man holding pen and paper feeling anxious

The fear of public speaking is as ubiquitous as it is paralysing for many people in the workplace today.

If you are one of the millions of people who feel nervous, uncomfortable or insecure about presenting and public speaking this article will help you.

This is a statement I can make with great confidence, as Mindful Presenter has spent over a decade helping some of the most intelligent, creative and talented professionals in the world to manage and overcome their fear of public speaking.

If you’re interested in when, where and why your fear of public speaking started this isn’t the focus of this blog. Whether you were a 6-year-old presenting in front of your class or a 26-year-old presenting to the board of directors for the first time isn’t our point of focus for now.

Our prime concern and intention is to share potential solutions to overcome the career limiting fear of public speaking. Please don’t misunderstand me, I know it can be comforting and helpful to know how and why it all started. For now, let’s focus on what you can do to help yourself.

Please keep in mind as you search through this article that, contrary to common belief, there are no ‘magic wands’ or ‘silver bullets’ which will instantly remove the discomfort. It takes mindfulness, practice, an open mind and effort to work your way through the challenge.

Your job as you read this article is to try out the ideas that resonate with you in some way, no matter how small. As you do so, keep in mind that repetition together with reflection is the mother of learning.

Tip 1 – Mark Twain was right

Here at Mindful Presenter Ltd we believe that Mark Twain was right when he said, “There are two types of speakers: Those who get nervous and those who are liars.”

Please don’t delude yourself that you have been handpicked by the Universe as one of the select few to feel the fear of public speaking during your time here on earth.

It’s a global and densely populated club; you are not alone.

Your first task is to acknowledge and accept it as normal. Only then can you properly begin to explore and try out some of the other suggestions.

Tip 2 – Listen to Wayne Dyer, he was right too

I believe it was the late Dr Wayne Dyer who said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

This of course is a significant human challenge which extends itself far beyond the fear of public speaking. You can read much more about this in one of Wayne Dyer’s first books, ‘Your Erroneous Zones.’

Rather than thinking about and seeing your audience as predators who are there to judge, challenge and criticise you, ask yourself if there is a truer perspective.

Is it possible that they are simply looking for you to help make their lives better, easier or happier in some way?

Tip 3 – Stop presenting and start connecting

Do you truly enjoy being presented to?

Most people don’t; they prefer to be connected with.

It was the very inspirational Maya Angelou who said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Have you ever come across a greater truism?

Rather than focusing on how you can impress your audience try thinking about how you can make them feel something emotionally as well as intellectually.

Tip 4 – Speak nicely to yourself

In his article, ‘No Freaking Speaking’, Matt Abrahams says:

We are really mean to ourselves. There are things we do to ourselves that we could never imagine doing to others. Nowhere is this more evident than prior to giving a presentation. The negative self-talk we invoke and the fear stories we tell ourselves set us up for failure.’

Just speak nicely to yourself.

Tip 5 – Remember how far you’ve come

It’s highly likely that the reason you are presenting in the first place is because you have a level of knowledge, insight or information which your audience doesn’t.

Whether this is true or not, it doesn’t really matter.

The fact is you have come a very long way so far and you owe it to yourself to remember that.

Do you remember:

  • Learning to ride your first bicycle
  • Passing an exam at school
  • Your first kiss
  • Being offered your very first job
  • Being promoted
  • Falling in love

I’m certain that your list of personal achievements no matter how seemingly small is much wider.

The next time the fear of public speaking begins to raise its sinister head, just remember how far you’ve come.

“What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are.” – Anthony Robbins

Tip 6 – Ask yourself 4 questions

The next time you are called on to present and you feel the fear of public speaking ask yourself what’s going through your mind.

Once you have identified those thoughts and limiting beliefs that are causing you so much unrest ask yourself the following 4 questions.

Question 1: Is it true?

Question 2: Can you absolutely know it’s true?

Question 3: How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought?

Question 4: Who would you be without the thought?

Tip 7 – Take it to Vagus

The greatest physiological gift we all have in our quest to manage and overcome the fear of public speaking and presenting is our vagus nerve. Here is an extract from an article I wrote many years ago; ‘Public Speaking Doesn’t Have to Feel So Stressful’

‘We’ve all heard of ‘fight or flight’ which is a primitive yet critical function of our sympathetic nervous system which basically says that when we feel under threat our body reacts in an instant to either fight off the threat or run away from it. Unfortunately, the feeling of vulnerability when speaking to people in public can represent a significant conscious and subconscious threat for a great number of people. This is where the vagus nerve can come to our swift rescue because as a key part of our parasympathetic nervous system it’s the nerve that calms you down

One of the best ways to stimulate the vagus nerve to calm us down when we feel so anxious about presenting and public speaking is to breathe properly.

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