Break this line into two parts, and you would have the essence of public speaking fear right there – (A) So many people watching! (B) What if I create a huge blunder?
About 75% of the population suffers from this phobia – but isn’t this statistic just the motivation & challenge you need? Imagine the feeling of finding a way around this phobia, and securing a place in the elite 25% who are doing just fine! So let’s get cracking –
==== 1 . SO MANY PEOPLE ARE WATCHING ME ! ====
I . You are here to help. And that alone is your goal
As in the illustration above, the girl on to your left could be giving the ‘I’m-so-skeptical’ tilted-head look, and the man to your right could be giving the ‘This-is-such-nonsense’ side glance.
This feeling where you focus on being judged is your biggest enemy. Your focus should only be on the fact that you are there to help the audience learn something new.
When there is a purpose much bigger than self, then one doesn’t look inwards anymore – the focus is outwards
Take the focus off you – let the focus be solely on your message-the work that you have to do to help your audience. Not ‘the audience’-‘your audience’. Make it personal.
II . Dim those social cues receptors : Aim for physical exhaustion to release all that nervous pent-up energy. 20 minutes before your talk, take the stairs and sprint 6-7 floors at full speed.
If you don’t have access to a staircase, go to the washroom and push the wall with all your strength. The exertion should be such that it has you short of breath. By the time you return to the venue, you would realize that you are much calmer from having released the tension, and are less effected by that collective gaze.
III . Dress down : It is natural to want to dress your best for a day in front of an audience, but ideally save all that color and bling for the time when you are comfortable with the crowds. Dress casual and you will feel casual – thus no anxiety.
Consider this image. Would you as an audience member be more inclined to stare at the people on the left as opposed to the dressed-down ones on the right? If yes, then keep it as simple as possible so as to not draw unnecessary attention to self. Allow the audience and your own self to concentrate on the message alone.
IV . No unfamiliar faces or location : Reach the venue much before the presentation and stand facing the room. Get a feel of the place, and keep watching your audience as they settle down. Best if you engage some in a casual conversation, so by the time it’s your turn to speak, you are on friendly terms with some audience or you at least recognize most of the faces by now.
==== 2 . WHAT IF I MAKE A BLUNDER ? ====
I . Don’t try to be the rockstar : You don’t have to be the best speaker. You don’t have to entertain the crowds. When you take away the pressure related to performing well or impressing your audience, you reduce the chances of making a mistake.
Keep reminding yourself to be as normal and as low key as possible.
Simply read out your talk the first couple of times till you find your comfort zone, and then you can proceed to add the zest once you’ve found your footing.
II . Good v/s Bad vibes : Imagine these 2 scenarios :
Scenario 1 : When looking at the audience, you see a swarm of judgmental people who are there to criticize or find faults with you.
Scenario 2 : When looking at the audience, you see people who are there to help you deliver your message to them. They are giving you a patient ear because they want to learn.
In which scenario would you feel more relaxed? And that’s where we are going with this – See the audience as your friends. And soon you’ll realize they too are feeling the warmth and are much more receptive to your talk.
III. Bungle up and move on : Every audience comprises of real people with real struggles and very real shortcomings. So why should you be so scared of coming across as a real person who is bound to make some mistakes? Apologize earnestly and move on. The audience would appreciate both – you being earnest, and you moving on.
Finally, it should help to remember that even if it’s very important to bag that job or get that presentation right –the more you want it, the more desperate and anxious you would feel.
So just keep taking long, deep breaths before and during your talk, and firmly believe in the universe’s plan for you. You would be more composed and alert if you knew in your head that this is just another of life’s experiences and that you should take it with a pinch of salt!