I was coaching a friend on public speaking a couple of weeks back when we were addressing about her public speaking anxiety. In her own words, her mind would go blank, she’d freeze and get paralyzed, and she’d suffer from panic attacks thinking about her impending doom… erm… I mean presentation *winks* for weeks to come.
Anyway, we were talking and analyzing her anxiety attacks when it dawned upon me that she held several misconceptions and “displaced faith” towards public speaking.
Now let me clarify, she’s an educated, insightful intelligent and hardworking individual who knows what she wants and what she’s doing. The only problem is that she’s been so active at avoiding speaking up for so long now that she’s forgotten how speak!
In fact, I even remarked (to her) that she has been doing a great job at whatever she’s been doing for the past couple of years! Just think about it – She’s been so successful hiding, she’s successfully taught herself to run away from speaking!
Still, more importantly, the insights and concerns she shared with me about her fear, however, helped me crystallize some of the major lessons I’ve learned about public speaking and the concept of fear! And I thought it would be great to share them with you too!
So here it goes:
1. Nobody Cares About You, the Speaker!
Nobody cares about you… as much as they care about themselves and what they can get out from hearing you speak.
After all, it’s not about you – the speaker. It’s about the audience. Your audience does not care how much you know until they know how much you care about them.
The irony of public speaking is that: the more you care about yourself, the worse you will perform on stage.
2. There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Speech
Recognisze and accept that there is no such thing as a perfect speech. So why stress yourself out trying to craft one? Be realistic.
Nothing is perfect in life. The earlier you accept that there’s no perfect speech, the more comfortable and at ease you’ll feel on stage.
In fact, chances are, you might even start to go easier on yourself and stop placing so much undue stress on yourself – which is another big reason why people often feel stressed on stage! (Why… isn’t that another irony!?)
Practice, preperation and training will not make you perfect. But it can certainly help you make progress.
3. Things Will NEVER Go According to Plan
Still, despite preparing, recognize that things seldom go to plan. This does not mean that you should give up planning or practicing. Rather, it means you should arm yourself with more skills and speaking strategies; build your communication tool kit, and prepare yourself to handle various situations so that you’re ready to handle the challenges that come your way.
Imagine that you’re versatile enough to handle practically any public speaking challenge when your peers are back struggling with one – doesn’t that highlight your abilities and help distinguish you from the crowd?
Be prepared by being versatile. Practice and planning helps, but accumulating experience and beefing up your skill helps you fend off Murphy’s Law too!
4. Focus on What You Can Do and Need to Do
Why focus on fear when you can focus on work? Crafting, strategising and researching for your speech is enough to keep you busy. Why waste time thinking about how you can go wrong when you can spend the time thinking how you can make it go right?
Stop wasting time thinking about what can go wrong when you can spend the time preparing and ensuring that things are done right.
5. Forget Past Failures, Focus on the Future!
Past failures are over. They’re finished! Gone! Kaput! Get over them! You can’t change the fact that they occured anymore. But you’ve a choice to make a difference now – and for the future. Crying over spilled milk won’t help. Learning and making a positive change will. Change what didn’t work and implement what worked/works to make things happen.
Also, I’d like to recommend that we focus on the lessons learned for the future.
That would ensure that we focus our energies and attention on learning and becoming better, rather than attempting to shine one stage which may again result in us putting undue pressure on ourselves.
The same principle applies to successful stints on stage too – don’t dwell on it lest you become complacent. But take heart and encouragement from it that you did well. Use it as a springboard to speak again – and use it as another experience and lesson gained in helping you become a better speaker.
Forget past failures, but take to heart the lessons learned. Focus on the future!
SEIZE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK!