Online Public Speaking

Training & Practice

Speech Related Anxiety - Part 3 of 7

Solutions for Deep Rooted Fears

It’s time to look at solutions for deep rooted fears related to public speaking. Here are some methods:

1) Accept your fears

If you believe you have negative associations with public speaking, accept that they exist. “Experts” often tell people to ignore their fears. That’s just wrong.

Why? For one thing, how can you solve an issue if you pretend it’s not there in the first place? That’s called denial, and denial is never a good thing. It’s also telling yourself a lie if you pretend there’s no issue. Lying to others is bad enough, but not being honest with yourself is particularly counterproductive.

Accept that some negative associations exist and that you’re going to work through them. Don’t “ADMIT” that you have negative associations, either: There’s nothing to admit since no one did anything wrong. Just say “I’m a bit nervous about this. I think I have some negative memories that I am going to overcome.”

2) Understand your fears by truly understanding your negative associations

Understanding something can make it seem less scary. If you know for sure that you have negative associations, or think that you might, start by looking at them and the resulting anxiety objectively. Think of them in technical terms as a process. It should hopefully make them a little less scary right off the bat to know that getting nervous in front of a group may just be a reaction to an old memory.

3) Begin to create new positive associations with being in front of an audience

This is ENORMOUSLY important. Keep in mind that fear of public speaking relative to negative associations is simply a well-worn neural pathway to an unpleasant memory. When you get up in front of a group, if a scary memory is the strongest association you have, it will be the one that gets called up by the amygdala.

You need to create more positive, stronger memories to link to! Practicing in the Pspeak live practice area with supportive people will be hugely helpful in this respect.

If you create multiple, positive associations with presenting to a group, you will eventually make those positive memories the stronger, easier-to-access memories. They will be called into play more than the old negative ones, and before you know it you won’t even remember what it was like to have anxiety in the first place!

Assuming the Speech is about YOU

The second cause of speech anxiety is assuming the speech is about YOU. This is so important that we could go on for pages about it. But the paradox is that it’s a simple issue. So we’ll be brief and to the point.

How many speeches are actually about the person giving the speech? Very few. How many people stress out about themselves before and during a speech? Most. Why? The speaker is focused on the wrong thing. They think it’s all about THEM.

The vast majority of speeches are not about the speaker, they are about the SUBJECT of the speech. If you knew that people weren’t even going to pay all that much attention to you as the speaker, but would focus instead on the subject, would you relax? Of course you would.

Here are solutions for making the speech too much about the speaker. First, focus on the aspects of the speech that you are passionate about. Think deeply about them! Find the words that best explain those things.

Next, forget YOU. If you find yourself worrying about you, let it go. You don’t want to make it about you, and it probably ISN’T about you anyway. Even if it is about you, for example if you are accepting an award, you should ideally be making it about the reason you received the award, not just yourself. See How to Write a Great Presentation for more on this. Think of it this way: You’re the conductor of the orchestra, not the music!