There are nerves and then there are NERVES. The quaking, shaking kind, born of a complete fear of public speaking that borders on a phobia.
In some cases, even the best content and coaching on delivery are not enough. Because the speaker needs to get to the root of their concerns before starting to work on the speech itself. Which is why I am delighted to include this Guest Post from someone who can get to the real heart of a public speaking phobia.
Jacky Lewis is a trainer, coach and existential psychotherapist who runs Training Matters London. Jacky works with clients to conquer many of the issues that can undermine their professional lives. In the following article she explains a possible way to adapt your mindset when the nerves kick-in.
Please let me know if you would like me to introduce you to Jacky.
Guest Post: Overcoming the Psychology of Nervousness
Many people feel a high level of anxiety when confronted with delivering a speech or presentation. They feel their legs have turned to jelly, they develop a dry mouth, feel sweaty, shaky, their hearts beat faster…they are experiencing classic stress symptoms. But have you ever stopped to think why this should be? Why don’t they just sail through it, deliver their message and feel proud of what they’ve said? The answer may be in the hidden unchallenged assumptions that we all carry inside and that we allow to ‘disable’ our thinking.
There’s no reason why should perform below par once we understand how to master these thoughts. Here are a few unhelpful and limiting assumptions I’ve come across over the years; can you identify with any of these…?
- I’m afraid I’ll feel vulnerable / exposed when I stand up to make a speech.
- I’ll look stupid.
- Everyone in the audience could do this better than me.
- They won’t be interested in what I have to say.
- I’m not interesting; they’ll find me boring.
- I am no expert on this subject.
- People will ‘find me out’.
- I hate operating outside my comfort zone.
When we are training people to present with confidence, it is interesting to find out that most of us share some of these same misgivings. The problem is that your audience is ‘attuned’ to picking up these signals of insecurity in the speaker; they may well switch off if she or he presents in an under confident or unconvincing manner. So you need to start your presentation as you mean to go on; with a high level of assurance and transmitting a ‘can-do’ mind-set. Convince your audience that they’re lucky to be hearing you!
So what can you do…?
Begin by making a list of your own personal unchallenged assumptions and then start to challenge them. Ask yourself ‘what is the evidence that people won’t be interested in my message?’. Then ask what makes you think you’ll be boring, and so on. Work through your personal negative points; try discussing them with a friend. Your unchallenged assumptions will be less powerful when you share them with others.
Now go on to picture yourself when you listen to a presentation; aren’t you usually open and interested in what the speaker has to say? If he or she starts off their presentation with a strong level of confidence and self belief, they will take you with them; you’ll be ‘on side’. People in your audience are much less judgmental that you think (or fear) they are; you just have to decide that you can inspire them. Getting your message across and motivating your audience is largely a matter of believing you can do it and demonstrating that. What did the author Susan Jeffers say? ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’…… Good luck!