What can you do to overcome this kind of fear?
You may have heard the term ‘stage fright’ Perhaps you have experienced unpleasant feelings in your body just before you make a speech, so bad you want to run away. Wouldn’t it be great if you knew why you felt like this, after all, you are confident in every other situation?!
It may be that your ‘fear’ of public speaking is a very natural response that we all developed many generations ago to keep us safe.
In our hunter/gatherer days it was dangerous for us to become separated from our social group. We could be attacked by an animal or a stranger, starve or die from exposure. To protect us, our brains developed a very clever ‘warning system’ to encourage us to stay with our group for safety.
When our brain believes that we are in danger it releases extra adrenalin and cortisol (hormones) into our bloodstream. You’ll be familiar with the unpleasant effects of these (sweating, increased heart rate, sickness). These ‘symptoms’ are designed to get our attention.
To feel better we must respond the way our brain wants us to by running away (flight), attacking (fight) or staying very still until the danger has passed (freeze). Only when we flee, fight or freeze will our brain reduce the adrenalin and cortisol that it’s producing (in other words, when our brain believes the danger has passed it will turn off the alarm!). If we ignore our brain’s signals it will make the unpleasant hormone surge even bigger and more unpleasant.
What does this have to do with public speaking?
When we speak in front of an audience we separate ourselves from our social group. Our brain mistakes this for danger and tries to warn us to get back into the crowd!
To get your brain to stop producing these unwanted hormones you need do one very simple thing: put on a powerful performance. Your brain will think you’ve heeded its warning and silence the alarm!
The next time you are about to speak in public, notice that surge of hormones and remind yourself that you are about to put on a great performance. When you take to the stage, give it everything you’ve got and very shortly those unpleasant feelings will begin to subside.
- Don’t attempt to ‘memorise’ your presentation. Instead ‘learn it’ by rehearsing it many times ‘in real time’.
- Make eye contact with as many members of your audience as you can before your talk begins. They will think they already know you and will warm to you more quickly.
- Adopt the ‘mountain pose’ (as it’s known in yoga), standing strongly, feet hip-width apart. You will feel more powerful when you stand this way.
- ‘Channel’ the qualities of a person you most admire for their communication abilities (they won’t mind, they won’t know!)
- Never say ‘I think’, always say ‘I believe’ or ‘I know’. Be definite and your audience will believe you too.
Julie Howell, Successful Speaking & Confidence Coach – www.juliehowell.co.uk/book
Julie’s book ‘Get Your Public Speaking Mojo Back Forever! 50 imaginative ideas to help you communicate with confidence’ is published by Britain’s Next Bestseller and available to pre-order now www.britainsnextbestseller.co.uk