How To Overcome Anxiety When Presenting or Public Speaking

Do you become anxious at the thought of presenting in front of others or public speaking?

Is this fear holding you back in your career, your education or your private life?

Then maybe now is the right time to see a Public Speaking Coach?

Perhaps you feel anxiety and overwhelm at the mere thought of public speaking, maybe you feel completely overwhelmed at the very thought of standing in front of a crowd, possibly you are turning down opportunities to grow within your career because of your fear of presenting? It could even be that it is costing you money if you are missing out on that promotion?

Well imagine instead that you had the courage and confidence to speak up. Imagine you were not only able to share your thoughts and opinions, but you actually enjoyed speaking in front of an audience. Imagine you were able to progress up the career ladder and even earn money from your new skill.

“Jennifer is absolutely a must to work with if you want to get from nervous to confident … For 2 years I had been listening to so called gurus…. She is a master Jedi at helping you with public speaking and managing anxiety. Highly recommended”

Nita (link to full review on google here

 

If you are struggling with anxiety and nerves, then you are not alone. The fear of public speaking is the No 1 fear in America, even higher than the fear of death.

Public Speaking Anxiety (PSA) is a form of Social Anxiety, and it is reported to be as prevalent in up to 77% of the general population. Many people with Public Speaking Anxiety report that it interferes with daily activities, including work and education.

People with a fear of public speaking are often confident in other areas of their life but freeze when they are in the spotlight. This is often due to a previous event in their life where they have felt judged or been criticised in the past, and can stem as far back as their school days.

Anxiety around public speaking can be debilitating and career-limiting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It can be changed right now.

I had avoided speaking in front of an audience for 30+ years, throughout my entire corporate career. As a senior manage, I was surrounded by my successful teams and I was able to hide behind them, putting everyone else forward to speak instead. The more I avoided speaking up, the more I became fearful of it.

My public speaking anxiety stemmed back to an incident at school where I was ridiculed for mispronouncing a word. In fact, I had my first ever panic attack at the age of 11, from being asked to read at the front of the class.

I wasn't able to raise my hand if I had a question, as I felt too anxious and insecure.

However, I realised that while I was teaching others how to overcome their anxiety, I wasn’t addressing my own fear. So I took action. I decided I was going to train as a public speaker.

I was petrified, but I knew I couldn’t grow if I wasn’t prepared to be vulnerable. I kept reminding myself of my why…..

Why Did I Want to be a Speaker?

Because I wanted to be able to grow and serve my clients to the best of my ability.

I wanted to be able to get my message out to as many people as possible that no one needs to struggle with anxiety. 

I wanted to step out of my comfort zone so I could build my dream of running a business that helps teenagers and young adults overcome their anxious thoughts and feelings.

I wanted to speak at schools and universities so I can do my best to support the next generation.

Because I wanted to inspire my daughter and lead by example.

What Had Stopped Me From Speaking in Public?

I already knew that we are born with only two fears, the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises, so logically I knew that my fear of speaking in public was a learnt response, and could therefore be unlearnt.

I was able to work out exactly when my fear started, and was able to acknowledge how I am not the same person today, as I was back in my school days.

I was also able to work out what drove that fear in me, and this is key to understanding how to unravel it.

I had always got myself in such a state at the very thought of standing in front of an audience, so I knew I had to manage my state before I got on stage. I used breathing and visual techniques to manage this, as our brains don't know the difference between what is real or visualised, alongside the tools and techniques I teach my clients for all kinds of anxiety.

Our fight and flight response is there to keep us safe, but I knew I wasn’t actually in danger. My brain was perceiving I was in danger because I was afraid I would be judged and rejected by my audience.

This is an evolutionary response because when we were living in caves and were part of a tribe, rejection from the group would mean certain death as we were unable to hunt, keep the fire going and sleep without the whole tribe contributing to the group’s survival. But logically, if my audience was to judge me, it was just my feelings that would have been hurt. It wasn’t a life and death situation.

Telling My Story From Stage

I learnt how to tell my story so my audience were fully engaged. I was able to take them on a journey with me so I could get my point across, and they would know, like and trust me.

I had a system to follow, based on a handful of prompts, so I didn’t need to memorise notes. My chosen subject to talk about was how to overcome anxiety. How ironic! But I know my subject inside and out. I had 30+ years of my own personal experience of anxiety as well as what I have learnt when coaching colleagues and clients. This system enabled me to overcome the dreaded brain freeze, when you forget what you are planning to say next.

I was aware that if I was talking to my clients, I always knew the right thing to say, so by learning one really simple trick, I had confidence that I would never forget what to say next.

I passionately believe that no one needs to struggle with anxiety and I can talk about all the reasons why for hours. This enabled me to craft my story with ease, and captivate my audience.

I thought my voice was a little wobbly the first time I spoke, but my audience didn’t seem to notice. In fact they found my story inspiring and wanted to know how many years I had been speaking from the stage. I saw them nodding along to what I was saying, relating to everything.

This naturally increased my own confidence in what I was delivering.

And then I practiced and practiced and practiced. I know not to aim for perfection, as it is never achievable, but I was willing to try my best.

I have spoken at large corporate companies and schools. I have spoken on global stages at multiple events. I am now a multi award winning professional keynote speaker.

And the funniest thing? I love being able to spread my message to more and more people, and I love speaking on stages!!!

Hence I now teach others how to overcome their fear and structure their story, so they can speak from stage with confidence and clarity.

Top Tips for Presenting or Public Speaking

  • Nervousness and anxiety is normal the first time. Practice, practice and practice again. Know that some anxiety can be a good thing as it makes us more alert and focused
  • Understand your audience and make your speech more about them and not you
  • Follow a framework with your talk so you know exactly where you are in your content if you get interrupted with a question
  • Start with a strong and powerful opening line that will grab their attention
  • Engage your audience by asking them to raise their hands when they agree. You can do this by asking simple questions related to the audience ie raise your hand if you would like to feel more confident when speaking in front of an audience ..... make your question relevant to the reason they are listening to you
  • Watch for feedback and manage their energy. If the energy is low, you may need to up your own energy to encourage your audience to do the same
  • Be your authentic self and let your personality shine through. Tell personal stories so your audience get to know like and trust you
  • Be mindful of your body language and tone as only 7% of how we communicate is with our words
  • Use visual aids sparingly and never read from a screen. It is a guaranteed way to break rapport with the audience when you have your back to them. If you need visual queues, use images that will remind you what to talk about next
  • If you forget your lines, pause, breathe and say "I believe ...... " and trust that you will know what to say next. Afterall, you know your topic and talk better than anyone else in the audience.
  • Have fun, and know that you are there to serve them


 If You Need Further Support

If you need further support to overcome your anxiety and the accompanying symptoms, a trained Anxiety Specialist can prescribe a personalised plan to help you understand the underlying cause of your anxiety, as well as help develop healthy coping strategies that are focused around your individual needs.

Taking care of your mental wellbeing is an essential part of your overall well-being. Left unresolved, anxiety can spiral out of control and have a significant impact on relationships, work, school and family life.

So if you want to take the next steps to have a happier life where your fears no longer hold you back, click the link below and book a free no obligation consultation call.

Additional Resources

Read What Causes Anxiety? 

Read What Are The Different Types of Anxiety?

Read Can Mindfulness Help with Anxiety

Watch How to Feel Less Anxious

Watch How To Reduce Anxiety Immediately

Watch Breathing Techniques for Anxiety

Download Circle of Control and Influence worksheet

Download Cognitive Distortions worksheet

 

 

 Original Article published 25th July, 2022