Overcoming Jitters Of Speaking And Presenting

Sweaty palms. Shaky hands. Weak knees. Trembling voice. Racing heart. Shortness of breath. Nausea.

Those are just a few symptoms experienced by people about to speak to an audience or present to decision makers.

As we’ve often heard, public speaking is feared more than death by most people. It’s a fear so popular that it even has its own name (glossophobia). So how do we reduce this fear?

I recently ran across research by Dr. Amit Sood at Mayo Clinic, who quizzed hundreds of people on how they found courage, not just in public speaking but in their everyday lives. From those discussions, three themes emerged:

1. People find courage by helping other people. An extreme example would be a person running into a burning building to save someone — but less dramatic examples happen daily as people shed fear in order to help others.

2. People find courage by following the examples of their role models. By modeling courageous people, we can assume a level of courage.

3. People find courage in their faith. This can be religious or spiritual faith or perhaps simply faith in a process — for example, Navy Seals often speak of being able to put aside fear during a dangerous mission by following the process they’ve trained for again and again.

We can apply these same three themes to public speaking and presenting:

1. Overcome fear of speaking by helping others. Remind yourself that you are there to help people with your ideas, opinions and advice. Taking your attention away from yourself and placing it on your audience can melt self-centered anxiety.

2. Overcome fear by using role models. Identify speakers you admire — TED Talk participants, motivational speakers, ministers, politicians, executives, friends, family members. Closely watch them as they present — not to imitate them, but to seek inspiration. Much of finding courage is a mind game, so “act as if,” mentally borrowing some of your role model’s confidence before you take the stage.

3. Overcome fear of speaking by relying on your faith. If you have religious and spiritual beliefs, use prayer and meditation to help you remember it’s not all up to you. And you can also rely on the faith of your process. Spend time diligently practicing for the presentation, then have faith that your preparation and process will guide you through the talk.

© 2019 Sam Harrison.  All rights reserved.


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