8 Fears of Public Speaking and How to Overcome Them

We all have fears, some are huge, some are small, there is nothing wrong with that, its natural. But you need to ask yourself, what are the fears that are holding you back in life and in relation to public speaking, what opportunities are you letting pass you by, because of those fears.

We all have fears, some are huge, some are small, there is nothing wrong with that, its natural. But you need to ask yourself, what are the fears that are holding you back in life and in relation to public speaking, what opportunities are you letting pass you by, because of those fears.

If you are reading this article, it is because you want to overcome those fears and I hope become a great speaker in the process. I am grateful that I can help you to take that one step closer to achieving your speaking goals.

So let’s look at 8 fears around speaking in the light of day.

1. Judgements

Fear of being negatively judged is the belief that if you do something wrong, an audience will think the worse of you and be critical about your performance. It possible that a tiny percentage may think badly of you, but that actually says more about them, than it does about you.

I have found that the majority of people want to see you succeed and initially they just want three things.

To Be Information
To Be Entertained
To Be Inspired

Audiences are very forgiving, if you are being authentic in your delivery. If you get something wrong, laugh at yourself because guess what, the audience will laugh along with you. If you forget something, don’t fluster and get embarrassed, just be authentic and you will gain more respect for that. Many people underestimate that showing vulnerability is actually a strength, but I will cover that in another blog. Just remember, the main person that is doing most of the judging is you.

So do everyone a favour and you be the first to leave the judgement of yourself at the door.

2. Lack of Confidence

lack of confidence

When it comes to speaking in public, I have found that some people like being the centre of attention and are very comfortable in that position, whereas other’s shy away from it and would rather die than take centre stage. Lacking confidence speaking and being nervous is usually tied to your fear of being judged or not feeling that you are good enough.

Confidence Words

I have found that many people tell me that they lack confidence. I then ask them “are you confidence at home,” to which they usually reply “yes.” Therefore they are a confident person, it just that when they are outside their comfort zone, like many other people, they may lack confidence in that situation.

Think of the times in your life at a family gathering, when you were the centre of attention. Perhaps you were telling a story around the dinner table and everyone was listening. Were you nervous and lacking confidence then? I presume not. Why? Because you were comfortable in that situation.

Confidence Comes After

Confidence comes after you do something, not before. Once you have tried something once or twice and realise it is not that bad, you will eventually become competent and comfortable doing it, if you continue. For instance, playing a musical instrument. At first, you may be embarrassed to play in front of others, as you are just beginning to master the instrument but after practice and perseverance you become confident enough to share it with others. If you continued at some point you would become more confident playing in front of others. Therefore confidence comes after you do something, not before.

So regarding speaking, for one to become confident, you need to regularly speak in front of people.

A great place to start is at a local Toastmaster club. Here, in a safe and secure environment you can start to speak in front of a small group of people, who will give you encouragement and feedback about your speech and delivery. Which in turn, will help to build your confidence.

It is only by doing, that you will learn. You have to just begin or else you will never become confident as a speaker. Courage is needed and confidence will follow.

So start standing up and speaking out. Take it one small step at a time and eventually you will be taking giant leaps.

3. Stress of Freezing on Stage

Many people put so much pressure on being perfect when speaking, getting it just right, that they become highly stressed and begin to worry and eventually panic.

The Stress Management Society explains “Stress is caused by two things. Primarily it is down to whether you think situations around you are worthy of anxiety. And then it is down to how your body reacts to your thought processes. This instinctive stress response to unexpected events is known as ‘fight or flight’”

If you want to read more about stress visit here. 

So how can you conquer this. Well, firstly:

Take some deep long breaths, which will slow down your heart rate which is pumping fast to supply extra oxygen and energy to your muscles so that you could run, but this is not a life threatening situation, so relax, stay calm and breath.

Stop and start to think about what you thinking about. Your body is responding to your thoughts, “I’m scared” “I can’t do this” “what if……, what if……” Stop and ask yourself “am I being rational?” Most probably not. Change your thoughts and words to something empowering such as “I can do this.” Even laugh at yourself and shake it all out.
Visualise. Find a quiet corner, take deep breaths, focus on your speech and how you are going to impact the audience and visualise a great speech and a great outcome. Visualisation is a very powerful tool, used by athletes, performers and entertainers. Walk through the speech, the stage, the smiles, delivering a great speech and the rapturous clapping and applause. Great job!

4. I Will Forget My Speech

will I forget my speech

Let me tell you three words: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Your brain is a magnificent super-computer. Hardwired to remember memories, 10, 15, 20 years ago. Trust me, your brain will remember you speech. It is you that doubts your brain.

When I took up stand-up comedy, my five minute set consisted of 25 jokes. How did I remember the order and set up/punch of the jokes? I gave myself key words to imprint into my brain. One word that would trigger my brain to remember which joke was next and then I would recite those 25 key words over and over again. My brain never let me down.

Something else to remember is that nobody will know if you have left something out, only you. Being in front of an audience is meant to be conversational, so if you remember something you have left out just be casual about it and say “oh yes, I just remembered something I must cover with you…….”

The only time your brain will find it difficult to remember is if you panic and get stressed.

Below are 3 great techniques to use, if you feel you cannot remember what to say next:

Pause. Your brain is amazing and even though you think you have forgotten, your brain hasn’t. By pausing, you allow your brain to go through the filing cabinet of information and suddenly it will snap back into your head. I have seen it thousands of time. Just pause for a few seconds and it will come back to you.

If for any reason, No. 1 doesn’t happen you can say, “where was I” and guess what, usually your brain responds by giving you the next piece of information you were looking for. I used this technique in the very early stages of stand-up comedy and it works a treat.
Lastly, if you can’t remember, you can make a joke about losing your memory, laugh and then just move on. The audience will relate to you, because we have all been there and will most probably laugh along with you.

5. I Lack Credibility

This can be a huge hill to climb if: (a) you are new to your subject matter (b) you are speaking in front of your peers or (c) you always feel you could know more.

So my suggestions are:

Plan out your speech accordingly, know your information and nothing can surpass, practice, practice, practice.

If you feel, you are not credible enough to speak on this subject. Write out all the reasons why you are credible to speak on this subject matter. List out as many reasons as possible. Sometimes seeing things in black and white, makes you realise, “Actually, I do know a lot about this information.” Sometimes you need to remind yourself, actually how credible you really are.

I do this will all my clients. Many times they are over-qualified and have given over 10,000 hours on their subject matter in business. More than qualified.

6. People Will Think I Am Boring

Well, if you start a speech with that mindset, it will definitely come through in your speech.

Change your thinking to something more positive, because if you think it is going to be boring, guess what, it probably will be. Start as you aim to carry on.

Include stories, anecdotes and metaphors in your speech/presentation. This is a great way to keep your audience engaged and enthralled throughout your whole speech and because you are reliving the experience, the audience will relive it with you.

Practice your delivery. How you deliver your material is a big part of keeping an audience engaged. If you are enjoying it and they can see that, by the way you are smiling, your energy, the use of animation, they will begin to reciprocate the same.

Look at comedians like Lee Evans. It is not always what he is saying that is engaging but how he is saying it, his tonality and his likeable personality that shines through and wins over audiences worldwide.

7. I Am Scared of Failing on Stage

Many people do not start speaking because the thought of failing in front of others feels way too dangerous and vulnerable. If you haven’t realised, by getting it wrong, you are learning far more quickly, how to get it right. You learn the most when you get things wrong.

Do you realise that many times when you are speaking, other people will be oblivious to the mistakes you make on stage because they are just happy to be listening to an authority on a subject matter. But you will pick up on the things that you forgot to say, or where you lost the audience’s attention so you had to change script to gather back their attention. These learnings are the things that will make you a great speaker. As the saying goes you have to “fail your way to the top.”

Remember I mentioned above, an audience is very forgiving, if you don’t make a big thing about getting something wrong, neither will they.

If you want to become a competent if not a great speaker you have to learn how to ‘be comfortable being uncomfortable.’ Learning how to wing things on the spot and being spontaneous when speaking because it is how you are going to grow.

So never think that when things don’t go as you plan, that they went wrong or are a failure. You are just learning how to do it better the next time.

8. The Audience Are Flat and Unresponsive

flat, unengaged audience

Before you speak at any event, have you asked the right questions so that you can tailor your speech to the audience’s expectations.

  • How many people will be in the audience?
  • Why are the audience at the event?
  • What do they want to get out of hearing your speech?
  • What are the booker’s specific objectives for having you talk?
  • Are you the first, second or third speaker?
  • Are you the opening or closing speaker?
  • How long have the audience been sitting down?
  • How long do you have for your speech?
  • Do they want a Q&A at the end?

You will then need to design a content that meets all these expectations and is enthralling to the listener.

If you are the last speaker than stories are the best way to keep them engaged as they had had a lot of information preceding you. If you are the first speaker then you can get them thinking about their life with rhetorical questions and short anecdotes, perhaps get them to do an activity.

If you had previously observed that the audience was flat for the previous speaker, come on stage and ask them opening questions to get their attention, then get them talking. Get then to share something with the person next door to them i.e. 2 minutes share with each other your greatest fear about speaking in public.

Trust me – if you get them talking, which people love to do, it will change the energy in the room. Pull them back after 2 minutes and continue to wow them with enthralling and engaging content.

If you apply the information above, in time you will become a master of overcoming your public speaking fears and will learn how to manage any situation that will arise. Forewarned is forearmed!

If you need some help or guidance with writing an engaging presentation or speech, contact me using the form below for a free 45 minute call, to see if I can help you in some way.

Until the next time.

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