Why public speaking scares you?

In Susan Adams article, Why Public Speaking Scares You and How to Overcome Your Fear, she highlights the work of Jane Praeger, a NYC media and presentation coach.

Praeger stands by the standard advice: know your material and the audience, practice your speech, check out the room in advance, do relaxation exercises like deep breathing, don’t apologize for being nervous.

Great advice.  PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE is a Career-ology mantra!

Adams continues to report. .  .

But Praeger says the most important lesson she’s learned as a coach is that most people have no idea where their public speaking  phobia comes from. Praeger says that once she does some detective work with her clients, she can uncover the source, get her client to see it, and usually make the fear evaporate.

If you have adequately practiced and are very familiar with your material and still have a debilitating fear of public speaking, you might consider exploring a deeper root cause.  To isolate the source of your fear, here is a simple test:  if you were speaking to your audience about your favorite vacation or your best memories from college, would you be as scared (not slightly nervous, but actually scared)?  If the answer is “no,” then it is likely you aren’t familiar enough with your material.  If the answer is “yes,” then you might consider exploring alternative sources of your fear.
There are several examples offered in the article that may help you examine your own situation, as well as, some tips for conquering your fear of public speaking.
2 replies
  1. John Dawson
    John Dawson says:

    I’m not sure its really about practice. Sometimes practice is just practising being scared more! I think you need to re-think public speaking before you start practising.
    I teach 40 public speaking courses a year and there seems to be a secret about public speaking that shouldn’t be a secret. It is understanding blank faces. As a speaker if we are not careful we carry on using normal conversational skills when we are speaking to a group.
    When you have a standard conversation – you normally get nods, smiles, agreements back from the listener however when we speak to a group ALL that changes. All you see is blank faces.
    So we start speaking to blank faces and they don’t usually smile (at least not very often) or nod their heads (some people will but again not a lot) so we are left struggling with critical thoughts about our performance. But blank faces are normal in audience – they are just listening faces.
    So try not to read people’s faces when you speak publicly because your brain will interpret any sign as negative.
    Of course there is more to getting your head around public speaking but when I teach public speaking this is the point that helps a lot of people. To get used to blank faces and being the centre of attention takes practice and unlearning many of thinking patterns we have. So if you are scared practice getting used to blank faces and being the centre the attention first.


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