Fear of public speaking affects many of us, from emerging to experienced speakers.
What if we’re actively engaged with speaking and it just doesn’t seem like it’s getting any easier?
What if we’re starting to imagine there is something wrong with us and we’re just not cut out for it?
Are we supposed to “just do it” and suffer through our speaking gig; to “fake it till we make it,” to run a series of test speaking rounds?
Should we quit because we’re just not one of those natural speakers?
Are we supposed to succumb to the anxiety that tests our nerves, impacts our overall health and leaves us feeling not that effective?
The answer is a resounding NO. Our audience deserves better than that!
And our audience needs to hear from us and hear our message with enthusiasm and focus… focus on them and not our anxiety.
The good news is: With some simple tools, we can line up the butterflies in our stomach and get back in command.
I personally never step in front of an audience without moving through a routine of body, mind and energy exercises.
They allow me to manage my speaking anxiety, have more fun with the experience itself and thus provide higher value.
The following techniques from my book “Speak up, Stand out and Shine – Speak Powerfully in Any Situation” are meant to help you power up for speaking mentally, physically and energetically. As you experiment with these tools, you will find that they will not only raise your confidence, but enhance your speaking presence, deepen your connection with the audience, and increase your overall impact.
Fear of speaking is not just present on the stage; it’s also a challenge for many leaders within organizations.
Many of my mid-level career people hold themselves back from expressing their ideas and letting their voice be heard due to this fear, which is one of the reasons they struggle to get promoted.
These tools are for both those who stand on a stage and those who need to communicate effectively in their careers.
Visualization is a powerful tool for success.
The most successful athletes have used visualization for decades. They know that visualizing themselves as winners is the first step onto the winner’s podium.
Close your eyes and create a mental movie of you delivering an impactful presentation or talk.
Focus on your ideal scenario: Imagine stepping in front of an appreciative audience who carved precious time out of their calendars to listen to you because they need to hear your message. It will change some of these lives.
This event is about them; it’s not about your fear.
In your mind, you easily engage your audience as you playfully move through your content.
You naturally employ appropriate body language, and the audience appreciates your expertise, your story, your authentic and approachable personality.
Allow yourself to use all your senses to savor this experience. (If you have a hard time visualizing, feel into it; listen to it, smell it or maybe even taste it.) At the end of your talk, hear the roaring applause with your inner ears.
With a little practice, you can do this exercise in as little as a minute – a minute that can shift you from unsettling nervousness to positive anticipation.
Anchor a Feeling of Confidence
When anxiety attacks right before we walk in front of a room or onto a stage, we need a quick way to shift our state of mind from fear to confidence, or from freaking out to freaking amazing, as I like to say.
One way is to anchor a feeling of confidence so we can then call it in whenever you need it.
Here’s how it works:
First, choose a simple hand gesture that you will only use for this purpose.
It could be making a fist or putting your thumb and ring finger together. Now you will be creating an association between your chosen gesture and an intense feeling of confidence.
Closer your eyes and think of a time in your life when you experienced a high level of confidence.
Allow yourself to travel in time and to glide back into that situation.
Re-live that scene with all your senses.
What did it feel like, look like, smell like, sound like? What sensations went through your body when you felt that way? Take your time and give yourself permission to get intense with it!
Enjoy the strongest sensation of confidence you possibly can.
Now apply your hand gesture to anchor that feeling.
This causes your body to create an association between the anchor and the feeling.
You just conditioned your physiology to create the feeling of confidence every time you use your hand gesture.
Open your eyes.
If you use your anchor regularly, it will maintain its strength. If not, you will need to repeat this exercise from time to time to bring it back into your cell memory. You now can move into a confident state of mind anytime, fast. Isn’t that amazing? (This is a technique I adapted from my Neuro-Linguistic Programming studies.)
Activate Your Power Energy
Tapping into our inner power is essential to maximize our speaking presence.
Today, we know that all we are is energy; what we think, say and do is energy.
We pick up on each other’s energy, consciously or subconsciously.
So it’s important to focus on the quality of our energy, especially when all the attention is on us.
One of the fastest ways to brace ourselves energetically for speaking is to feel our own energy moving through our body, while activating our power centers.
It’s easy: Close your eyes and start at the soles of your feet. Feel energy flowing into your feet, then up all the way through your legs to the base of your spine, through your belly, solar plexus, chest, throat, forehead and to the top of your head.
Observe how this inward focus on your upward energy modifies your posture.
You will probably observe that you appear to be taller, and that your chest and therefore your heart will open, which benefits your connection with the audience.
And… you may have guessed it: The secondary effect is again a boost in confidence. Nice!
You just enhanced your energetic presence. Your audience will perceive you as more radiant, powerful and engaging.
If you’d like to add more amazing tools to your repertoire, feel free to pick up my book “Speak up, Stand out and Shine” at Amazon. It tells you how to prepare step by step for your gig: a week before, the day and night before, the day of and during the event. It also equips you with other empowering ideas and insights around speaking.
We all want to come across as powerful, authentic and confident speakers, while having fun with it. With the right tools, we can go from anxiety to excitement, and enjoy the freedom to speak up, stand out and shine.
About the Author:
Regina Huber – CEO of Transform Your Performance www.transformyourperformance.com, Transformational Leadership Coach & Power Shifter, Diversity & Co-Creation Advocate, Speaker with a Passion for Dance, and Author of Speak up, Stand out and Shine – Speak Powerfully in Any Situation, as seen on The Huffington Post.