By Rick Highsmith

Public speaking is recognized as the Number 1 fear of adults in The Book of Lists. Assuming that’s true where would impromptu public speaking rank? Even when we have prepared thoroughly, speaking to an audience provokes anxiety. So what is the factor of increase in anxiety when we have to speak with little or no preparation?

I have spoken with hundreds of people who are seeking help in overcoming the anxiety and fear of public speaking. It is virtually unanimous among this group that fear of being judged or criticized is behind much of the anxiety. When confronted with speaking without preparation people tell me, “My mind freezes up;” or “I can’t put words together;” or some variation on that theme. So the anxiety produces the feared result.

When helping people overcome these fears, The Leader’s Institute© uses a desensitization process that allows our clients to realize their brain has the information they need. And that anxiety is preventing access to the information. In our Fearless Presentations© class we have the participants make a list of common objects, feelings and experiences. Each member is given a topic (other than their own) and stands to speak. Here are two participants in a recent class in Orlando.

As Stacy and Karen shared, we use a simple technique to call on our brain to provide us with a picture to talk about. The brain cooperates and words flow. Through this experience our class members realize they can access information readily. This transfers in to the work place by simply changing the query you are making to yourself, i.e. what terms are you “googling” your brain for? It might be “What’s the most important thing about this project the committee needs to know?” or “What is the most significant problem affecting the project deadline?” or “What is the most valuable contribution this employee is making to the company?”

With the first piece of information your brain provides you begin speaking. While speaking you formulate the second “most important” and continue delivering information. This may seem complicated. However, I have found through years of teaching and coaching public speakers it is a skill easily mastered with practice.