Chapter 2: Overcoming Stage Fright
Facing Your Fears
Most people with a fear of public speaking either want to avoid the experience altogether or find some way to become fearless. Well, experts say that may not be possible or even necessary.
You don't have to eliminate fear to be a great public speaker; you just have to learn to manage it. One approach suggests you can deal with fear by accepting it, reframing it, and controlling it.
- Accept it: If the thought of giving a speech makes your stomach do somersaults then you're not alone.
Many top executives have a fear of public speaking too, they've just learned to accept it and work around it. To do this, acknowledge that fear is something that's going to be a part of the experience.
In fact, studies suggest that having a "fear" of public speaking is a common human characteristic. Instead of trying to eliminate it, try to think about what's making you fearful and deal with that.
For instance, if your fear of public speaking is really based on your concern about what the audience members will think of you, then stop focusing on that because you can't control that anyway.
- Reframe it: Keep it real. Sometimes our overblown negative thoughts get the best of us and our fear is not even based on reality.
Replace your negative emotions with positive ones or at least more realistic ones. Focus on your attributes and the benefits you can offer your audience—even if it's only one thing.
Once you find an initial positive trait, you're bound to discover others.
- Control it: Your fear of public speaking can be greatly reduced with lots of practice. The more you speak, the more comfortable you'll be in front of an audience.
Participating in public speaking groups like Toastmaster's International (www.toastmasters.org) may help too.
If you're fearful of public speaking, you need to address it—not ignore it.
By accepting it, reframing it, and controlling it, you have three techniques that will help you use your fear to your advantage so your audience can still get the benefit of your message.