An old friend was asked to give a presentation to a new client to talk about her ideas for their business. She knew that her company was in the running to get this job, she knew that this account would be amazing to work on and it would earn her huge prestige in her department.
She also knew that she hated presenting. Sadly, she was a quivering wreck on the day and the business went to another agency.
This experience is so common. How often do we duck opportunities to promote ourselves, our message or our ideas or miss out on new business or career openings because we hate the idea of speaking or presenting ourselves?
You have probably heard the statistics about fear of public speaking being greater than fear of dying. Although just knowing that you are in the majority can be comforting, why risk missing out on what could be an amazing result for you and your work because you fear or don’t know how to present with confidence and engage people?
What is it you are really afraid of?
In my work as a presentations coach, I come across many reasons that people don’t like or fear speaking in public, but I would say most of them fall into one of these 6 categories:
- Fear caused by self-image (“I’m not the kind of person who can do this”)
- Fear of separation (“I hate standing at the front with all eyes on me”)
- Fear of the past (“Last time was a nightmare!”)
- Fear of rejection/judgement (“What will they think of me?”)
- Fear of exposure (“I might just freeze-up”/”I don’t know what I’m talking about”)
- Fear of your limitations (“I just can’t do this!”/”I’m not good/experienced/worthy enough”)
Or all of the above! The good news though, is that for each of these fears and negative thoughts there are strategies to help.
One strategy that many clients find useful in addressing all of these concerns though is based on how we talk to ourselves. I know it is often described as ‘the first sign of madness’, but we talk to ourselves constantly and that is how we mentally set up our experiences.
‘What do you say when you talk to yourself?’
This is at the core of all of the 6 public speaking fears – that we are scaring ourselves with a constant commentary about why we CAN’T do this.
Whichever of the 6 issues above affects you most, try this 3-step exercise to help you manage your thinking:
- Grab a piece of paper, put a line down the middle and in the left hand column, write down everything you are telling yourself about giving a presentation (this is the voice of your fearful self – whichever of the above fears is true for you will emerge). When you have a list, read through it and notice what energy and mood this creates.
- For each negative thought you have written down, find a counter-thought that is equally true and far more resourceful to focus on. What would your biggest fan or greatest supporter say to you about this thought? (this is the voice of your powerful self). When you read down this list, notice how your energy and mood changes.
- Destroy the left hand list by running a pen through it all. When you think about giving a presentation, remind yourself of everything you have written on the right hand column. Whenever you catch yourself having a negative thought, keep reminding yourself of these points.
OK, I’ll come clean… that “old friend” I mentioned at the start was me. I was the quivering wreck and I had to learn to overcome my fear. The client presentation we lost was the moment I decided I had to do something about my fears. But I did – by learning a few simple techniques to prepare mentally (like the one above) and by discovering a powerful process to create engaging talks – and that is why I now devote my work to helping others to overcome their fears and learn to present really well.
This is your chance to shine, to promote your ideas, your brand and your message – and to release the amazing speaker inside us all.
Like more help from Caroline?
Let me know how I can help you with your next presentation by getting in touch with me here.
I have helped many people, who were once nervous and rambling to become confident and engaging public speakers. Giving presentations, like driving lessons, is a skill you learn so you can get somewhere… and with my help you will get there in no time.