Fear of public speaking? It’s not about you…

Fear of public speaking? It’s not about you…

There are some pretty standard avoidance strategies when it comes to public speaking: 

  • Avoid eye contact at all costs
  • Talk in the quietest voice you can manage
  • Stick to the facts
  • Get it over with quickly
  • Don’t involve your audience
  • Focus on the slides or powerpoint
  • Look at the floor

All these actions are deliberately aimed to protect you from feeling hurt, embarrassed and rejected.

Here’s the thing, if you are focused on avoiding hurt, embarrassment and rejection, that’s exactly what you are going to get. Your body language, the tone of voice and your complete lack of connection to your audience (by completing all the dot points above), seals your fate resulting in tons of rejection, humiliation and hurt feelings because you sucked at it. You totally sucked.

Look guys, it’s not going to go any other way with avoidance strategies. You will suck at public speaking because you are hiding under a rock, no one can see you, hear you or follow what you are saying.

Rather than focusing on what you don’t want (and getting exactly that) my Influence Now course is about training your brain to focus on what you do want:

  • Courage
  • Motivation
  • Connection
  • Influence

Training your brain to focus on positives is a fast track method because it’s so rewarding. When you are up on stage dodging, avoiding and worrying, you are not going to enjoy your time, you are not going to get a good response and you are going to do anything you can to never have that experience again. You shut down. When you set up a positive frame and feel empowered, the opposite happens, you feel energised, you feel connected, you know you are making a difference, you are opening discussions and it feels great. You want to do it again as soon as possible. You open up.

Your brain loves rewards and will always take the pathway that delivers success. You will be switched on to these techniques and locked into these lessons for one simple reason, it feels rewarding. You see and feel results right there in the room.

In order to make this happen, we have to understand the threat at hand and how to change it. We have to turn off our ‘survival’ instincts by understanding, it’s not all about us.

Why does it take courage to make eye contact as a presenter?

When you are with someone you trust, making eye contact is easy. When you are surrounded by strangers or a threatening situation, eye contact feels like you are setting down a challenge. 

Why would you want to challenge a room full of strangers? You are outnumbered, you will never make it out alive. They will destroy you.

You avoid eye contact to avoid the fight. Public speaking becomes a stage set for an attack. To survive you need to bow down and surrender, show that you are not a threat and hope they let you off the stage in one piece. Only these people are actually not a threat, they are here to listen to you and hold you in authority. 

You are here to help them. When you take the focus off what you stand to lose and focus on what they can gain when you do this well, you switch off the fear and the threat and bring your best to the platform.

Think about any presenter you admire. What’s something they do well? I bet for every person you think of, the answer is generosity. They give something of themselves that makes a difference.

Switching your mindset to kindness and feelings of generosity deactivates and calms our fight-or-flight response. It gives us a greater purpose and chunks up to a bigger plan.

Here are three ways to make it stick.

1. Know your audience in advance

It’s not about the topic and the facts, it’s not about your business or brand, it’s about who you are talking to. When you make your preparations, consider who your audience is, why have they come to see you, what their pain points are and what will help them move past their pain. 

Think of examples and metaphors you can use to show you know where they are coming from and you understand their issues.

2. Find your Influence

I called this course Influence Now because influence is a two-way street. In order to be able to have an influence on someone and create a feeling of connection and authority, you need to ask for guidance from someone who is already achieving excellence.

I’ll show you how to use the people you admire as pillars of excellence you can model from and step up to. This is an activity you can do any time, anywhere, and it’s perfect to step through just before you walk on stage to encompass the mindset and emotional strength you need to present well.

I’ll also show you how to set up positive anchors you can use if you are struggling, even on stage or in a meeting room to get instant calm. No one will know you are locking into courage, confidence or certainty to recover, even though it’s happening right in front of them.

3. Make eye contact

Each person in the room is listening to you in person, so you need to connect to them individually too, not as a group, but person to person. Make a connection during a part of your presentation and maintain eye contact. Do this for every person in the room, paying especially close attention to those at the far edges of the room, who might get overlooked completely at another event. This creates a personal message and a genuine connection you need to have an impact.

Making that connection with your audience is the best feeling as a presenter. Knowing you have made an impact and given someone out there the ability to do something different, something better, is incredible.

The way to achieve this is through great public speaking presence:

  • Make eye contact
  • Tell a colourful story (metaphors work best)
  • Alter your pitch and tone to create suspense and animation
  • Ask questions
  • Get responses
  • Look for the people who are nodding and agreeing and speak to them
  • Pause, let things sink in
  • Provide detail and examples (personal ones!)
  • Go off-script to address your audience’s concerns and questions
  • Use humour

All these things create connections and allow your story to be deeply absorbed in your listener’s hearts and minds so you have impact and influence.

If you would like help overcoming your fear of public speaking, my free book ‘Scared of Public Speaking?’ will help you overcome your fears and take the stage with confidence! Just enter your details below, and I’ll deliver it straight to your inbox.

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