How Speakers Handle That FEAR Thing…

by drjim on October 19, 2010

The Fear Of Public Speaking Needs To Be Stared Down

The Fear Of Public Speaking Needs To Be Stared Down

Remember when your Mom was tucking you into your bed at night and she told you that there was nothing to be afraid of so that you could go to sleep? Well guess what, she was only partially right. It turns out that a whole lot of us havea deep down fearof getting up in front a bunch of people and opening our mouth. Let’s see if we can do something about this…

So What Are We Really Afraid Of?

Before we go running off and trying to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist, let’s first do some checking and make sure that we have a real problem here. Over at The New Book of Lists: The Original Compendium of Curious Information they’ve got a list (what else?) of what scares us the most:

  1. Speaking before a group
  2. Heights
  3. Insects and bugs
  4. Financial problems
  5. Deep water
  6. Sickness
  7. Death
  8. Flying
  9. Loneliness
  10. Dogs

So there you go, we seem to be more afraid of speaking in public than we are of going broke or dogs. Clearly we’ve got todo something about this issue.

Create Your Own Cruise Control

So let’s all agree that if speaking in public is what scares us, thenthe first words out of our mouths while giving a speechare the ones that will be the hardest to do. Since we know that this is going to be difficult to do, we should probably come up with a way to make it easier to do.

This is where the idea of putting yourself on cruise control comes in. If you take the time towrite out and memorizethe first two minutes of your speech, then you won’t have to worry about what you are going to say. By doing this we give ourselves two minutes to get our act together and allow the butterflies in our gut to line up in formation and fly straight.

Plan Your Introductions

Since the memorization of the first two minutes went so well, let’s build on that. Your speech is going to be made up of a series of things: points, stories, questions, etc. Each of these componentsneeds an introductioneven if it’s only a few words.

Take the time tomemorize the exact wordsthat you want to come out of your mouth when you are starting a new piece of your speech and this will serve to “anchor” you on that topic and, once again, you’ll have an automatic sense of direction on what you want to say next.

Cheat Like There Is No Tomorrow

Remember in school when it came to be test time and your teachers had you put all of your papers away before you started the test? Well guess what, that was then and this is now. You are more than welcometo cheatas much as you’d like when you are giving a speech.

In order to do a good job of cheating, you’re going to needa cheat sheet. The cheat sheet needs to be easy to read – that means use a nice big font and space everything out. Short of writing your speech out word-for-word, you’re going to want to put on your cheat sheet whatever it’s going to take to help you remember what you want to say.

Rehearse And Then Rehearse Some More

Do I even have to go over this one? If you are the type of person who gets a rush from just showing up and doing something without practicing it beforehand, then do us all a favor anddon’t speak in public.

If you are willing to do some rehearsing before you give a speech, then good for you. My clients are always asking me how many times they should practice a speech before giving it. My answer is always the same:7 times. It turns out that this seems to be the magic number that sits at the dividing line between too few and too many practices.

Buy Yourself Some Time

When it comes to speaking in public,time is often our worst enemy. All too often you see speakers showing up just in time (or late) to give their speech. They run to the front of the room, all flustered, and then try to calm down and give a speech.

Instead of putting yourself in this position, plan on showing up to where you’ll be speakingat least an hour beforeyou are scheduled to go on stage. If you can get there even earlier, then that would be even better. This is almost like buying yourself an insurance policy that when it’s time for you to speak, you’ll be more than ready.

What All Of This Means For You

To feel fear when you think about standing in front of a group of people and speaking to themis very natural. However, it’s one of the things in life that has to be done and so you need to find ways to overcome your fear.

Much of what you can do toconquer your fearcan be done long before it comes time for you to speak. Memorizing parts of your speech, creating a cheat sheet, and making sure that you show up early will all help you to remain in control of your fears.

Realizing that everyone feels the same way about public speaking can go a long way in helping you tofind the courage to do it. Now just put into practice some of these suggestions and not only will you be able to do it, but you’ll be able to do it well…!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible to practice a speech too much?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Considering just how much effort it takes to give a speech, it’s perfectly natural that every speaker should feel at least some level of nervousness. However, when we start to “shut down” because we’re so scared about giving a speech that’s when we start to realize that this whole nervousness thing has gotten out of hand. What’s a speaker to do?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard I. Garber October 22, 2010 at 9:35 am

Jim:

Good advice, but I don’t think the list of top ten fears really is in the 2005 book of lists. It is in the 1977 edition but comes from a list of 14 fears in a survey done way back in April of 1973. (see my October 27, 2009 blog post in Joyful Public Speaking).

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Dr. Jim Anderson October 22, 2010 at 9:58 am

Richard: I stand corrected! Ok, so 1973 was a long time ago, but I’m willing to bet that the rankings probably haven’t changed all that much (a fear of cell phones may have been added!)

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