“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Have you ever feared speaking in front of an audience?
Have you ever visualized yourself giving a killer speech and all the audience congratulating you on your performance?
If you have read so far then I am sure you want to improve and fix this area of your life. And whatever your answer to those questions were, I will show you how you can fix this area. However, I can only give you the knowledge and show you the path.The part of actually using and applying the knowledge is upto you.
Here are 5 unconventional ways to find liberation and actualization on the path of Public Speaking:
1. Face your fear to manage fear
The first way to resolving any problem is to admit it exists, get it out in the open so you can deal with it, and have faith that you will eventually get over it. Isolation only enhances the fear so remember: you’re far from alone and in very good company. If you’re brave enough to be honest with yourself and face your fear, you will overcome it.
Use your fear as an opportunity to rise. Everytime to do what you fear you grow stronger. In cricket, there is a saying that I remind myself with when I have to face my fears. ‘The best form of defense is attack’. Its counter-intuitive as when pushed to a corner we tend to defend and that is the most dangerous option you could choose.
Here’s a story to inspire you to face your fear:
One day, on the plains of Africa, a young buffalo named Walter approached his dad and asked him if there was anything that he should be afraid of.
“Only lions my son,” his dad responded.
“Oh yes, I’ve heard about lions. If I ever see one, I’ll turn and run as fast as I can,” said Walter.
“No, that’s the worst thing you can do,” said the large male.
“Why? They are scary and will try to kill me.”
The dad smiled and explained, “Walter, if you run away, the lions will chase you and catch you. And when they do, they will jump on your unprotected back and bring you down.”
“So what should I do?” asked Walter.
“If you ever see a lion, stand your ground to show him that you’re not afraid. If he doesn’t move away, show him your sharp horns and stomp the ground with your hooves. If that doesn’t work, move slowly towards him. If that doesn’t work, charge him and hit him with everything you’ve got!”
“That’s crazy, I’ll be too scared to do that. What if he attacks me back?” said the startled young buffalo.
“Look around, Walter. What do you see?”
Walter looked around at the rest of his herd. There were about 200 massive beasts all armed with sharp horns and huge shoulders.
“If ever you’re afraid, know that we are here. If you panic and run from your fears, we can’t save you, but if you charge towards them, we’ll be right behind you.”
The young buffalo breathed deeply and nodded.
“Thanks dad, I think I understand.”
We all have lions in our worlds.
There are aspects of life that scare us and make us want to run, but if we do, they will chase us down and take over our lives. Our thoughts will become dominated by the things that we are afraid of and our actions will become timid and cautious, not allowing us to reach our full potential.
2. Know your material
It will help your confidence immensely to know your material backwards and forwards. Don’t memorize, just be clear on the information you want to get across, your key points and messages, that sort of thing. People who look calm and relaxed on stage – who think well on their feet – are confident because they’re prepared. They know their stuff.
I personally prefer NOT writing down my speech. I instead use mind-mapping to draw a picture of all my main points and content within.
For those of you who don’t know mind-mapping, a Mind Map is a powerful graphic technique which provides a universal key to unlock the potential of the brain. It harnesses the full range of cortical skills – word, image, number, logic, rhythm, colour and spatial awareness – in a single, uniquely powerful manner. In so doing, it gives you the freedom to roam the infinite expanses of your brain. The Mind Map can be applied to every aspect of life where improved learning and clearer thinking will enhance human performance.
In case you want to learn how to use mind-mapping for speeches here’s a video that will help you get started.
(Tip: It takes time and practice to get used to it. But once you do, you will find out that it was worth practicing)
3. Remember, it’s not all about you
Overachievers tend to have big egos. We think all eyes are always on us. What we never seem to realize is that, while everyone in the room may be looking at us, probably half of them are mostly interested in the content and the rest are distracted by their own mini-dramas. Besides, if even a quarter of the audience has the same fear you do, that’s a lot of empathy.
Speak to give value to your audience. There is no good in going on stage and boasting about yourself. Tell a story about yourself, if and only if you think it will help your audience. Shift your focus from yourself to your audience and the message you want to share. This is will put you at ease. Always put your message, story or idea above you because that is what your audience want to hear from you. And if you do so not only will you be able to face your fear but also be remembered by your audience.
4. Interact with your audience
You can relieve your feelings of isolation by interacting with the audience, by asking leading questions, by telling them stories they can relate to. You’ll instantly feel more comfortable and so will your audience. Ironically, that will also make you a more dynamic and engaging speaker.
I remember coaching a group of 15 young school students and I gave them all a piece of paper with a topic written on it (different topic for each student). The students were given 2 minutes to prepare a speak on the topic for 5 minutes. Off all the 15 students I remember one student who appeared weak and nervous but stole the show. He came on to the stage and posed a question. He took the answers of 3 students and then made a speech from the answers he got. And at the end he convinced us to believe that it was his idea. Moreover he convinced us to believe it was the right one.
After the session I asked him, “How confident were you going on the stage?”
He said, “I was terrified. But once I asked the question and started getting a good response, I felt at ease.”
I totally understand, as you are reading this you may be saying to yourself, “How can I even engage my audience when I’m afraid to say what I already know?” But remember my friend, greater the fear, greater the satisfaction once you face it.
Here are 5 the mistakes you must avoid to be a memorable speaker
(Secret Giveaway: Audience Interaction is only one of them)
5. Ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that can happen?
It’s funny how that simple question can diffuse just about any life problem. It certainly applies here. If your hands shake, you screw up, or you panic and bolt, so what? First, that’s not likely to happen; it’s all in your head. But what if it does? You’ll pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and live to fight another day. Failing is part of business and life. This is no different.
Well, whoever says is completely confident of public speaking is lying to you. The truth is no matter how much you practice there will be some fear and anxiety before your next performance. However, the anxiety will be controlled by you rather than the other way around. This is exactly what Toastmasters offers. It’s an opportunity for you to face your fear again and again. No Theories, No B.S. just facing it by doing over and over.
I recommend anyone and everyone who is willing to take action to face their fear of Public Speaking and overcome shyness be a part of Toastmasters. Toastmaster Clubs are spread all over the world and its highly likely there is one just 5 km away from your house.
Join, learn, share and grow as a speaker. Perhaps few years down the line you will feel that anxiety before your speech at the International Conference and there you will be looking at your fear and laughing at it saying
“Not today my friend, not today.”
This article was published in Fujairah Observer, a local magazine in UAE.
Which is your favorite way to conquer your fear of Public Speaking?
Did I miss out any unconventional way? SHARE your thoughts in the comments below!