We all experience different kinds of fears: fear of failure; fear of rejection; fear of looking dumb; fear of change; fear of the unknown. I googled fear, and found a legitimate list of actual researched phobias: there were 530 listed, including:
- Automatonophobia—fear of a ventriloquest’s dummy;
- Triskadekaphobia—fear of the number 13;
- Porphyrophobia—fear of purple (imagine!); and the one that really amazed me:
- arachibutyrophobia—fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth!
On a recent ABC Newscast, Diane Sawyer reported that the number one thing Americans fear the most, even more than dying, is public speaking. (That would officially be called Glossophobia). She goes on to share how even well-known celebrities fear the live performance with no script in hand. (I remember a Jerry Seinfeld episode where Jerry joked: “At a funeral, most people would rather be the guy in the coffin than have to stand up and give the eulogy!”)
If you are one of the folks who trembles at the thought of standing in front of a group and speaking, you are not alone! But here’s the deal: If you are a leader, or want to be in any kind of leadership role, you must learn to manage any fears you have of public speaking. Until you do, you will be sacrificing many wonderful opportunities in your future.
Here are Seven Quick Tips to help you move through your fear, conquering the paralyzing effect it can have on you.
- Prepare well, but do not memorize your presentation! Memorization forces you to get married to one way of saying what you want to share. If you forget a word, you panic and freeze up. You know the general concept of your message, so just create an outline to keep you on point, but speak from your knowledge. (I recommend that you only memorize two things: the first words you will say to begin your presentation and the final words you will say to end it!)
- Rehearse from your outline, practicing out loud so your mouth gets used to actually saying the words. As you rehearse from the outline, you will discover you can get your message across in many ways — and you create a muscle memory that will take over if your nerves get the best of you during the real performance.
- Rehearse any stories you plan to use, to ensure you can deliver any punch lines with power and pizzazz. Never use a story you have not rehearsed!
- Visualize your speaking success. Imagine, in your mind’s eye, moving through your presentation with ease and confidence. See the audience responding to your presentation with enthusiasm, acceptance, and appreciation. (Remember, most audiences are filled with people who want you to be successful! Who wants to listen to a poor presentation?)
- Take your time before you begin! As you walk to the podium or out in front of the audience, take a moment to look at people. Take a breath, make eye contact with a few folks in different sections of the audience, smile, and then begin. (I have actually seen some presenters begin talking before they are even at the podium!)
- Be yourself. There are lots of speaking coaches out there who try to create “cookie cutter speakers.” But the most successful speakers know how to be themselves, at their best! So listen to speaking experts with a grain of salt, and use what works for you without forcing you to be something you are not.
- Remember: you are the expert in this moment, on this topic. If you forget something, keep in mind that the audience does not have your notes! No one knows what you planned to say, so just go with the flow and rely on what you know. Also, no one knows what you are feeling on the inside. So if you feel the butterflies hit you, remember you don’t necessarily want them to go away … you just want them to fly in formation!
Here is a FEAR acronym that works with any kind of fear you may experience. It is created so you can quickly recall it when you most need it (like when you are about to walk in front of a crowd!). Think about the word itself: FEAR.
- Face It: In other words, acknowledge what you are feeling. Call it what it is; name it.
- Embrace It: Make friends with your fear by letting it know you accept it for what it is. See fear as a friend who is gently leading you into new adventures!
- Act through it: Do it anyway! There is a great quote by Emerson: Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain!
- Reinforce Your Success! Allow yourself to appreciate your courage in acting through your fear, and enjoy the sense of power and energy you experience as a result.
Whenever you are able to move through fear and doubt, you experience an exhilaration and zest for living that is unbelievable, and your power center is strengthened. You find yourself ready to face the world from a new level of confidence that opens incredible horizons. We may not be fearless — but we can be Fear Conquerors!“Try a thing you haven’t done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not.” (Virgil Thomson)