Public Speaking Anxiety
Workshop reveals insights to overcoming fears.
Results from a recent Public Speaking Anxiety workshop show some very interesting things.
A group at our Toastmasters Club took part in the following steps.
- They looked at a list of the most common fears searched for on Google, from a page titled fear itself. They discussed the list briefly, and the prominence of the fear of public speaking.
- They then had 1 minute to privately write the answer to the following question, "What is the fear of public speaking like for you?". They were guided to describe the actual physical, mental or emotional experience of their fear.
- They then had 1 minute to privately write the answer to the following question, "When exactly does it happen for you?". They were guided to describe the event which triggers the worst feelings about public speaking.
- They then had 1 minute to privately write the answer to the following question, "How does it hold you back?". They were guided to describe the actual effects if any on their lives, careers, enjoyment etc.
The initial discussion of the list was designed to get people thinking and talking and involved and it worked well. There was surprise at some of the items but the general conclusion was that people are illogical and most were completely irrational fears. They saw that people can be afraid of pretty much anything, even normally desirable things like love, sex and flowers.
Here are the actual words and phrases they used to answer each question.
- "What is the fear of public speaking like for you?"
Heart pounding, jittery, hot, feeling like 'I have to get it right', light headed, blank, sick, sweaty palms, sweaty neck, sinking, need a safety net, need a crutch, need notes, head shakes, worry about getting lost.
- "When exactly does it happen for you?"
- When told they'd have to speak - 9%
- While preparing - 9%
- Just before speaking - 44%
- At start of speech - 9%
- During the speech - 21%
- After speaking - 8%
- "How does it hold you back?"
I don't express myself in large gatherings, I don't promote my small business well at networking meetings, I don't speak up at my community group, at family gatherings, I don't speak up in meetings at work, I avoid social situations, I don't participate in discussions as I'd like to, I avoid impromptu speaking situations, I avoid prepared speaking situations, it affects my teaching.
Points To Help You
There's a lot in the results to help you with your own public speaking anxiety.
- The list, like just about every other list of fears, shows public speaking is the number one 'mental/emotional' fear (as opposed to flying where it's a physical consequence they're worried about, ie crashing and dying.) You're not alone so take heart from that.
- Although the physical sensations described are 'unpleasant', they're really not that bad. We're not talking gut-wrenching, agonizing pain or anything. It's important to 'perceive' these minor sensations, and not to 'conceive' of a mountain when a molehill isn't actually that hard to climb over.
- People get anxious about speaking at a variety of different times in the process, with the most common being just before getting up to talk. So, no matter when you feel bad, you can remind yourself that lots of other people feel bad then too. You don't have to add misery to the physical sensations by imagining you're some kind of freak because you feel worse while you're speaking for example.
- This irrational, illogical, completely mind-made fear does hold people back and that's a shame. Again you can take heart by seeing you're not the only one who's a bit nervous about speaking up in meetings. That was the most common theme from the answers to the last question.
I hope the workshop results have helped you in some way with your own public speaking anxiety.
If nothing else, maybe they'll get you one step closer to a life where you're free of the biggest single emotional fear we humans face.
Hey, if you can knock off the big one, maybe some other 'fears' might loosen their grip a bit?
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