The Fear of public speaking – self-talk will help you succeed
Many of us fear public speaking – it’s counted as one of the top fears.
Self-talk can stop us succeeding. As we prepare, the voice in our head tells us all the reasons why it’s likely to go wrong. We can make a huge list of potential problems – we’ll forget what we need to say, we haven’t prepared enough, we don’t speak clearly, people won’t find our topic interesting and many more.
I was reviewing some research – Xiaowei Shi and his colleagues surveyed nearly 200 students on a public speaking course. The researchers approached the students after they’d given two public presentations on the course and were soon to give their third.
They were asked questions about levels of anxiety and the degree of self-talk they had engaged in. Women were more nervous than men so they took this gender influence into account.
The more confident students had engaged in less self-critical talk about things like their preparation and how other people have reacted to their performance and focused more on the level of preparation they have done.
The more confident students were less self-critical and more focused on the positive.
We all need to prepare, it’s rare you can go into a presentation speaking ‘off the cuff’. When we think this is what others are doing they have either given the talk many times or prepared so well it looks like they aren’t prepared.
- Focus on your preparation – prepare well in advance, sketch out what you will say and choose visuals to enhance the text.
- Avoid putting too much text on slides that you then read out
- Have your notes so you can refer to – not a verbatim script but enough key words for you to follow. You could use cue cards, but you could also have it on your iPad, or other tablet, making it easy to look at this as you talk.
- Practice compassion and positive self-talk. When you find yourself focusing on a negative comment ask if it is true. The look for how to address it. For example, if you feel like you haven’t done enough preparation do some more and if you find yourself saying that you are useless at public speaking, stop that thought and focus instead on how you are better prepared, how you intend to enjoy the experience, how other people will be supportive and on your side
What else can help – make a note on the blog of helpful self-talk you could use.