Why are some people totally comfortable speaking in front of a group but so many of the rest of us are shaking in our boots?
That question was posed on an Internet forum and it started me thinking. Why are some people so afraid to speak in front of more than 3 people that they'll do anything to avoid it, including not taking a promotion, refusing to attend networking events where they have to describe themselves in 60 seconds or less, give a wedding toast or even deliver a holiday speech at the annual end of the year festivities?
I used to be one of those, "I'm not going to do it, no way, no how" individuals who thought I would faint in front of a crowd. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Even though I white-knuckled it and forced myself to do it when I had to, I knew there had to be a better way. What did professional public speakers know that I didn't?
After 15 years as a speaker's coach and speechwriter, I believe there are three basic fears:
- Making a mistake, saying something wrong, forgetting something important
- Being judged, criticized, disapproved of, humiliated or ridiculed
- Feeling like a fraud, not good enough, or not deserving to be standing in front of the group at all
All of these are very real fears and most of us have experienced one or more of them at various times. But here's the thing:
Must we suffer through them? Do we have to psych ourselves up to feel good about saying a few words to a receptive audience on a subject we know well?
There must be an easier way to sail through the waves of self-doubt and overcome them.
Good news! There is! Here are a few suggestions:
- You made a mistake, said something wrong or forgot something important?
Say something simple like, "Let's look at that again," or "Let's go back a minute to (subject)," or "Let me say that another way," etc. If you forgot something, you'll remember it later in your talk. At an appropriate moment, when you're pausing between thoughts, say something like "I'd like to add something about (subject)," or "Let's revisit (subject) for a moment, I'd like to add that..." etc. The audience will think you planned it that way.
- You think you're being judged, criticized, etc.
It's usually not true!
Get out of your head! Focus all your attention on them! The audience is there to learn from you. They're on your side. You have a gift to give them. That gift is your knowledge and your unique presentation. They came to get your gift. They want to leave knowing more than they did when they came in. Your job is to think about giving them your gift. You'll totally forget to think about how you're doing it.
- You feel like a fraud who doesn't deserve to stand in front of them at all.
It's not about you, it's about them!
Your presentation is unique. No one can give it the way you can. We are each one of a kind. We each present a subject in our own unique way. No one can do it better than you, they can only do it differently. Your way is just as good, perhaps better, than many others, and certainly you know more than the audience who came to learn from you. Give yourself a break! You're a champ! You have a gift to give in your own unique way and you absolutely do belong there giving it!
Try these techniques. They work. I'll be happy to answer any questions. Just give me a call (310/659-8956) or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You deserve to speak without fear. Give yourself the chance.