OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING
Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears! Aren’t we all familiar with these lines? The speech is made by Mark Antony in the English Classic ‘Julius Caesar’ at the latter’s funeral service. The power of Mark Antony’s (more specifically Shakespeare’s) words has continued to captivate the reader’s attention all through the years – then as well as now. It is a classic example of powerful public speaking.
Public speaking is the art of using words to share information with an audience. It includes speaking to audiences of varying sizes be it a handful of participants sitting right in front or millions of people watching on television.
Public speaking is normally branched into 4 different types of public speaking, described as follows. This is not an exhaustive list but an indicative one made to facilitate the understanding of the nature, quality and structure of public speaking.
KINDS OF PUBLIC SPEAKING
Science demonstrations and role playing are types of demonstrative speaking. This type of public speaking requires the speaker being able to speak clearly and concisely to describe actions and to perform those actions while speaking. A demonstrative speaker may explain the process behind generating power. The idea behind demonstrative speaking is that the audience leaves with the knowledge about how to do something. It reminds us of all of our school days when our science teachers would demonstrate an experiment before us and we would just be awestruck with the understanding of the entire process that unfolded before us.
These speeches mark special occasions. They are common at large birthday celebrations, corporate offsite meetings, weddings, graduations and at times even at sombre occasions like funerals. In this type of public speaking the speaker is personal and may have an emotional connection to people hearing it. This brings to mind the heartfelt speeches made by the bride or bridegroom’s kin on their special day.
With informative speaking, the speaker is trying simply to explain a concept to the audience members. College lecture courses involve informative speaking as do industry conferences and public officials sharing vital information. In this type of speaking, the information is what is important. The speaker is not trying to get others to agree with him or to show them how to do something for themselves, rather he is disseminating vital information. We have grown up listening to these highly educational lectures all through our school and college days, haven’t we?
In Persuasive speaking, the speaker will try to appeal to the emotions of the people around him. e.g., Politicians, lawyers use persuasive speaking. The persuasive speaker will use tonality, voice modulations and nuances of language that will convince the audience members of a certain viewpoint. The persuasive speaker has a stake in the outcome of the speech. This is one of the most captivating modes of public speaking wherein the listener is rapt in attention, depending upon how well the speaker presents himself.
EFFECTS OF PUBLIC SPEAKING ON THE SPEAKER
However, Public speaking may not be an easy exercise for all instead could be a common form of anxiety and fear to many. Quite a few of the people experience some degree of anxiety or nervousness when it comes to speaking in front of others. People who have been surveyed commonly rank this fear above spiders, heights and death. So, the first thing to remember is that if you are one of those who do experience this fear, you are totally normal. It can range from slight nervousness to paralyzing fear and panic, with more extreme fear known as Gloss phobia. Many people with this fear either avoid public speaking situations altogether or they suffer through this exercise with shaking hands and a quivering voice.
So, what exactly does the fear of Public Speaking do to us?
Being nervous during a public speaking event affects the way we come across to an audience as public speakers and hampers the quality of our delivery. Nervous speakers tend to talk too quickly and generally ignore the audience, focussing instead on their presentation slides or missing eye contact with the audience. The sound of the speech is expressionless, with little or no dynamics or pitch variation and the only effort boils down to rushing through the presentation that is too evident to be missed. Talking fast interferes with normal breathing resulting in a short, shallow gasps in between the words. This in turn makes one feel running out of oxygen and further leads to greater nervousness while speaking. This vicious circle is visibly noticeable by the audience who by now are observing the discomfort of an inept speaker rather than enjoying the speech.
STRATEGIES ON OVERCOMING COMMONLY KNOWN TRIGGERS TO FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING:
- Self-consciousness in front of large groups. This is the most frequently named reason for speaking on stage. Speech coaches often hear: “I’m fine talking to small groups, but when it’s a large audience I get really anxious.”
There are two strategies that will help here:
(a) To remember that the people in a big audience are the same ones you talk to individually
(b) To Concentrate on just talking to them, not “presenting”.
Fear of appearing nervous. Do you fear that you’ll look fearful? Many speakers do. It’s easy, then, to believe that if the audience sees those nerves, they’ll think you don’t know your topic. When you see that a speaker is nervous, people will sympathize, rather than making a judgment on that person’s professionalism.
Strategies that will help: Concerned that others are judging you? The main point to be noted here is that people really don’t care. They’re in the audience to get something out of your lecture, presentation, or speech. They want their time to be well spent. Watching a speaker fail is embarrassing for everyone. So, the audience is actually pulling for you!
Past failures. Public speaking anxiety is often learned behaviour. That is, at some point in the past you failed, and the seed of self-doubt was planted.
Strategy to be followed: The point is if you know your presentation well and are prepared this time, there’s no reason for things to go wrong like earlier. It will be a good reminder to ‘Plan to succeed’ instead.
Poor or insufficient preparation. If you haven’t done your homework (including knowing your audience), you are setting yourself up for failure. Nothing undermines public speaking confidence like being unprepared.
Strategy to be adopted: But nothing gives you as much confidence as being ready.
Narcissism. This is the toughest point that people going on stage need to understand. How can you influence others if you’re totally wrapped up in yourself? You can’t.
Strategy that works: So, turn that bright spotlight around and “illuminate” your listeners as they Matter the most.
Dissatisfaction with your abilities. Any individual who is dissatisfied with his own abilities is below par. But dissatisfaction can be an excellent way to push yourself up.
Effective strategy: Go to some public speaking classes and get trained. This will boost your confidence. It’s also much more likely to make you eager to speak.
Discomfort with your own body. Why is it that we’re all at ease physically with friends, but self-conscious and awkward in front of an audience?
Body Language Strategy: Be more aware of how you stand, sit, gesture, and move when you’re in a comfortable environment. Then recreate that natural movement with larger audiences.
Poor breathing habits. If our breathing is shallow it will show on stage as a quivering shaky voice.
Easy Strategy: Deep breathing is very essential for effective public speaking.
The Ultimate Strategy: Comparing yourself to others. Never compare yourself to other speakers because comparison is a big trigger for bad performance. You only have to be an effective speaker. You have to be interesting when you discuss your topic .
Technical Reasons for Fear of Public Speaking
In such situations, it can be a good and helpful idea to reach out to a therapist or coach. A therapist will usually try to find out the hindrances that are making the public speaker / client feel this way.
Hindrances usually come under four categories:
- Lack of Clarity
- Lack of Skills
- Lack of Resources
- Mental state
For a person not feeling confident to speak on the stage it could be a combination of any of the above reasons. For Example: This problem / hesitation can be dealt with on various levels vis-a-vis Physical, Mental, Emotional, Social using specific tools and techniques.
Physical level: If a person speaks too fast and is unable to take a deep breath, then here he needs to learn some deep breathing which can be done with yoga.
- Mental Level: In this situation the client dreads going on stage because the client is in a mental state where he can see himself standing in the corner of the stage, people throwing tomatoes at him, butterflies in his stomach, going totally blank and so on.
- Emotional Level: By means of certain Behavioral Techniques, the client is helped to connect to more resourceful emotional anchors that enable him/ her see the self in the best possible skills , abilities and accomplishments and believe in oneself.
Social Level: Interactive Communication and better expressive and listening skills can be sought to be harnessed after conscious practise and learnings.
The Cognitive Hypnotic Diploma at ICHARS has equipped us with various NLP techniques and skills which made us very adept while dealing with clients. We always know the right technique to adopt for any particular client depending on the issue.
Therapies to overcome the fear of public speaking:
- WHEN- THEN STATEMENT: When then statement is an extremely effective thought restructuring skill that can be used in situations where basically therapy involves restructuring of thoughts at the mental level.
Here the client identifies the trigger that is responsible for the presenting problem. It is an external factor that is perceived in a way that precipitates the challenge and the resulting discomfort. Based on this the current emotion and the current thought are chalked out. After consultations with the client, a more powerful emotion and thought is created that replaces the current thought and emotion, in alignment with whatever the client chooses to experience.
So, while the trigger remains the same, the therapist has worked with the client to replace it with new powerful emotion and thought.
Anchoring: The technique of anchoring refers to the process of associating an external trigger with an internal response (emotional state), so that the state can be re-accessed. Anchor can be visual, kinaesthetic, auditory or any other kind. It can be an emotion associated with a lucky shirt/dress, a song etc. It should be something which the client associates with a powerful positive emotion.
In our case the therapist works with the client to recreate an incident of the past or a visualisation of a future event which evokes the same emotion which he wants to replicate now. He will then invoke in his mind all the emotions, thoughts associated at that memory. When he is totally with that image in thought and emotion, he can press his thumb and forefinger creating an anchor.
In this way whenever in future he wants to reassess the same emotion he will just utilise the anchor created and he will be in the first frame of mind which had all positive powerful emotions.
We have now understood how fear can paralyse a person at the mere thought of speaking in public. We have also seen a few NLP techniques used by therapists with clients to overcome the fear of public speaking.
In addition, there are a few mandatory requirements which any person going on stage should be aware of.
Practice, practise practice content.
Know your content thoroughly well
Your content should be interesting and engaging
Practise delivery with the right kind of pause, pitch and tonality.
Check your mic, presentation, videos, and other infrastructure are in perfect order.
Be appropriately dressed.
Keeping all the pointers in mind, anyone can enjoy delivering a presentation that will enrapture the audience and keep them all effectively engaged and be a recipient to a thunderous and rewarding applause.