The fear of public speaking!
Did you know there is a name for the fear of public speaking? I didn’t and now I do know, and it’s called Glossophobia and it’s actually one of the most common fears that someone can have.
So, I hate speaking in public! I feel nervous, my palms sweat, my stomach ties itself in knots, I torture myself with the what ifs. Some people say to imagine everyone in the room naked. Nope. That doesn’t work for me either.
I just don’t want to do it.
I can remember feeling nervous right back from when I was at primary school, even having to read a prepared script in front of the class made me break into panic mode and the fear has never gone away. The thing is, I am generally quite the chatterbox but speaking to a crowd fills me with terror.
I quickly realised working in the recruitment world I would need to face this fear and I would need to face it quickly.
Here at Park we have built up great relationships with local colleges and schools on the Island and a big part of this has been going in these establishments and presenting to large groups, discussing CVs, offering interview advice and being involved in role-play exercises so I have now had plenty of practice.
You may have also seen that most recently we put together a series of workshops and a recent talk at Digital Jersey where, again, I had to push myself out of my comfort zone and face my fear.
And do you know what, it ALWAYS goes ok, and I ALWAYS come out of it and think that was not as bad as I thought and, dare I admit, I actually enjoyed it!
I have gained confidence in the knowledge that I know what I am talking about and I am passionate about what I do and that to me is half the battle.
Now I am always encouraging the team to push themselves out of their comfort zones and put themselves forward to talk as the sense of achievement (as well as relief) once it is over is fantastic for self-development and developing confidence.
I know I am not the only one that feels this way about speaking in public, so it got me thinking me about some tips and tricks to think of when YOU are next putting yourself forward or are nominated to present.
As for me… Next step the White House!
Some top tips
- Step into the shoes of your audience. Especially if you’re nervous about presenting, it’s really hard to step into the shoes of your audience – probably because you’re so focused on getting everything right on your end, and on calming your own anxiety. But understanding your audience is so important to public speaking. Even before you step on stage, you should be thinking about your audience when crafting your content. What do they know about your topic? Where should you then start in terms of explanation? What do they care about? What matters to them? And how can what you have to say solve their problem or help answer their questions or provide something useful to them? That should be the focus as you write your speech: to craft what you are to deliver in a way that truly adds value to your audience in a way that they can easily understand and appreciate.
- Get honest feedback and make sure you’re willing to receive it. Public speaking is a skill and like any skill, you need practice and get feedback in order to improve. So, especially as a young person just starting out, it’s really key to find ways to practise in front of an audience (even a small audience) and to get feedback, both about the content you’re sharing and also about you as a presenter. In terms of the content you want to make sure your audience receives what you’re trying to deliver. Do they understand your message and framework? Do they get those two or three key points you really want them to come away with? And then, in terms of your style as a presenter: are you engaging? Do you keep the audience’s attention? Can you bring elements of your personality to the table, even if you fumble a bit? Find people whose opinions you trust to give you this feedback and be open to receiving it.
- Focus on why your content matters and let that be your source of confidence. Everyone is nervous about public speaking and especially about the impression we may have on others. There’s no question that this external evaluation is a legitimate and important concern. But equally important in my experience is making sure that you really love the talk you’re giving; that you care about the ideas; that you stand behind the concepts; that you feel like you’re doing something meaningful and delivering something truly of value to the audience. Because if that’s the case, you’ll likely feel much more comfortable and confident delivering your message and you’ll be more likely to impress your audience as well. So, bottom line: wow yourself before even thinking of wowing a crowd.
- Do your best to leave your notes behind. It’s certainly more comfortable to speak with notes and perhaps even to put those notes up on a podium. But it also creates a barrier with your audience which makes it much harder to connect and engage with them. I learned this lesson myself early in my career when taking a public speaking class. We all spoke with notes in the class until the professor suddenly took away our notes one session and never let us speak with them again. To this day, I remember that sense of dread of having my notes taken away. But it also was a blessing in disguise. Ever since then I’ve spoken without notes and with a much greater sense of connection with my audience.
- Identify what worries you most and work on a customised solution. Not all fears of public speaking are alike. For some, it’s the idea of speaking to a room of complete strangers. For others, it might be the fear of forgetting what you wanted to say, or the fear that what you present will fall flat and be uninspiring. So, the antidote here is to locate the source of your worry and work on that specifically. For example, if you’re concerned that your presentation will fall flat, practice it in front of a crowd of trusted colleagues for feedback. If you’re worried that you’ll forget your content, bring notes or create slides that guide you through the presentation. The point is that you have more power than you might think to craft a solution that makes public speaking just a little bit easier and doable for you.
In the end, there’s no denying that public speaking is challenging for many but with a thoughtful strategy in mind, and the courage to see it through, you’ll be surprised at the positive impact you can achieve in relatively little time.