Do you experience public speaking jitters? Chances are, you do. Study shows 25 percent of the population have terrible butterflies presenting before crowds. In keeping my fear of public presentation under control, I’ve developed a five-word mnemonics which represents seven steps that, if applied with consistency, will help you transform stage fright from a foe to a friend. These techniques may not extirpate your anxieties, but they can enable you to communicate your ideas confidently in public despite your fears. But before diving deeper, it’s important that two questions be answered right off the bat. What is glossophobia and why does it affect so many?
Why Are We Afraid of Public Speaking?
Many scientists have attempted to decipher the mysteries surrounding the fear of public speaking. For example, historians purport glossophobia may have deeply ingrained biological imprints. Historically, outlaws were punished and shamed in front of large audiences. Henceforth, from an evolutionary standpoint, standing before an audience signals transgression.
Other scientists identify a myriad of internal and external fears that may trigger stage fright. Inner qualms characterize the trait component of glossophobia and represent those who experience long-term acute public speaking anxiety resulting from fear of embarrassment and self-doubt, among others.
The state component of glossophobia represents the anxiety that arises with the intricacies of the audience and speech events. For example, a bigger crowd can spell higher levels of panic. I encounter this phenomenon firsthand on a very regular basis. Stepping into a room full of eight-year-olds differs greatly from when I speak internationally in front of professional adults, most of whom have much greater credentials than me. Knowing they might challenge me for a slip of the tongue, or an error of facts, I experience more intense pressure. Following are the seven ways to tame your public speaking jitters and share your ideas confidently.
Much of public speaking anxieties originate from our inner monologues. The most effective way to counteract our self-doubts is through positive mental pep talks, or what I call success visualization. Scientists agree that the best way to remove negative thoughts is not to deny or resist them, but with constructive mental chatters.
Before your next presentation, find a quiet place free of distractions, try to create images of the speech being a complete success. For instance, you can visualize yourself sharing your ideas with confidence, the attendees cheering, equipment working properly, etc. Remember, the audience is rooting for you, therefore visualize success.
The well-meaning advice: “Practice makes perfect,” may make you wonder why your repeated practice has never borne fruit. In their bestselling book Peak: How all of Us Can Achieve Extraordinary Things, Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool showed that naïve practice, because it’s repetitive and unfocused, is ineffective. Swimming for five hours a day, six days a week, won’t take you to the Olympics. You need to practice purposefully. Purposeful practice allows you to focus on one skill at a time, giving you the opportunity to track your progress. Therefore, for your effort to combat stage fright to be fruitful, you must be deliberate in the way you practice.
We experience the same physiological changes, whether excited or stressed. Our adrenal glands release epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol, which are the flight or fight chemicals. From a physiological standpoint, being enthused or afraid is identical. Therefore, you can harness the energy your body releases from stage fright to psyche yourself for the presentation. How?
By tricking your subconscious mind with positive, verbal affirmations such as “I’m excited!” Our subconscious is impersonal. It doesn’t rationalize and can’t tell the truth from a lie. Regardless of whether you are afraid, your powerful autosuggestions will sink into your subconscious mind and manifest in the way you think, feel, and act. You should never tell yourself, “Don’t be afraid!” Well, I mean always tell yourself: “I’m excited and ready to rock the stage!”
You may wonder, “Why is action a step to help overcome stage fright?” Many attend training or read articles and expect to get their desired outcomes right away. Unfortunately, no achievement can be obtained without an action plan. I usually require that participants leaving my workshops devise a game plan they will follow to reach their goals.
What will you do? Will you join a local Toastmasters club? How often do you plan to practice? Do you have an accountability buddy? Your attending seminars and reading similar articles are vibrant proof you’ve had enough of stage fright. So, why not start drafting your action plan?
Know Your Purpose, Audience, and Materials
Before presenting, you must be familiar with your purpose, the audience, and your materials. First, make sure you have this question answered: Why am I doing this? A speech devoid of a purpose has no value to your audience. Next, gather basic demographic information about the attendees, such as age, cultural background, educational attainment, and occupation. Those insights empower you to convey your message effectively. Finally, master the introduction, main ideas, transition words, and the conclusion. Complete mastery of your materials will boost your self-confidence, which will reduce your public speaking apprehension.
I hope these techniques serve you well as they have me and the many others who’ve attended my workshops. The improvement you make depends on your willingness to apply those principles. To transform glossophobia from a foe to a friend, you must S-P-E-A-K despite your fears.