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Sep
14

Flight or Fight? Neither. How to Conquer Fear of Public Speaking

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Are you among the 75% of people afraid of public speaking? Here are 3 solutions that work.

Are you afraid to get up in front of people? There are millions of people just like you. For over three decades, I’ve taught people how to teach. I’ve seen thousands of people come to class eager to learn. At the same time, I’ve seen dozens be so afraid I thought they would run out the door on the slightest provocation.

Fear of Public Speaking: Common Phobia

Glossophobia, or a fear of public speaking, is a very common phobia and one that affects up to 75% of the population. Glossophobia may relate to one’s prior experiences. Jeffrey R. Strawn, MD, FAACAP, is an associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics and director of the Anxiety Disorders Research Program in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati. He says. “An individual who has a bad experience during public speaking may fear a repeat of that prior experience when attempting to speak again.”

Three Strategies that Really Work to Change ‘Flight’ to ‘Excite’

As a musician, I know what it’s like when things don’t go like I thought they would. I’ve had times when I wanted to run off the stage instead of continue. And that’s not all. Frequently, one bad experience, in any instance, convinces us to never try that again!

What if you could gain some skills that would stop that ‘flight’ impulse and replace it with an ‘excited to be presenting’ feeling.  Here they are. I’ll name the problem and then its solution.

  1. Fear that you’ll get stuck in the middle and can’t get out, remember where you were, or what to do next. This comes from not using a tried and true process for creating your talk. It would be like me, a musician, trying to play a piece of music without knowing its beginning, middle, and end. I would be scared spitless, too!

Solution: Learn a simple process for creating your presentation. In my Instructor Development Workshop and Train the Trainer, I teach people how to use what I call the ‘pop tune’ construction. It always works, and it’s a great relief to know that you have a clear guide to follow. Having that clear guide increases your confidence tenfold.

  1. Relying on ‘once is enough’ practice. I know. They all tell you to practice. But, what they don’t tell you is this: Your practice needs to ‘escalate’.

Solution: First, practice by yourself, watching yourself in a mirror. Then, expand your practice to practicing with a friend. Finally, practice with a small group. Why? You are changing your environment and adapting, just like you will when you do your presentation ‘for real’. My son, Chris, was a karate champ as a kid. His coach had him practice in the empty auditorium prior to a big event. So, he became acclimated to that auditorium. When he performed, it seemed he had been through it before—because he had. One of the surprises of performance is that it seems foreign, new, and overwhelming. Take away those feelings by gradually simulating your ‘real life’ situation.

  1. Just before you perform: Letting your nerves create the story in your head—and it’s not a happy ending. If you don’t control the ‘movie’ prior to getting on the stage, your naïve mind makes its own movie—with negative results.

Solution: Create an inspiring ‘movie’ prior to ever stepping into the performance arena. As a musician, my classical piano teacher taught me how to approach the piano, how to gather myself, and how to play the first bars of the music in my head before I put my hands on the keys. Another way we speakers do this is to listen to our introductions. Of course, they are flattering (we wrote them) and it helps us remember why we are there—because we are a value to the audience.

Get a Proven Process, Practice Right, and Make the ‘Mind’ Movie

Putting these three strategies into your presentation plan work, whether you’re doing a listing presentation, a workshop, a course, or a Zoom call. I’d love to know your strategies for increasing stage confidence, and how my strategies have worked for you.     

               Join Me for a Fast-Paced, Practical Course

Want dozens of teaching techniques? How to control audiences? How to structure your workshops? More presentation skills? This 2-day course qualifies you to teach clock-hour courses in Washington state; 15 clock hours, too. $249. Sept. 21-22 in Bellevue, Wa. Find out more here. 

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