“I was so nervous as I faced the audience that my right leg started trembling uncontrollable. When I shifted my weight to my left leg it shook even harder. I didn’t know what to do with my hands, eventually deciding to put them in my pockets because they shook so hard I looked like someone in the midst of extreme alcohol withdrawal. When I finally spoke, my voice trembled. I cleared my throat, tried again with the same result. I realized that the muscles in my face shook whenever I tried to hold a facial expression. That’s right, I’d lost control of my face!”
That was a real story that happened to me during my first big audition as an actor. I was crippled by fear and as a result my audition sucked. I knew I had potential and talent but my body had let me down. I felt like I’d turned up to a gun fight with a knife…
Public speaking or jumping out of a plane… which would you prefer to do?
Given a choice, there are a lot of people out there who’d rather jump out of a plane (some of those without a parachute) than speak in front of others. Fear of public speaking even has its own word, “Glossophobia” and is recognised as a form of social anxiety disorder (SAD). Here’s some statistics:
- Glossophobia is the number one phobia. It comes in above fear of death (Necrophobia) and fear of spiders (Arachnophobia).
- Of those who suffer from Glossophobia, a whopping 75% suffer from speech anxiety.
- Public speaking fear has a 10% impairment on wages.
- Public speaking fear has a 15% impairment on promotion to management.
“There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.”– Mark Twain
The most startling of all facts? “Only 8% of those who have public speaking fear seek professional help despite a proven negative impact on career and wages”. That’s right, even though there is help out there, hardly anyone will seek it. I imagine the reason is that their fear of public speaking is so powerful, that they also fear the treatment, as it may lead to public speaking…
4 Tips for Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking
So, here’s a few hints to get you by:
The more effort you put in to preparing your speech the more comfortable you will feel. Writing it isn’t enough. You also need to read it at least 20 times to become more intimate with the words. Then you need to prepare your body language. For more on this please refer to my other article “One thing you should know about human communication”.
“It takes one hour of preparation for each minute of presentation time.”– Wayne Burgraff
2. Warm up
Simple really, but you’d be amazed by how many people don’t even try this. All the symptoms I explained at the top of this article (trembling leg, hands, voice and face) were due to lack of oxygen in the muscles. This was caused predominately by shallow breathing, which tends to happen when you feel like you are about to soil yourself.
So, a few breathing exercises (to get oxygen into your system) and some physical warm-ups (to get that oxygen out to your muscles) will do wonders. It won’t get rid of your nerves but it will certainly help you keep control of your body. There’s plenty of material on the web, but simply moving your body, doing some stretches and either humming or singing will help a lot.
This is something to not be afraid of and as part of your preparation, it’s a good idea to work out when to use it. It will help you take your time and not rush things. Remember that your audience is hearing your speech for the first time, so you need to give them time and space to absorb your words. I usually open with a bit of a pause. It makes me look comfortable out front even if I’m as nervous as hell.
“Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech.”– Martin Fraquhar Tupper
4. Get Help!
I know the stats say you probably won’t, however getting someone from Peers and Players to help you with an impending presentation will probably be one of the best returns on investment you’ll ever get. It also won’t be scary, in fact you will find yourself having fun and you’ll feel well prepared on the big day.
About the Authors
Lisa Peers is the Founder and CEO of Peers and Players. Matt Stewart is a professional actor and project manager at Peers and Players. If you’d like to know more about how corporate actors can enhance your workplace training check out our Presentation Skills training.