You’re an expert in your field and you know what you’re talking about. After all, you’ve worked in your field for years. You’ve done your research and received critical acclaim, and possibly even some awards. But when you’re asked to speak in front of a crowd, which you often are, you break out into a cold sweat. Why, you wonder? After all, nobody knows the topic quite as well as you. You’re not alone. The fear of public speaking is actually one of the most common fears in America. Fortunately, there are ways to get over this fear. You don’t have to live with it, or suffer through it. The key lies in understanding the causes of the fear of public speaking, and dealing with those individual issues.
Here is your guide to some of the causes of the fear of public speaking, and how to overcome those fears.
Your heart thuds and your palms sweat when you’re up on stage. Your voice shakes. Everyone is born with a different personality. Some people are introverts, while some are more extroverted. We all have different comfort levels with other people and crowds based on who we are and our past experiences.
You need to convince yourself that you are up there for a reason. It’s because you are an expert. That will help improve your confidence when you’re up there.
Cause: Concern that others are Judging You
You’re worried that people think you’re a fraud. They’ll think your clothes are all wrong and that you’re not a strong speaker. Perhaps you had a bad experience in the past, where people didn’t react the way you thought they would.
This is more about you than your audience. Your audience, in most cases, is just seeing you for the first time and have no preconceived notions about who you are.
Find a way to let go of your insecurities. Know that most of those people don’t know you personally, and some actually paid to see you talk. More public speaking practice is a good option, as is preparation. If you are up there doing the best you can possibly do, that’s all anyone can expect of you. Confidence will come in time.
Cause: Insufficient Preparation
You’re reading off of your cue cards or the teleprompter instead of using them as reminders. Or maybe, you’re not sure if your numbers and statistics are current. This is the classic case of being unprepared, and you’re afraid your audience will question you or call you out on it.
If you’re an aspiring professional public speaker, I really hope this one won’t be a problem for you. After all, this is one of the few causes of anxiety where you have 100% control.
But if this is the case, then you should be worried. People are coming, some from far and wide, to hear you speak, and they shouldn’t be treated to out of date statistics.
This is probably the easiest fix of all, as it doesn’t require reprogramming your attitude – all it requires is time, research and elbow grease. If one week isn’t enough to get everything prepared, allot two weeks for your next speech. Adjust your prepared time as you get better.
Cause: Past failures
Perhaps you had a bad experience – someone from the audience asked question you couldn’t answer, or called you out on an issue onstage –and you were stumped. Perhaps you forgot your place, or froze on stage.
We all make mistakes. The key is to learn from them by pinpointing what went wrong, and ensuring that it doesn’t happen again. Were you caught unprepared last time? Make it a point to study your content and all the surrounding issues. Stage fright a few months ago? Boost your confidence with practice, enroll in a Fearless Presentations® class, or hire a coach.
If you understand these four causes of the fear of public speaking, you can deal with them. Just remember that there’s a reason you’re up there. Someone recognizes that what you have to share is valuable to a large audience. The most you can do is to be prepared, learn from your mistakes, and practice for next time.