Don’t Let Fear Leave You
Speechless – And Jobless
By Judy Carter
Do you get
nervous when you speak in front of a group?
Do you get
tongue-tied when you’re put on the spot?
brilliant ideas sound stupid when you say them out loud?
rather have a root canal than give a speech?
you answered yes to any of these questions – don’t worry: you’re normal. Public
speaking is scary. A
survey taken by USA Today found that the number one fear people share is public
speaking. The number two
fear is the fear of dying. Meaning
– people would rather that
their parachute not open than to have to speak in front of a group of
people. (I don’t know
what the third biggest fear is, but it might be slowly dying while
you are standing in front of people...)
you aren’t frightened of giving a speech, take your pulse -- you
might be dead.
for the fearful, there comes a time in most careers when people have
to give a presentation. When
that time comes, the ability to speak clearly and decisively is an
absolute career must. And
– being able to state your position with confidence lets you fully
participate in meetings, negotiations, and debate.
To be on a career fast track, you have to be able to deliver an
you’re so scared of speaking in front of a group that you avoid it
at all costs, you’ll miss out on opportunities to practice a vital
skill. As your fear grows
over time, it can lead to a desire to not call attention to yourself and that can stand in the way of you being noticed, rewarded, and
promoted. So, how do you get over the fear of public speaking?
only advice friends will give you when you have to speak in front of
an audience is to imagine the audience naked.
To me, that seems like terrible advice.
(Any time I’m in front of naked people, the last thing I want
to do is to talk.) Instead, it would
be better advice to tell you to try to understand the source of the
sometimes arises as your internal negative voices turn up the volume
when you try to do something out of the ordinary.
When you step outside of your “comfort zone,” fear pops up
and tries to convince you to keep safe by avoiding risks.
But since success usually involves risk taking, overcoming fear
is a necessity to move ahead in a highly competitive business world.
itself isn’t the problem. It’s
the way you deal with it – or don’t deal with it -- that is the
problem. You might not
even be aware how often actions and decisions are solely based on
fear. For instance, you
might not go to a party because you’re frightened to go alone, but
you tell yourself, “I’m too
tired, I have a big day tomorrow.”
type of unexpressed fear could be slowing your career advancement. You
might be avoiding expressing your ideas – both in speeches and in
general -- because you feel uncomfortable about the possibility of
failure. But instead of
facing that fear, you tell yourself, “I
can just send this out in a memo” or
“I’ll keep this to
myself – why rock the boat?” or
“I’ll write my speech
later; Desperate Housewives is on...”
you experience fear – remember that brave people are not unafraid.
What distinguishes them is that they act despite the fear.
Use this Five-step program for managing your speaking fears:
1) Admit your fears
to yourself: Imagine yourself giving a speech.
Write down all thoughts of fear, impending doom, anxiety,
apprehension, dread, foreboding or panic.
audience will hate me. I’ll
look stupid. My mouth will
go dry. I’ll sweat profusely.
I’ll start cussing -- and won’t be able to stop.
I’ll be so embarrassed that I’ll keel over dead.
And then I’ll start to smell...
fears: Now go back over these lists and cross off all unrealistic
fears. For instance, if
one of your fears is "dying" on the platform, you can X that
out. More people have died
from clogged pores than from public speaking.
Although giving a speech might make you sweat and grunt, dying
is not an option -- even when you wish it would be.
3) Confide your
fears to a friend: Call a friend and tell him or her your
realistic fears. Fear
loses a lot of its power when it's out in the open.
Fear also tends to shrink when you share the burden with a
sympathetic listener – especially if they have some good solutions
-- or can make you laugh. Maybe
your friend will answer your fear of sweating profusely by telling
you, “Use lots of deodorant
and wear black.” Once
we can joke about our fears, they seem to go away.
4) See opportunities
in your fears: Play out your realistic fears step by step, giving
them a positive spin. For
instance, one of my fears is “nobody
will get my ideas…” I
play out each step of "what will happen" with my fear,
playing it out even the worst case scenario until it eventually hits
bottom, bounces back, and turns positive.
For example, If nobody get my ideas…
my speech won’t go well
my client, Mr. X, won’t like my speech...
Mr. X. won’t buy from me...
I’ll be forced to look for another client...
I’ll look for someone who does get my ideas...
I’ll find them...
I’ll be understood and appreciated...
I’ll be happier – and I’ll make more money!
Fear is like the school bully who's made you his target.
You can try to avoid him by walking home a different way, but
he will always find you. Are
you going to let the fear of losing your lunch money dictate where and
how you live? Or - will
you do the scary thing and deal directly with the bad guy?
Successful people aren’t necessarily less frightened than you
- they just do things in spite of being frightened.
Most people are afraid to look stupid.
When you speak in public, you take that risk in a big way.
There’s only one way to face this fear - do something
Pick something that
you are scared of doing - and go do it.
(Make sure it’s nothing dangerous or illegal ... "Your
honor, I carjacked that Lexus to get over my fear of public
Choose something to do that is out of your comfort zone.
going to take a meeting with my boss and express my new ideas.”
going to ask for a raise.”
going to eat lunch with a stranger."
going to send my meal back to the kitchen.” (even if the restaurant is Burger King)
wait until you get over your fear to speak.
Do it in spite of being afraid. And when you speak:
Focus on your
ideas rather than your insecurity.
Keep your speech
simple by having one main idea that you can say clearly.
goes wrong – don’t ignore it – joke about it.
(“I wanted feedback on
my speech – I just didn’t realize it would all be coming from the
Fix a dry mouth by squeezing your cheeks
(preferably the ones on your face.)
And finally, if you find yourself getting
nervous, sweaty, and anxious, stop, take a deep breath and look
an audience member in the eye and wonder, “Is that Victoria
Secret underwear my boss is wearing?!”
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