Public speaking fears probably top some list of worst fears ever. But, not all public speaking or presenting is equal, at least when it comes to how we feel about it.

Presenting and public speaking sit nicely at the top of any list about fears and anxiety. Thank you primal brain for that!

But not all presenting or public speaking is equal in terms of its potential to make us nervous, fearful or anxious. And, this is different for everyone.

Speaking in front of a large audience of people you don’t know probably sits at the top of the scary pile for most people.

This goes back to our primal brain and how we used to live, and survive. Back in the caveman days, if we could look out and see lots of eyes on us, then it was probably because we were being eyed up for dinner. Bad situation. Life or death situation!

In this situation, our fear and anxiety was pretty useful and helped us to survive.

Today, when we have eyes on us it’s usually because the eyes belong to people who are interested in what we have to say or what we’re doing (at least we hope they are!). In situations like this, the fear and anxiety that is wired in is less helpful, so it can be useful to get rid of it.

How to lose the fear and anxiety around public speaking

To lose the fear or anxiety you might have around public speaking and presenting, it’s useful to dig deeper. This is because it can give us clues as to what is at the root of your fear or anxiety.

This is especially so, if you want to use Head Trash Clearance to get rid of your fears and anxiety. To use Head Trash Clearance effectively, we need a list. A nice list of things to clear. And we’re only going to be able to get that if we dig and unravel what’s going on.

So let’s get to it!

The different aspects of public speaking fears

The first thing we need to explore is the idea that not all public speaking and presenting scenarios are the same. Once we recognise this we can start to get to the bottom of it.

Consider these different situations;

  • Speaking to a small group of your peers at work. (e.g. your team)
  • Presenting to people more senior than you (e.g. the management team, the board or the company investors)
  • Speaking in front of a small group of people you don’t know at work (e.g. clients, suppliers or other departments)
  • Presenting to a large group of people who know you  (e.g. the whole company or your division)
  • Doing a presentation in front of a large group of people who DON’T know you (e.g. a visiting subsidiary or at a conference)

Do you feel the same approaching all of these scenarios?

Probably not.

It’s quite possible that some of these won’t present a problem for you, whereas others will.

Maybe you’re fine speaking in front of people you don’t know, it’s speaking in front of people you DO know that’s the problem. Perhaps you worry about what those people will think of you.

Or maybe you struggle with authority and are easily intimidated when having to communicate to those who you perceive to hold more power or authority than you. This could make you nervous and anxious and stop you thinking straight or doing a good job.

Or perhaps you are fine speaking to small groups, it’s the large groups that make you nervous.

Different presenting situations trigger different public speaking fears

You see, behind all of these different scenarios, there are different fears and anxieties. it’s less about the speaking per se, and more about what these situations bring up for the person doing the speaking.

These different situations could bring up any of the following;

  • fear of looking or sounding silly or foolish
  • saying the wrong thing
  • messing up
  • people thinking less of them
  • not being taken seriously
  • appearing stupid or like an idiot
  • fear of being fired or demoted for doing a bad job (messing up, saying the wrong thing)
  • fear of missing out on a promotion for not doing a good enough job
  • fear of appearing a fraud
  • not being expert or knowledgable enough

But this is not all that you need to consider if you want to get rid of your fears around public speaking and presenting.

We need to take this one step further to get a fuller picture.

The nature of the presenting job

It’s important to consider the difference in the nature of the presenting job itself. There are two main options you face when it comes to presenting or public speaking;

1. You’ve prepared something specific to share

In this situation you have something that you’ve prepared in advance that you’re going to talk through. Perhaps something like:

  • specific internal presentation – monthly team update
  • keynote presentation at a conference
  • pitch to potential investors
  • sales presentation to potential customers

In these situations, you have time to prepare and run through what you want to say.

The main challenge you have is ensuring that you remember to cover all the points you want to cover and that you stick to the timings. Of course there’s a bit more to it than that, but you get my point. It’s quite a different situation to the next one;

2. You’re speaking, but it’s unscripted or ‘on the fly’

This is when you’re attending an event or meeting, but where you’re not there to present something that’s been prepared in advance.

You could be hosting a conference or panel. Or perhaps you’re attending a monthly team meeting and will need to present or speak in response to what else is shared or discussed during the meeting. Or maybe you’re an audience member at an event and want to contribute to the Q&As or you have questions for the panel or speaker.

In these situations, it’s much harder to prepare and there’s so much more that could go wrong (in your mind at least).

All of this means that there are ten potential different presenting and public speaking scenarios that you could be facing. Each of these scenarios will bring up slightly different fears and emotional responses in you.

These emotional responses could be so great that you’re not able to practically prepare for what you’re facing. This is very common.

When your fear or anxiety gets in the way of you preparing

Let’s say you have a presentation coming up. Every time you think about it you feel the anxiety rising. It’s enough to keep you up at night.

This makes it very hard for you to sit down and prepare for the presentation. Your preparation might involve things like

  • writing the presentation
  • working with colleagues to get their support and help
  • practical planning of the event
  • rehearsing the presentation

Sometimes our fear and anxiety holds us back from even taking the first step. This can lead to last minute preparations which will exacerbate the fear and anxiety. It could also means that your’e more likely to mess up and say the wrong thing, thereby fulfilling your fears.

How clearing your fears in advance can help

By taking time in advance to unravel what’s going on, you’re much better placed to do the emotional clearance work, that will help you to prepare for the presenting or public speaking task you’re facing.

Then you can look forward to your event or meeting with confidence, knowing that you’re putting your best foot forward and you’ve done the best you can. In these situations, it’s much harder to put a foot wrong. And your confident energy will transform your performance and carry you through any little mistakes that come up.

Alexia Leachman
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