Welcome to the first in a series of short articles about different patterns of worrying, anxiety or fears, and what to do about them. This month’s topic: the fear of public speaking.
Fear of public speaking is one of the top fears facing a large number of people. Many sufferers report experiencing being at a loss for words, anxiety, nausea, gut-wrenching pain, and even hyperventilation when faced with having to speak in public (typically to a group – small or large, or to someone that is over them in position, power or evaluating them).
Circumstances like giving an important presentation can be stressful; you’re not alone. It’s not just the average person that experiences this type of anxiety; CEOs, college presidents, or a church committee member reporting on a particular subject; literally anyone can be fearful regardless of socioeconomic level or station in life.
The good news is, there’s more than just hope…there’s a solution, regardless of whether you’ve had this debilitating fear for most of your life, or if it just started last week.
This past week, I finished working with “Joe,” a well-respected and high-ranking officer in a large corporation. Joe is very capable, but he was internally having a near panic attack, having dry mouth, and more at the thought of having to give a presentation to his peers, much less his stockholders. Joe’s anxiety had been going on for years, getting progressively worse since middle school. Unfounded fear had been holding him back from feeling like his powerful true self and even greater success. Even though everyone saw him as the successful businessman he is, he still didn’t feel safe inside.
After the initial interview, we discovered there was more going on than just a fear of public speaking. As is common, “Joe” is much more complex and intricate than that one symptom. Joe had anticipatory anxiety, and feared criticism, judgment, making mistakes…he’s also a perfectionist. After working with me over a number of focused, on purpose sessions, he can now easily speak in front of any audience. I am happy to report that “Joe” is amazed, relieved, and happy with the results.
Not everyone has the dramatic physical experiences associated with fear of public speaking that some clients have, but chances are you’re good enough at scaring yourself to the point where you feel uncomfortable which creates the likelihood that you will make mistakes when delivering your message to an important group. Most people are.
Here are a few tips that may help, the next time you find yourself stressing about public speaking:
- Breathe! When you hold your breath, you affect how well your brain works.
- Join Toastmasters. It’s nearly free, and it’s a great opportunity to develop your speaking skills in a safe environment.
- Know that all speakers make a mistake from time to time; just keep going…it’s normal, and your audience probably didn’t notice anyway.
- Don’t ever “give a speech” again. Instead, teach others what you want to share with them.
It seems strange to people that their conscious mind knows their “stuff” when asked to do public speaking or give a report, but their subconscious has negative feedback going on. Some people might need help getting rid of the unconscious patterns that do not serve them. They might need help rewiring the brain for more successful behavior. If you are one of those people who find themselves unable to move past the fear, call for a free consultation to see how you can get the confidential help you need to stop old unconscious patterns from holding you back…for good!