Managing Your Fear of Public Speaking!

By Kathy Poehnert

Do You Suffer From Glossophobia?

I used to be a glossophobe…many years ago… my stomach would get queasy, my legs would tremble, and my mouth was as dry as a bone.  This would happen every time I had to speak in front of a group…

You guessed it: glossophobia, better known as stage fright, can be incredibly debilitating, and prevent us from getting our points across, influencing others making sales, becoming more visible, or moving up or forward in the business world.

This fear of public speaking, which, by the way, is actually considered by many to be greater than the fear of death (yikes!), can relate to a simple team presentation or conference call, or a keynote address.  It is really about the ability to organize thoughts in a meaningful way so as to articulate them to your audience clearly, concisely and with connection.  It requires managing all of the overwhelming symptoms that can come with glossophobia.

One of the best ways to eradicate glossophobia is to be really confident with the material you are presenting, and with your ability to present it with ease. To do this requires skill in Writing (designing) Owning, (declaring) and Working (delivering) that material.

There are 3 key truths that are important to keep in mind when designing any presentation.  They are:

1. “WHO you are speaks louder than WHAT you say”

This is really about putting connection above content.  Now, I want to be clear because obviously good content is crucial but good content can mean absolutely nothing if there is not a connection between you and your audience, so certainly put time and attention into your material, but understand that an emotional and energetic connection with your audience is what’s going to make you memorable.

2. “Images speak louder than words”

This relates to the use of PowerPoint in more formal presentations—many of us have listened to speakers who misuse this tool to the point of creating “Death by PowerPoint!”

Never use PowerPoint as your notes, and if you have to use words, try not to have more than 6-8 words per slide.  I believe that if you know your material well, and can read your audience, attention-getting Power Point images can powerfully add to your words, not replace them.

3. “Less is more” or (KISS- Keep It Simple Speaker”!)

Let’s face it: we live in a world of information overload. It’s estimated that the human brain can actually only focus on and remember three key things at a time which is why we codify information, very often in bundles of three (area codes, social security numbers, etc.)  So consider the essence or main objective of what you want to say in your presentation, and make sure that whatever information you share meets that specific objective and is broken into a maximum of three main “chunks” or concepts/subcategories/topics.  I call this the “Rule of Three.”

“Know your stuff, know who you are stuffing…and know when they are stuffed!”

When putting together a presentation the Rule of Three is of critical importance:

Never have more than 3 Key points to meet your objective; fit all of your content into those three key points.

The following basic outline is very helpful in structuring what you want to say in a presentation:

  • Opener: (the attention-getter…story, anecdote provocative statement, etc.)
  • Intro: (Introduce yourself if possible. Ask yourself “what do I want the audience to know about me that will help establish a connection and build my credibility?”)
  • Objective: This is probably the most important thing you’ll do in writing your presentation. The objective (and there should only be one) is the theme around which you will weave content, and answers the question, “what do I want my audience to know, to think, to understand, to feel, or do when they leave that room?”

3 Key Points: (or areas of content) – acronyms are fun to use here, and help to further engage an audience.

Summary: wrap up your talk with a review of what they learned and leave them with that last thought.

Arden Executive Coaching | Managing Your Fear of Public Speaking!


Stage Fright Rescue!

So, once your presentation is organized and you are feeling pretty confident in your material (which is the #1 way to reduce stage fright)…you still have to get up in front of all those eyes looking at you and share your information!

Here are three quick tips that may help:

  1. Eat a banana! Believe it or not, bananas contain beta blockers that will help reduce some of the adrenaline rush that can create havoc in your system.
  2. Do “lazy 8’s” With a pen and paper, using your dominant, then your non-dominant hand, draw the infinity sign (number 8 on its’ side) for 1-2 minutes, or clasp hands together, fingers and thumbs intertwined and “draw” the figure eight in the air for up to a minute before presenting.
  3. Do the “cross-crawl:” march in place, touching the opposite hand to the opposite leg for at least 12 repetitions.  This creates cooperation between the two brain hemispheres and reduces stress and increases performance.

There are many other techniques to help with unruly or resistant audience members, presenter memory lapses, and some of the other things we fear which add to our glossophobia.  But the bottom line for any presenter dealing with this fear (and we all experience it to some extent)…is to increase your stage presence by being confident , concise and connected!

Contact us to work on managing your fear of public speaking, or assist you with preparation of a specific presentation.