Most people at some point in their working and personal life will engage in public speaking. Whether you are presenting to clients, contributing in meetings, being on camera, giving a speech, or doing job interviews. Public speaking is a vital skill which, surveys suggest, can raise your personal brand value by as much as 50%. So surely conquering your fear of public speaking is a must?
But why is it so nerve racking? If we look back in history our survival depended on the safety afforded by being part of a group - being outside meant isolation and increased risk to dangers. We are hard wired to be part of a group, seeking safety and shelter in numbers and not standing out. The very act of public speaking involves standing out and stepping away from the safety of a group. The dangers have changed, but the risks, such as being judged, rejected and isolated, trigger the same fears and the fight or flight response.
I have been public speaking for many years and I know how nerve racking it can be, I have said no to many speaking opportunities because of this. To conquer my fears of public speaking I had to take a long, hard look at myself, admit and face my own vulnerabilities and imperfections. This understanding has helped to beat my fears, but more importantly, I have found having a positive mindset has lead me conquer any fear of public speaking.
So what is a positive mindset? Professor Carol Dweck states a positive mindset is seeing challenges and setbacks as an opportunity to develop and tending to optimism. Dweck suggests a positive mindset can improve all areas of life and those who consistently apply a positive mindset see greater long-term achievement, suffer less stress, anxiety, have higher self-esteem and an inner resilience to “bounce back”. In contrast, it's argued those with a negative mindset tend to dwell on perceived failures, judge themselves more harshly and see others' talents and skills as predetermined. Sadly they may see setbacks as a reason to give up on ambitions and avoid risk altogether. So a positive mindset is something worth working towards.
So how can we get a positive mindset? Well, fake it "till you make it!"
Use your body - the body is intimately involved in all our thought processes, emotions and decision making.
· Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons, chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback. Most of the time we make decisions from our intellect and ignore what the gut is telling us. The next time you are stuck or need a push ask what your gut what it wants to do. You might be surprised.
· Just smile - even for a second; it can change how you feel when you are presenting, alleviate anxiety and change people’s perceptions of you.
· Adopt an upright posture without tension - stand or sit up straight when you present. Professor Erik Peper suggests slouching produces feelings of depression that can be reversed by an upright posture.
Adopt positive language by replacing the word “can’t” with “can” and “yet”. When you add the word yet to the end of a sentence it implies work in progress rather than a conclusion. For example, rewording “I can’t beat my fears of public speaking” to “I haven’t beaten my fears of public speaking yet” implies self-development rather than an absolute assessment of our capabilities.
See challenges as opportunities especially when we are faced with situations where we have no experience or previously failed in. Gradually expose yourself to the situation and the associated feelings of anxiety, rehearse and objectively review your performance. If you are combating your fear of public speaking take the opportunity to speak to small groups over a few months gradually building up larger audiences. Reflect upon your performance each time with the positive outcomes but also the potential areas for improvement. Over time this process will become instinctive.
Use hypnotherapy as it encourages a positive mindset. It goes beneath the conscious mind, into the irrational unconscious mind, to reframe and reposition negative beliefs that have rooted over time. Acknowledging your weaknesses and vulnerabilities will give you a more accurate view of yourself, especially from previous negative experiences with public speaking and help you improve. Hypnotherapy can give you an anchor associated with confidence and calmness allowing you to let go of your former fears and effortlessly gain control for effective, comfortable and confident public speaking at all times.
In summary a positive mindset is a mental filter which helps you manage risk and reframe the world around you. Whether you are reframing criticism to assess feedback objectively and use setbacks constructively or giving yourself permission to mess up your positive mindset creates trust and openness and releases the pressure valve to combat your fears of public speaking.
I am a freelance consultant specialising in organisational change and coaching. I am also a psycho-hypnotherapist working with fears, phobias, and trauma. I have a free workshop on conquering your fears of public speaking, which takes place on 26th September in Central London. Find out more here.