Clowns and snakes certainly are terrifying, as is being confined in a crawl space or mauled by zombies, however, despite the existence of all these horrifying abominations America’s number one fear remains public speaking. Why is public speaking so terrifying? Why is it that when we are asked to speak in front of an audience we find ourselves filled with anxiety and dread, the words in our brain scrambled as our tongue-tied being blabbers out nonsense? The fear of public speaking comes from disapproval.
As humans, we are terrified of people disapproving us. The tense and nervous feeling we feel from being in front of a crowd has nothing to do with our ability to talk clearly and coherently or with how comfortable they feel with the audience. The fear is connected to a deeper root in us that has to deal with a past wound such as a parent’s disapproval, or the worry that our peers might think that we utterly stupid at the slightest mistake. In order to overcome our fear of public speaking we simultaneously have to overcome the fear of disapproval. Here are a few principles to keep in mind to help overcome the fear of public speaking and the general fear of disapproval.
Discipline: Practice makes perfect, or close enough at least. Practicing your lines or common phrases used in group discussions can help ease tensions. Knowing your material and audience allows you to speak more naturally and fluently.
Perfection: When you make a mistake, often times no one will realize or care but you. The most important thing to do when you make a mistake is to keep going because the audience won’t know whether you skipped a word or a line and small slip ups such as these can work in your favor as it allows you to connect with your audience. Nobody wants to hear a “perfect” person, rather a relatable one.
Connection: No matter what the topic or circumstance is audiences best respond to speakers when they personally communicate, talking about personal experiences, triumphs, tragedies and day to day anecdotes intrigue the audience and allow you to visualize your goals and speaking points, in turn making you comfortable and approachable.
Perception: Don’t try to be the best “public” speaker. Forcing out lines and saying things like a robot in order to convince the audience of your point isn’t effective or enjoyable for either party. People want to listen to an interesting and genuine person, so being your awkward sheepish self, although not the most preferable, would be much more appreciable than a forced dialogue.
The most important thing to keep in mind if you are trying to get over the fear of public speaking is that you have to get yourself out there and be authentic.
Inspirational Quote: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy”- Jerry Seinfeld.