on it up to the night before the presentation was scheduled, making changes yet not having time to perfect it.
— Didn’t sleep well the night before either.
— Full of nerves, stomach hurt, in and out of bathroom with diarrhea, threw up (usually does).
— Got through the presentation. Reviews okay. Melanie didn’t feel good about it…It could have been so much better.
— Now she’s feeling some anxieties about this presentation to the managers although she’s prepared.
— Getting ready to talk with the senior executives about retention issues in 2 weeks, feeling some dread…there’s one senior executive that asks hard to answer questions.
This is where I’d enlarge on the problem/issue/pain and tell about similar problems…in this case, it’s about anxieties related to public speaking.
Not only presentations, but…
— Speaking up during a work meeting with anxieties of appearing incompetent.
— Reluctance to participate in networking events where your expertise and understanding isn’t shared due to feeling anxious.
— Asking a question and letting others know that your lack of understanding and possibly seeing it as a weakness.
— Having to give a brief summary during a conference call fearing sounding goofy or incompetent.
Sadly, avoiding public speaking opportunities pigeonholes us into mediocrity…not my wish for any of you. And it’s probably why you’re listening to this speech (or reading this blog). You realize that it’s necessary to hone some public speaking skills which means keeping those anxieties manageable.
Card #3—Specify (okay, I’d definitely have to use more than 1 card or edit my list…I’d probably edit)
What solution can be specified? What do I want to have done? This is the fun part! It’s your time to tell people what they can do!
— Realize that it is “adrenaline” and it goes somewhere. In times way past, we ran after saber-toothed tigers. Now, we need to acknowledge the heightened pulse, clammy hands and racing thoughts for the positive energy it can bring to our verbal sharing, whether it is a speech, comments or question.
— AND, as a client told me, change the emphasis to, you’re feeling “excited”, not anxious. Better energy. Try envisioning a successful you speaking up.
— With that adrenaline, it helps to take a walk, not too far, but expend some of the energy so you’re not pacing during the speech (some people do that…I get dizzy watching).
— See me in the audience cheering you on in a sparkling pink top, right in the middle of the audience or someone else who knows how special YOU are and your message seated next to you in that meeting. My husband has surprised me in the past by waiting for me outside the conference room where I was speaking. Now I imagine him around, waiting proudly. At other times, I imagine my mother behind me, or I hear the words of my coach saying, “you’ve got this Mary”.
— A soloist showed me his music after a performance, a big smile on his face, with a note on top, “Have fun!”. He was my older brother…What a guy who said that reminded him of our mother’s love for music and performing. “Have fun” works for me too. So cool…and so is my brother.
— Here’s a great idea…go observe another person giving a speech on the same subject, or observe how someone else shares in a meeting, or asks questions. Take notes on what you liked, the audience’s higher energy times and implement it in your talk or next questions. You can try on different styles until you find one that fits you. From others observed, I’ve learned that it’s important to offer a positive alternative if you are sharing something negative.
— Practice your speech and record it or make a video. Watch and listen to it before you go live. Ask friends for feedback.
— Regularly practice positive calming techniques. Look at my last article and find The 3 Minute Breathing Space or listen to the new meditation below. Priceless skill to hone.
— Okay, for those times you’re presenting to an audience that has a reputation for being critical (like senior executives), a few thoughts…
- Keep it shorter rather than longer (short attention span).
- Anticipate the concerns and questions…practice skepticism to prepare.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, say, “I’ll need to get back to you” and then do.
- If you take the position you are going to help the executive rather than impress the executive, you’ll relax and your presentation will more than like be more enjoyable.
- If it fits, approach the group with the idea that your recommendations/solutions/ideas/ will enhance the product or service…perhaps,the cost of doing nothing vs. the cost of your recommendations…literally and figuratively.
Galvanize people into action…inspire them. Ask yourself: What am I going to ask them to get out of their chairs and do?
— Identify 5 topics you are familiar with and like to talk about and choose one and use this formula…E.A.S.E. Write bullets for each heading. See how easy it is. Let me know how it goes.
— Consider growing as an authentic speaker that is well rehearsed, but not programmed so that it looks staged. The real you who knows her message so well that she can be present during the speech and listen to the audience, connect with the audience and share passion around the subject in ways that are genuine and real. Not perfect…but in touch with her feelings. Read Nick Morgan’s inspirational article, How to Become an Authentic Speaker. As an experienced speaker, I love it. So helpful.
— Enjoy David Brooks, NYT columnist, author of a new book coming out in September, The Road to Character, who so eloquently said during a discussion with Charlie Rose about great speakers/artists, “if you’re willing to fall onto the audience, the audience is willing to hold you up…If you pull back they will not (hold you up) and instead wonder why (you’re holding back)…because we (the audience) want to help you.”
Wow. This is inspiring to me and I’m thinking to anyone who does any public speaking whether it is a brief comment in a meeting or a formal speech. When we show up, caring about our message and the audience, connection can happen that’s synergistic.
— Ask a friend or 2 to listen to your speech and give you feedback. You can join Toastmasters or hire a coach to help you.
— If you’re wondering if the anxieties you’re experiencing are more than the normal, consult your doctor and/or make an appointment with a licensed therapist who specializes in anxiety for a consult. She’ll help you determine if a medical consult is right for you as well as other treatments like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) or CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).
The -y means…Yay! E.A.S.E.-y. P.E.A.S.Y.–(Practice/E.A.S.E./Accelerate/Speaking/Yayness)… See, this is fun!
The takeaway is…
Anxiety isn’t YOU. It’s a normal aspect of being human and having to speak publicly. And for some of us, it shows up as a more serious mental health issue, yet strategies can ease public speaking challenges.
Make brave moves with the rest of us and work with those anxieties surrounding public speaking. We need your influence, ideas, expertise and experience. The message doesn’t have to be perfect. Commit to being you and speaking up.
Here’s another sweet meditation from Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World.
May all of us have ease of being.