In an age when there’s more public speaking going on than ever before, it’s amazing how many people’s professional (and occasionally private) lives are shaped by avoiding it. Whether it’s within the organisation you work for, at a job interview or business pitch, at a wedding or a meeting of a club or society you belong to, the chances are high that sooner or later you will be called upon to make a presentation or speech. If the prospect of this fills you with dread, the way to liberate yourself is not to find endless ways to manoeuvre other people into doing it for you but to confront your fear and face it down.
Sometimes a well-meaning boss, colleague or business partner is shielding you. As Alicia T Glenn points out, this misplaced kindness leads to insecurity, since you’re always dependent on someone else. And, as with any challenge, the longer you go on avoiding it, the larger it looms as a fear, which becomes a vicious circle. Take a deep breath and explain to this person that what you really need is not someone to help you avoid public speaking but someone to support you as you learn how to do it.
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog (Don’t let fear of public speaking rule your life), I’ve known people who have turned down jobs they would otherwise have loved, purely because the roles involved public speaking. This makes me very sad – and all the more so because it’s so unnecessary. Fear of public speaking is not like fear of, for example, flying, which is treatable (as far as I know) only by forcing oneself to do it and think about it positively. Viewing the object of one’s fear in a new light, examining and rationalising the fear, is a fruitful approach and one I wholeheartedly endorse and adopt, but the crucial difference with public speaking is that the psychological work is only part of the ‘cure’.
In the vast majority of cases, fear of public speaking is not actually a deep-seated phobia but the normal, sensible, self-protective fear of attempting something difficult without knowing how to do it. All it takes is a session or two of coaching and the fear dissolves.
For the sake of the few short hours it will take you to master the techniques of effective public speaking, why allow your success to be undermined by fear? Take control and be free! Once you know what you’re doing in front of that crowd, you may be surprised what you’re capable of achieving.