Fear of public speaking is the most common of all phobias. It’s a form of performance anxiety in which a person becomes very concerned that he or she will look visibly anxious, maybe even have a panic attack while speaking. Over time, people try to protect themselves by either avoiding public speaking or by struggling against speech anxiety. In this way, people get Tricked into making the fear of public speaking more chronic and disruptive.
Some people do this with avoidance. They choose college coursework in such a way as to avoid public speaking, rather than taking the classes they want. At work, they pass up promotions and assignments which would require speaking. The fear of public speaking may even lead people to choose a career that doesn’t call for public speaking, rather than one they want. This is often the case with people who have feared public speaking from a very young age.
Others don’t go that far but will go to great lengths to avoid making presentations, or even just having to speak at a meeting. They may deliberately arrive late, hoping to miss the customary introductions (“let’s go around and introduce ourselves…”).
Many others will gamely accept an assignment and show up to give a speech when it’s important to their career. But they try to get through those situations without feeling afraid. They focus on what they feel, rather than on the message they’ve come to deliver. This is often the case with people whose fear of public speaking developed later in life. The more successful they become in their career, the more they are called upon to share their expertise with groups, and the more anxious they become.
What’s The Fear?
The fear of public speaking draws upon the same Panic Trick as other fears and phobias. People naturally want to rid themselves of public speaking anxiety before they do any more speaking. But they get tricked into using methods which actually make the fear of public speaking stronger, and more persistent, over time.
Rushing through a talk requires that you talk fast. Talking fast interferes with your breathing. Instead of breathing comfortably, you breathe in a short, shallow manner, or you might even hold your breath. This gives you the sensation of running out of the air and being unable to breathe, a common fear in this situation, and one that greatly increases fear of public speaking.
All this hurrying reduces the chance that your audience can enjoy your speech. It creates a barrier between you and them, which might have been your intention, but this will actually increase your fear. The less of a connection you have with them, the more unfriendly they will seem to you, and the more speech anxiety you will experience.
Ignoring the Audience
Fearful speakers often try to ignore the audience, hoping this will decrease their speech anxiety. For instance, lots of fearful speakers avoid eye contact with the audience. This prevents you from noticing any audience reaction. You won’t notice when people seem more interested or have questions.
When you have no audience contact, you focus on your own thoughts. And if you’re a fearful speaker, your thoughts are virtually guaranteed to be far more negative, and unrealistic, than anything your audience might think or say. The result? More, rather than less, fear of public speaking.
Fighting to Hide Your Fear
Finally, efforts to hide your fear create the additional fear of being “found out” as a nervous person. This only adds to the public speaking anxiety you already experience.
It has another negative side effect. After you’ve given a speech, even if it has gone well, you may take no pride in your success because of this thought: “If they knew how afraid I was, they’d think less of me.”
We’ve worked with many successful business people who, despite their speech anxiety, actually presented frequently and did a good job. Unfortunately, because of their desire for secrecy, they thought they were “fooling people” and never felt satisfaction from their work. In order to progress and feel confident, they had to see that they were the ones being fooled – not the audience! Want help with your public speaking? Please reach out to me directly here so I can help https://perfectpitchesbyprecious.com/contact/