Fear of Public Speaking
Your Pre-Speech Routine for overcoming a fear of public speaking: We find that even though everyone has their own story and everyone is obviously a unique snowflake in their own right and has their own experiences, and their own journey, there are massive commonalities when it comes to a fear of public speaking. The commonalities are in particularly in how people feel and what they experience, but also in the actions and behaviors that they take, from avoiding strategies to coping mechanisms, whether that’s through taking beta blockers or having a stiff drink before that best man speech, or whether it’s something along the lines of trying to control the room that you are in.
So quickly I wanted to talk to you a little bit about something that is extremely important when it comes to any type of situation, whether it’s a small meeting, whether it’s a large meeting, whether it’s public speaking or whether it’s going out on stage and singing and dancing or whatever it is. Even getting up to sing karaoke for a bit of a laugh. There is a particular way in which people set themselves up. And the way that they set themselves up is by using the things that they can be in control of and finessing the things that we can always be in control of.
Most people when they sit down and we have a conversation with them in relation to what they’re experiencing in public speaking, if we ask them, “Well, what happens? You get this feeling and what actions do you take? What is it that you do in preparation for your public speaking event?” People will tell us they do things like avoid it at all costs if they can. They might say that they rush through it really, really quickly. They might say that they over prepare or to repeat and learn verbatim what it is that they’re going to say. So they focus heavily on the contents, the words that they will use.
A lot of people then will do things like start to catastrophize and use their imagination to see all the things that could go wrong, all the things that could potentially go wrong. As well as that there’s a number of other coping mechanisms that people take. Usually, when we walk into a room and do some public speaking and we inherently are afraid of that room, what we really do is we want to be in control of the room. We want to walk into the room and we want to know where we’re sitting. We want to make sure we sit in a comfortable seat, the one where we can hide in the corner. We want to know when we’re speaking, and we want to speak for a certain length of time. We want to make sure that we remember everything we’re going to say and how we say it, and we want to make sure we’re perceived well. We want to make sure that people like us. And we want to make sure that my slide deck is perfect and everything goes well and most importantly, people don’t see that I’m nervous.
When we do this, we just put layer upon layer upon layer upon layer upon layer upon layer upon layer of things that are actually outside of our control because in fact we cannot control any of those things. We cannot control what we say or how we say it. We cannot control if we remember what we’re going to say and invariably we don’t. We just set ourselves up to fail. We can’t control how we’re perceived. People could be having a bad day or it’s the day after your Christmas party or something like that and people are hung over. Who knows? So bearing all that in mind, we can’t be in control of anything that’s outside of us. What we can control is the things that are inside of us. What are those things? What are those areas that we can control and maybe start finessing in a slightly different way?
If you look at sports psychology, the political world, the Barrack Obamas of this world, people who sing on the west end week in, week out or actors, if you look at the Usain Bolts, the Tiger Woods, the golfers, the Formula 1 drivers, well what do these people do? These people are at the top of their game. They excel in what they do in terms of their industry or their sport. But how do they set themselves up in the most meaningful way to walk out there and do this thing over and over and over in a consistent way?
What I plan to do is to demonstrate to you and show you what it is that they can do. What are the things that we can be in control of? So when I walk into a room…and this is about public speaking. But when I walk into a room and do some speaking, what is it that I can be in control of? It doesn’t matter if it’s a one-to-one, if there’s five people in the room or if there’s a hundred people in the room? I find my things that I can actually control all of the time. These things are very simple. They are my breathing, my posture, the pace at which I speak, whether I want to pause. Also the tone of my voice. My voice is a big deal. And also, whether I’m smiling or not, whether I choose to smile. And not a fake salesman smile where he smiles with his mouth and not with his eyes, but a full face smile. I’m choosing to smile. I’m choosing to do that.
Bearing all that in mind, they sound really simple, straightforward. Right, I know I can control those things. But when we walk into a room full of people we don’t know, we don’t control any of those things. When we see the blank faces, the empty faces, that are looking at us, all of a sudden a feeling takes over and we forget everything. We lose track of where we are and we’re just fighting to survive. All or nothing, kind of black or white view of things.
If you look at golfers, for example, they have a very specific setup. They don’t know when it’s going to be their turn. Anytime there could be a golfer ahead of them or there could be slow play. So what actually happens is they just hang around and have a chat. And then when they hear that it’s their turn to go, the umpire will say, “You’re up.” Well. what they do is they take control and they start their process, their pre-shot routine is what it’s called. So what they will do is they will usually touch something on their hand or on their glove, maybe a little dot that they have or something that’s their pre-ordained, something unique to them. And when they touch it, they’re saying to themselves, “Right, it’s time for me to get into the state of mind that means that I’m able to hit this ball where I want to hit it.” Then what do they do?
Well they step back from the ball, they look at where they want the ball to go, they take two big deep breaths, the whole time imagining where the ball is going to land. They’re thinking, “I want the ball to land the middle of the fairway, 350 yards up the fairway there and I can see it landing.” Then what they do is they take a club and to loosen themselves up, understanding that their body is full of energy…you know, the fight-or-flight response to orientation response is probably firing considering there’s millions of people watching at home and thousands of people watching where they are. Well they just take a few practice swings. And they’re doing this, it’s not to say “I don’t know how to hit the ball. I need to practice hitting the ball right now.” What they’re doing is they’re simply using their body. They’re using their body and using the energy and kind of using it up and spreading it out. Instead of feeling that they have to hunch down and push all those feelings away, they’re saying, “Come on then.” And the feelings are just spreading around the body understanding that they need these feelings to be there.
Then what they do is they get relaxed. They look down to the ball. They have a very flexible approach to golf. And as they look at the ball, they look up one more time, focus on where they want the ball to go. They imagine it happening, landing where they want it to go. And then just when they’re about to swing, they smile. Now, most people don’t see this in golf because you don’t see them making a little smirk. They understand that this smile has a big impact, and we’ll explain this later in later video blogs. And then they hit the ball relaxed and easy travel through understanding that, of course, they could hit the ball. They’ve practiced that over and over and over. But their pre-shot routine is so important because it allows them to get into the state of mind that means that they can do the thing that they know they can do.
So a combination of all of these things, your breathing, your posture, the pace at which you speak, the tone of your voice, whether you’re smiling or not, these are the things that are the foundation of communication. I will explain more in my next blog, and I’m looking forward to speaking to you and allowing you to hear it. Have a nice day. Bye.
Interested in how we can help you overcome your fear of public speaking? Book your free 15 minute Meet Your Therapist session now to find out more.