The mere thought of public speaking – that is speaking in front of a large audience – sends my stomach into knots, and turns me into a cold, clammy mess, and makes me have to pee. Apparently, I’m not alone. According to several studies, speaking in public is cited as one of the top fears for humans. The National Institute of Mental Health reported that 75% of women and 73% of men said they were afraid of public speaking. The fear of public speaking, also known as Glossophobia, outranks arachnaphobia (fear of spiders) and thanatophobia (fear of death) is considered a social phobia, of which more than 5.3 million Americans have.
Why do women and men feel this way?
For one, we feel exposed in front of an audience. We think people will laugh at us (or not laugh at something they’re supposed to), scrutinize everything we say and reject us as incompetent, incoherent, and confused. We might even (gasp) die!
Author Patty Chang Anker, however, assures us we won’t die in her article “Don’t Just Stand There,” which breaks down what’s behind the fear of public speaking. Anker, a former book publicist-turned mom blogger (Facing Forty Upside Down) wanted to share her story of adopting two girls from China in front of others. So she decided to audition for “Listen to your mother,” a show that features live readings by local writers on the beauty, the beast, and the barely-rested of motherhood, in celebration of Mother’s Day. Anker’s tale is funny and she peppers her piece with great lessons on public speaking. I found myself nodding yes to everything Anker wrote.
Years ago, I joined ToastMasters to get over my fear of public speaking. I also took a workshop to help me speak up in public more comfortably. Here are a few things I learned along the way:
+ Strive for grace, not perfection. The audience won’t know if you made a mistake or forgot a chunk of story. Reach into your soul.
+ Think of your “strawberry”. Your strawberry is something that makes you feel good. It could be person, place or thing you cherish. For example, your dog, the sun setting on the lake, or “worry beads.” Anything that simply makes you smile inside.
+ It’s okay to be nervous. Being nervous is natural and is our adrenaline. Turn your nervous energy into enthusiasm and engagement.
+ Don’t memorize every word. (And please don’t read from a PowerPoint presentation.) Internalize your speech or topic by practicing.
What do you think? What are your tips for reducing the fear of public speaking?
This post is part of the #YourTurnChallenge #day6 – and it’s my best work today.