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Senior Executive Provides Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking
April 2013 (Albany, NY) – The fear of public speaking consistently ranks atop lists of common phobias, even above the fear of dying. “In other words,” joked comedian Jerry Seinfeld, “at a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”
The National Institute of Mental Health found that 74 percent of adults in the United States suffer from Glossophobia, or a fear of public speaking. The trouble is that most people do find themselves at some time or another in a position where they have to address an audience, make a presentation or deliver a speech. So if picturing the crowd in their underwear just isn’t working for you and you’ve resolved to overcome your fear of public speaking, Executive Coach Gary Stine, principal of the consulting firm Spoken Word Solutions, provides insight into where this fear comes from and how you can address it.
“Most presenters can’t tell you exactly what they’re afraid of,” said Stine, who has been an executive coach for the past 19 years. “Understanding the source of the fear and learning that what you may be experiencing has nothing to do with what the audience is experiencing will very quickly lessen fear’s grip on you.”
As a former professional actor, Stine was forced to confront his fears in order to overcome them. In the process, he learned a lot about where this anxiety comes from when the spotlight is turned upon ourselves. Stine found that much of our fear related to public speaking stems from a feeling of inadequacy. “Not smart enough, not good enough, not confident enough, they are all just manifestations of the same fear of not being enough,” said Stine. “These fears seldom have any connection to reality.”
The next time you find yourself in front of an audience, keep Stine’s helpful tips in mind:
Get to know specifically what your version of perceived inadequacy is and start to peel back the layers of it with some objective self-inquiry. This is never talked about in presentational material. It is the only way anyone can ever really get over a fear of public speaking. Otherwise, you’re just hiding from the fear, which never works, because the audience can see you hiding. They won’t know it on a conscious level, but they’ll understand on some level that you’re not showing them who you really are.
Make Eye Contact
Information is just the by-product of connection. Direct, individual eye contact with audience members neutralizes their ability to intimidate you. Eye contact will both reassure you and give you valuable information about the audience’s level of comprehension and engagement. Your presentation is less about the words you say than it is about the level of connection you make with the audience.
A common cause of presenter’s panic is oxygen deprivation. When we’re scared, we tend to hold our breath, or inhale more air than we’re exhaling. This sends your body into panic mode. Focus on long exhalations. They will calm you down and keep you calm. The next breath is always waiting. Take it.
Take every single chance you can to give a speech or presentation. If you set proper goals for yourself in every talk you give, you’ll learn something you can take forward to your next presentation.
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