This is a guest post by Andrew Exon. If you'd like to guest post on this blog, click here.
The human body provides every person with a unique set of dispositions highly influenced by our nature and nurture. One of these dispositions that vary from individual to individual is fear or anxiety.
Fear is a release of chemical stimuli within our brains that affect our heart rate, breathing patterns, and muscle tension as we recognize a potential (or assumed) threat. One of these potential threats — an assumed threat — every person will experience is public speaking.
Bob wrote an article called Speaking of Success back in 2009 regarding the top 12 fears for people. Public speaking, at this time, was considered #2. In connection with our chemical dispositions, I have noticed that introverts are more likely to fear public speaking than extroverts. This article, however, will suggest five ideas as to why people fear public speaking as well as address five positive ways to decrease our fear of public speaking.
Five Reasons for the Fear of Public Speaking:
- Public Speaking is Innately Stressful
- Wrong Purpose in Mind
- Unorganized Material
- Emulating Other Speakers — Rather than being Ourselves
- Desire for Perfection
1. Public Speaking is Innately Stressful
Our culture, unfortunately, has established a false notion that public speaking is innately stressful. The stress associated with public speaking emerges from our personal convictions, our beliefs, and our immediate education which affects our unconscious mind. Our unconscious mind, in turn, influences our thoughts and specific behaviors in connection to our external environment. In essence, if a person cultivates the idea that public speaking is not innately stressful, then, the individual’s unconscious mind will less likely stimulate a conditioned response that we associate with fear.
2. Wrong Purpose in Mind
When we begin our presentation, our minds should be focused on contributing and giving, rather than getting. People easily recognize speakers who are confident versus arrogant, contributors versus consumers, and givers versus takers.
One of the main reasons Anthony Robbins has been so successful is because he begins with the right purpose in mind. If I succeed in helping you, then I will succeed as a motivational public speaker. His definition of success is to help others succeed.
3. Unorganized Material
One of the reasons people consider public speaking stressful is due to their inability to organize their thoughts in a methodical manner. This may result from lack of preparation, a lack of education, or the idea that more information is better. All good speakers have something in common — an organized delivery of their topics and themes. This, however, is not to say that good public speakers are not flexible in their delivery. There is a difference between a flexible orator and a disorganized orator.
4. Emulating other Speakers – Rather than Being Ourselves
The opportunity to listen to an excellent speaker truly impacts our mind in a positive way. In light of this, it shouldn’t be too shocking that one reason why people fear public speaking is because they feel the need to emulate or speak like someone else. However, we are all individuals, and we only bring ourselves added stress by desiring to perfectly imitate another speaker. Rather, we should spend time assimilating specific principles all excellent speakers emanate, and then put them into practice according to our best self. We want to create within us the same principles they apply.
5. Desire for Perfection
One of the reasons public speaking is stressful is due to the illusion of presentation perfection. We erroneously maintain that our performance must be perfect, without flaw, the audience laughs at every joke, and they are continually at the edge of their seat — satiating their appetite with the divine wisdom spewing from our mouth.
The emotional tidal wave our audience is now experiencing is because we are good – no, perfect! This perfect imagination crumbles however, with our first stutter, wrongly chosen word, or question which stumps us. However, it wasn’t our presentation skills that made the difference as it was the illusionary fallacy we created in our minds that didn’t allow flexibility and thus resulted in our personal discomfort.
We have discussed five reasons why people may fear public speaking. This fear may stem from false notions, preparing with the wrong purpose in mind, unorganized material, desire to be someone other than ourselves, and the desire for perfection. If a person recognizes that they may mirror one of these reasons, then their recognition is the first step to making the appropriate changes in their behavior and mental constructs.
Five Tips to Effective Public Speaking
- Introduction – Audience Learner Readiness
- Confidence and Courage
- A Logical Organization of our Ideas
- Vocal Fluctuation
- Ethical Presentations
1. Introduction – Audience Learner Readiness
An introduction is the speaker’s opportunity to use a metaphor/analogy, a story, a joke, or an object to transition a passive audience into an active audience. A well thought out introduction can also calm the speaker’s initial jitters before actually beginning their presentation.
2. Confidence and Courage
Confidence and courage are more a matter of attitude and how we present ourselves. I have noticed at times when congratulating speakers for their wonderful delivery and confidence they have responded, “Confidence? Thank you, I was very nervous the whole way through.” This has surprised me because the speaker didn’t appear nervous and actually appeared very confident.
When I consider their response, I am more inclined to believe we are better off to appear confident and courageous than to allow our fears to dominate us. I have enjoyed this statement with regard to personal fear,
“When we do the thing we fear, the death of fear is certain.”
The death of fear is certain because we have the courage to face it.
3. A Logical Organization of our Ideas
A logical organization to our ideas is tantamount to our success as public speakers. This is the difference between a rambling speaker and a thorough speaker.
A logical organization allows one idea to transition to another idea while sticking to the subject being presented.
Our ability to brainstorm a subject, break that subject into simpler parts, organize the relative parts, and then systematically deliver them is vital to a successful presentation.
4. Vocal Fluctuation
How we fluctuate our voice is possibly one of the hardest parts of public speaking. Voice fluctuation isn’t as hard as some speakers make it appear. For example, think about your everyday conversations with friends, co-workers, and family. Notice how easily when we tell a story our voice fluctuates, emphasizing specific highlights of the story – unless you are a high school Math or Science teacher.
Our voice is the body’s natural instrument. Our voice, like a person playing the piano, has the ability to crescendo (gradual increase in volume), or to decrescendo (gradual decrease in volume) at specific points when speaking. The best advice is to be natural when gradually increasing or decreasing the tone in your voice when speaking – similar to our everyday conversations. A person will crescendo their voice when emphasizing something important, or will decrescendo to draw the listener in as they have to focus more to hear your point. I have discovered when speaking about something sacred, important, or serious it is better to decrescendo than to crescendo.
5. Ethical Presentations
Our presentation should not be unethical or purely agenda driven, discarding facts to manipulate audiences to share your view point. If you plan on using buzz words then make sure they apply to the subject, not just to excite the audience, or that they are not purely emotionally driven phrases. In one simple phrase – be responsible.
In light of the information provided, our ability to speak in public effectively will not change overnight. The more we practice and actively change our perspective toward public speaking the better our experience will be. I conclude with this thought – Confidence and courage are not an absence of fear or stress; confidence and courage are what we do in the face of fear and stress.
This guest article was written by Andrew Exon who works for PMA Media Group, an organization committed to excellence and assisting eligible students to locate and become familiar with the best online colleges. His passions in life are spending time with his wife and 5 children, fly-fishing, and other hobbies.