How to conquer the fear of public speaking.
By Amy Crawford
Aside from a huntsman crawling on my face and the fear of that happening again, there was never a more paralysing fear for me than the fear of public speaking. I carried this paralysing fear with me for 39 years.
That's about 29 years of THE most ridiculous excuses you can possibly imagine.
My fear was so bad that I turned up to the minimum number of tute groups required at university, pulling sickies for those requiring I share any information out loud at all, regardless of the size of my classes. I painstakingly wrote out speeches for friend's birthdays or weddings, re-reading them word for word, bright red in the face, hands clammy, convulsing internally.
In the corporate world I recall being asked to undergo media training so that I could be the radio and TV media liaison for the firm. I turned that offer down, alongside a hefty pay rise and a promotion for taking on extra responsibility. It was of course recommended that I do professional training, Toastmasters or something similar. I found this suggestion ludicrous in light of the fact I would be forced to stand up and practise in front of others, the very thing I was so utterly terrified of! AS IF!
One of my biggest fears was the thought of someone shaking my hand on the day of 'terribly scary event'; they'd become so clammy I'd forever wipe them on my clothes, in anticipation of an approach. To make matters even worse, I wasted hours and so much of my energy actually visualising how bad it would all be; how wet my hands, how red my face, words forgotten, terrifying blanks, questions I couldn't answer. Little did I know that I was manifesting the very things I was so afraid of.
At 39 years of age, I walked free of this fear forever, in two hours. JUST. LIKE. THAT.
The paralysing fear rendering me incapable of speaking confidently (even in front of friends) evaporated, only (miraculously) to be replaced with a burning desire to find more opportunities to use my voice. It was THE most remarkable day, a pinch myself moment indeed. I was utterly blessed to have experienced a transformational two hour CTC session that freed me of every single thing that was holding me back. As many of you know, I am now a CTC practitioner, a consequence of the transformational results. But more on that later*.
Yet. I fully appreciate that what I do isn't for everyone, and that not all are ready to believe that they could possibly walk free of such a paralysing fear, just like that.
So, today I've decided to share my top tips for conquering the fear of public speaking, tips that anyone and everyone can use in their day to day. So let's go.
Understand the source of the fear.
In my opinion the very reason we fear speaking in public is at the grassroots very simply this - we don't feel good enough. The issue with not feeling good enough is that it in turn creates a fear of what others think, a fear of judgement.
Think about it, if you realised how awesome you were, do you really think you would care what others thought?
I wrote about feeling not good enough recently and how it comes about, but as a first step just recognising that this is an issue, is useful.
For instance, I bet you fear you'll forget your words, or that you'll blush or that you won't know the answer to every question. So let me say this - NO ONE is sitting in the audience expecting you to fail; they're not hoping you'll be boring or bad. The audience want you to do well, they want to learn or be entertained. As long as you are across your topic rest assured they will.
Know too that fear is simply FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL. 90% of the stuff we worry about doesn't happen. Remind yourself of this during your preparation. It's also 99% unlikely that you will fall over on route to the podium.
Which takes me onto the next point.
Don't pretend to know everything.
Firstly, if you are asked to speak it's typically because it's your area of expertise or study or he or she is one of your closest friends. So know this - it's likely you already know more than the majority of the audience!
Secondly, you will never know every single thing and guess what, that very point makes you human, just like the rest of us! During my events I am always upfront about my skills base. I make it very clear that I am not a Nutritionist or a Naturopath, or medically trained. I don't know everything. If there are questions I can't answer I tell them I'll find out and get back to them or I put the question back to the audience and ask someone who does.
Would you be less impressed if someone couldn't answer every single question with ease? I think not.
Preparation and practise.
Of course it goes without saying that you need to know your stuff, you do need to prepare. As the saying goes 'by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail'. In the past I rote learned as much as I could. Alternatively I read every speech, word for word. Oh the potential issues with that! If I missed a sentence, I was stuffed. If I lost my spot, I'd be stuffed.
These days I write out the structure of my presentation in sections. I include headings for each section with bullet points underneath and I use highlighters for significant points. I practise with this again and again until I can visualise the bullet points on the pages in my head. I'm often suprised how quickly that happens. Then, I practise without the bullet points in front of me, just the key headings.
I know the information is in my head, I simply need to trust that it will come through me when it needs to (and it always does). On the day I only ever have the key headings and perhaps a handful of bullet points in my hand.
Know that others can't see your nerves.
One of the things that makes us even more nervous is the fear of looking nervous! But get this - no one can see knots in your stomach, butterflies doing backflips, your hands getting clammy.
You NEVER look as nervous as you feel!
You may have read the post we shared, the one simple trick that can rid you of anxiety and fear. This post features a Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy who discusses the notion of faking it until you make it. Professor Cuddy's study shows that by standing in certain body positions, we can make ourselves not only appear more confident to others but also feel this way. In other words, we can change who we are.
This is my most favourite tip of all and it's something I do every single time I know I am going to be at least a little bit of out my comfort zone.
Instead of thinking about what you don't want (that is, falling over on route to the podium, drawing a blank, not being able to answer any questions, forgetting a word) try simply focussing on a point in time where you are walking or driving away from the event internally punching the air with excitement. Imagine yourself celebrating the fact that you nailed it. Imagine yourself then calling a friend/partner/anyone you know who would be keen to hear your excitement and telling them how amazing it was, how much you loved it and couldn't wait to do it again.
The point here is that you stop worrying about how you are going to get from A to B and instead celebrate being at B, in the knowledge that everything else will take care of itself.
I do this every time and I promise EVERY TIME I walk away (internally, never fear) punching the air.
Let go of the need to know how it's all going to work out and simply have faith that it will.
One of the best bits of advice I have received was from my friend Lola Berry, the ever popular Australian Nutritionist (with ooodles of camera and presentation experience). I was scheduled to speak down the barrel of a video camera for the first time and I wanted Lola's top tips. This was pretty much all she said "Aims, you just gotta be yourself, don't try and be anyone but you". My reaction? "Oh! Oh that's easy! Being me is easy, I can so do that!" I can't tell you the weight that fell away.
We can ONLY be ourselves. Being us makes us unique and really rather awesome.
Now go and conquer your fears and tantalise your audience. I truly believe the act of getting out of your comfort zone, indeed of conquering your fear is one of the most wondrous feelings of all, don't you? And please, if you've any top tips to share with this community please do so below, I'd love to hear from you. May the force be with you and your wondrous voices!
*A note on the two hour CTC therapy session + an awesome client testimonial.
What I do isn't for everyone; it's a mind, body spirit process requiring an awareness or openness towards spirituality, a willingness to leave everything you think you know at the door, a commitment to changing the way you think. To many it's weird. Essentially I clear people's 'crap' for a living and as the words so often come out of my mouth "I provide a 2 hour therapy session that clears my clients of every single thing holding them back from feeling amazing," even I think it sounds ridiculous sometimes.
Yet, as myself and many hundreds of clients can attest, it works.
Here's some words from a CTC client who was required to role play in front of a number of people following her session:
"Sweet mother of everything, today went amazing! First of all, I was calm from last night all throughout today and right up to the interview. THEN the words just melted out of my mouth like butter.. I had not been so on point in years and years. I had full control of my body, nothing weird happened like before other than just butterflies in my stomach a little bit. To be honest I had no idea that today's interview would be so intense. I had to roleplay, talk a lot, I was put on the spot like you wouldn't imagine. And throughout it all I was grounded and connected to who I really am, and so focused even though it was so noisy there. I was eloquent like I know I can be..." Dee, Toronto
Ready to jump for joy?
For those who feel they need further help clearing this fear of public speaking (just like the 39 year old me) please don't hesitate to get in touch. Note too, the above testimonial was from a client in Toronto I saw via Skype. It makes no difference at all to the effectiveness, whether face to face (with me in Melbourne) or Skype, anywhere in the world.
Book your session here or email me directly CTC@theholisticingredient.com and let's chat. It's time to conquer!