Conquer Fear of Public Speaking
It’s said that the average person fears speaking in public more than death. Whether this is true for you or not, it’s estimated that a whopping 75% of people suffer from a form of anxiety or panic when speaking in public. The panic and fear people face often extends to all kinds of presentations, including meetings, speeches, and camera work (aka “stage-fright”). Worse, it manifests in the arenas where it counts the most: work, college classes, oral exams, or even speeches at weddings.
I’m Dr. Paul Harrison, and I’ve spent over 15 years lecturing and working on camera, appearing on networks like the History Channel and even live on Sky News. But if I were to tell you that I used to be so nervous every time I had to speak up in a classroom, I flushed bright red, you probably wouldn’t have expected me to excel in this career path, let alone truly enjoy public speaking. It’s a transferable skill, too, which has helped me teach classes, give public talks, and make half a dozen wedding speeches!
I spent years learning to overcome my fear of public speaking and presenting, but I’m here to show you how to do it much more quickly, using techniques based on the psychology of presenting, grounded in science, and road-tested by experience.
The good news is this: Public speaking and presenting are learned skills! You don’t need to be “a natural” to excel at presentation; you just need to work diligently and practice consistently, and you’ll be wowing crowds in no time!
Breaking the Cycle!
Why do we fear public speaking so much? We don’t just get nervous in the abstract, we rehearse failing in our minds, creating “worst case scenarios.” We fear we’ll be unable to perform, and it’s this “fear of fear” that we get caught up on, indulging our brains in a never-ending cycle of painful fantasy. Our rational minds tell us that rehearsing our way through the worst-case scenario will prepare us, but this behavior does the opposite, disconnecting us from the present and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of bad performance.
An integral part of conquering fear and anxiety is understanding the processes and symptoms that result from them. Once we can identify these, we can learn how to undo our automatic panic responses and reclaim control! We’ll do this in three stages:
1. Recognition: This raises awareness of our nervous system’s responses and identifies anxiety triggers.
2. Interruption: This utilizes both physical and psychological methods to stop the cycle in its tracks.
3. Control: Recognition and interruption will gradually increase our capacity to tolerate, adapt, and even harness anxiety and nervous energy.
It’s time to evaluate your anxiety responses to public speaking. Recall past symptoms, and picture having to give a speech to a large crowd of people. Note down the symptoms that occur when imagining the speech. Anything, down to jogging legs and facial tics, is important to record, as we’ll be breaking down the science behind these in the next class.
Next, write down what it is you fear about public speaking, with no judgments or inhibitions. Think about that worst-case scenario and hash it out on paper. Exorcise it, if you will. It’s valuable to see our fears objectively, as the more we can understand and gain distance from them, the easier they will be to overcome.
Next, we’ll be uncovering the physiology of fear and understanding the science behind our anxieties, so as the better to overcome them!
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