We’ve all likely heard about the studies that share with us that the fear of public speaking is a human’s only fear worse than death. This fear is reportedly now considered to be a social anxiety disorder affecting as much as 30% of the population.
This fear becomes intensified further by cell phone and social media domination of communication channels. Increasingly, young people are not being taught to even write, never mind speak.
When I developed my SpeakEasy123 public speaking training program, I was honored to be able to assist various people from CEOs and politicians to schoolteachers… various positions where one might mistakenly believe this “fear” would have been conquered or at least aptly handled. Teaching the required public or business speaking courses at the college level became a natural extension.
I recall starting each semester by taking a vote in the classroom. Every hand would go up in answer to the question, “Is this the most dreaded course you have ever taken?” Because it was a requirement, some procrastinated to the point that I often had many seniors in the room. So, okay. I would make the students one promise. By the end of the semester, this would be their favorite class.
What I had learned and tried to impart was that our fear of speaking stems from a certain level of insecurity. We are going to mess up… look foolish… or disappoint our audience. Much of the class time dealt with learning to recognize our own personal nerve triggers and then developing techniques to calm or cover them. (For instance, a Super Simple “fix” to an audience being able to see our nervous shaking would be to not hold a piece of paper with notes. Paper will flutter quite obviously, whereas something more firm such as a folder will not.)
We also spent time learning to like ourselves and learn to laugh at ourselves. Setting ourselves free from the fear of public speaking is learning to accept that if we care about our subject and our audience, it’s natural to find butterflies flying helter-skelter in our tummies. We just need to learn to picture those butterflies flying in formation. Care about the audience but conquer the fear of butterflies. Done!