Face The Fear Of Speaking In Public

Elizabeth Cipolla

If you become panicked at the thought of giving a speech or talking in front of a group, you’re not alone.

In fact, you’re perfectly normal. Speaking in public tops the list of biggest fears faced by adults. However, most people find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to face their public speaking fear at one point or another.

Whether you’ve been asked to speak at a work meeting, give a wedding toast or deliver a thank you speech as an award recipient, the sinking feeling of dread can be very real. The truth is, public speaking is like any other fear. The more you give in to it, the more it perpetuates and grows. Don’t allow yourself to miss out on another opportunity to experience an otherwise enjoyable event due to your fear of public speaking.

Now is the perfect time to stop giving in to your worry by facing your fear so it can stop plaguing you. Dig deep, and choose a new reality for yourself by facing your fear of public speaking once and for all. You will be surprised at the new freedoms you’ll experience at meetings and group events.

Here are some helpful pointers to get you started down a path of speaking in public with more confidence.

¯Make sure you have a realistic perspective about what you’re trying to accomplish. If you are aiming for perfection, you will be disappointed every time. Nobody is perfect at speaking in public. Even those who you’ve watched and listened to with envy made a mistake or two in front of your eyes. If you didn’t notice, it’s because they were going into the experience with a realistic and forgiving perspective. Mistakes are inevitable. Consider taking on the following perspective before going into your public speaking opportunity: The best way to grow is by doing things you think you can’t. The best way to gain confidence is by gaining wisdom through mistakes.

¯ Distinguish your self-perceptions from reality. We all have internal conversations with ourselves throughout the day as we’re going about our daily business. This self-talk is what helps us keep track of what we need to do from one moment to the next, and keeps us on top of the many balls we must juggle as busy adults. However, if not kept in check, it can also feed into a negative self-fulfilling prophecy surrounding things that make us nervous such as public speaking. Take notice of what your inner voice is telling yourself about your speaking capabilities. If you believe and tell yourself you will never be good, chances are you won’t. However, if you believe and tell yourself you can be good, then it will become your reality.

¯ Understand your apprehension. Every person in the world has a level of public speaking anxiety. By understanding the simple psychology surrounding this apprehension, it will prepare you to face it smartly. There are three levels of reaction everyone experiences when being asked to speak publicly. The first level is your anticipation reaction, and this is the anxiety felt prior to giving a speech. The second level is known as your confrontation reaction, and this is the surge in anxiety felt as you begin your speech. The third level is your adaptation reaction, and this is the gradual decline of your anxiety that begins about one minute into your speech. This is experienced by every person, every time; not just you. By understanding the apprehension you feel, you can prepare yourself to face it through knowing it is guaranteed to decline if you give yourself the chance to speak publicly.

¯ Don’t over rehearse. As you prepare, you’ll certainly want to do some practice runs of your speech. Avoid the common mistake of over rehearsing that many people make. The ideal formula for rehearsing your speech is no more than three times. The first time, use your smartphone to record yourself giving the speech.

Listen to it, watch your body language and consider what adjustments you’d like to make. Then, immediately do it once again and incorporate those adjustments. Next, step away and at a later time, practice it just once more. Then, put it away until you give your speech in front of your audience. Over rehearsing will cause you to over analyze every nuance to the point of creating unnecessary additional anxiety.

Trust and be kind to yourself. Initially, it will feel like using your opposite hand. It’s normal to feel a level of discomfort, but if you stick to it and push through by keeping the proper perspective, you will realize a new level of freedom.

Elizabeth P. Cipolla SPHR, SHRM-SCP is a leadership communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, employment branding, professional development and executive coaching for over 15 years. Her leadership experience comes from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, aerospace, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at elizabeth@catapultsuccess.com.