Public speaking is a very well-known fear among us and quoting neuropsychologist Theo Tsaousides, “approximately 25 percent of people report experiencing it”.
There are a few things one can do to tackle this fear – if you google the expression “overcome fear of public speaking” you will find very useful and diverse tips, so in this post I’d rather focus in sharing my sort of epiphany with you.
First, to give you some context, in two brief lines my underlying fears regarding public speaking come down to the following:
failing to pass on the message I intend to, and
boring the crowd to death.
The way I tackle my first issue is by following the advice organising what I want to say and how I want to communicate it and then practice it.
The method I use is to break down the information into topics and then record myself while making the presentation to check if it makes sense. Also, if there are any friends or family available, I double-check with them on the clarity of the message.
Practising is the key to a successful presentation and in this regard it is not only the content that matters, but also the form, the way you present it.
I found myself, many times, only focused on the content because of anxiety or lack of confidence when speaking to a new crowd (does it ring a bell?). In retrospective, I realized that it made me less aware of how I presented myself, less aware of my body and posture.
I get all sweaty just by imagining a group in front of me rolling their eyes, yawning and not engaging at all. So, besides using my coping tools to deal with the anxiety, I found that the best tool to understand if I am engaging a crowd is actually to deliver the presentation to my 4-year-old daughter! Children are the most genuine creatures in the world, so who best than them to show you what you are doing right?
My “epiphany” came up while practising for a presentation in the living room. My daughter was apparently entertained, eating supper.
The subject I was talking about was certainly of no interest to a child, but a few minutes after starting my mock presentation, I felt 2 curious eyes completely glued on me. She was hooked! Most likely not listening to what I was saying, but certainly because HOW I was expressing myself. I was talking with enthusiasm, making pauses, doing my best to create suspense.
She even asked me “Mommy, will that story involve a bad wolf at some point?”; I cracked up.
At the same time, something happened in my brain, I had just realised what I had to do in order to bring enthusiasm to the room. I know it will sound as a cliché, but I just needed to be myself! It sounds easy, right? Indeed, if it wasn’t for my self-sabotaging ghosts. Those creepy voices who haunt me in the back of my head. I had to come up with a way to “shush” those inner critics and allow myself the mental space to just be.
So, finally, all I do is a simple – yet very effective - visualization exercise, in which I give shape to the voice, I shrink it to marble size and kick it away. Bye-bye, annoying voice!
Now that I have shared my experience with you, I am very curious to hear about your tools and epiphanies!