One of the most common fears people have is getting in front of people to perform. A book was published many years ago offering an alternative – “I’d Rather Die Than Give a Speech” – but not a desirable one.
The real issue whether to confront the fear. What do you really want from life? Helen Keller noted that “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outight exposure; the fearful are caught as often as the bold.” Peter Drucker, the father of management theory , once noted that the greatest risk is taking no risk. The safest plane is one that doesn’t fly; the safest ship is oen that nevr leaves port; but playing it safes comes with a cost – lost opportunities. “ When I look at my own life, it is those things that I was once most fearful of, which, when overcme and ultimately mastered, were the greatest conributos to my success and happiness”.
You can cushion the risk when you take the leap and confront your fears, by working with supportive people. Toastmasters offers virtually free opportunities to practice in front of other people (who are also fearful) and stick at it till they feel more confortable. Most speaking/presentation trainers use of variety of techniques to help people overcome it. Google has 90,200,000 entries for “how to overcome the fear of public speaking”; There are many strategies and tactics; find one that works for you. Some focus on your sensitivity to triggers and help you reduce them and re-label them; others focus on shifting focus from themselves to their audience – through eye-contact, immersive engagement, etc. – so you’re not focused on your own triggers.
Indeed, we tailor the solutions to each student , with an understanding that each time a little fear is natural. Barbra Streisand once observed that despite years of successful entertainment in front of large groups, she still feels anxious for the first 15 seconds; but by shifting from the”me-to-them” mindset to one of “we’re all here together”it disappears quickly.
Finally, take advantage of every opportunity to practice. A colleague recently turned down an opportunity to speak to a dozen executives because he’s not self-confident in large groups (where the “enemy” outnumbers me by a lot; I’m fine one-on one”. So we recommended practicing with a large group (e.g., Toastmasters) where there were no high-stakes. As a result, he gained greater confidence, and has learned (through additional practice) how to work through the fear quickly and then relate to his audience with great results.
Share with us your story of how you overcame the fear of public speaking.