Do you want to speak with more confidence, but you get nervous and anxious, which holds you back?
If so, this post is specifically for you because we’re about to enter a new year, so let’s change this so you make 2016 the foundation for your promising future.
While the nervousness, anxiety, and stress that comes with public speaking can feel overwhelming, in this post, we’ll identify specifically what creates it, so like shining a flashlight in the dark, you’ll be able to see what’s behind speaking nerves so that you can remove some of the mystery, which will help clarify how you can gain control.
We recently compiled data from 94 applicants to our Communicate With Confidence program in the last 3.5 months and the most common answer to “Why did you apply to our program?” was:
“I get very nervous speaking in public and it’s costing me opportunities”
This was the most common frustration as applicants recognized that speak with confidence was essential for their career success, but they didn’t know how to control them and so, they would let opportunities pass them by and get down on themselves for not being able to take them.
The fear of public speaking is so common that it’s almost become acceptable to let speaking opportunities be passed on, which unfortunately reinforces the misguided belief that “some people just can’t speak in public.”
This is NOT acceptable! While as a Communications Trainer, I’m slightly biased towards seeing business professionals improve their communication confidence, the reality is if you can speak, you absolutely can do so with confidence. What is often missing is having the system to control your stress levels and the experience of doing so, when you have this, like any skill, it will improve.
One of the greatest tragedies is when people reflect of their life and think about “What they could have achieved if only I had seized…”
Let’s Describe Public Speaking Nerves:
*Your heart races, your muscles tense up, especially your neck and shoulders, your stomach get’s in knots, it’s difficult to breathe
*You sweat excessively, palms, face, one respondent said “Even my boobs sweat.” I’ll have to take her word on that 😉
*Your mind races, you have difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping the night before, feared thoughts of blanking out, of ruining your professional reputation
*You may become irritable/snappy with friends and family. It can be hard to eat
And these are just a few of the sensations and thoughts you may have before your presentation.
While this situation may be uncomfortable to experience, what’s even more frustrating is the missed opportunities, which can include:
*Avoiding presentations and opportunities to be viewed as a leader to peers and clients
*Avoiding networking or going, but feeling so self-conscious that you give a couple cards and leave
*Avoiding the spotlight in small group scenarios, so you let other (often less qualified people) take teh leadership position
*In meetings, having an idea, but not sharing, then someone else shares an idea similar to yours and everyone loves it 🙁 Then you beat yourself up for not having shared your idea earlier.
After you miss these opportunities, often you will get down on yourself or “beat yourself up” because you know that seizing these opportunities is essential for increased success in your career and that on a personal level, you should be able to speak with more confidence, it’s just these nerves that are holding you back.
If you’re like many of my clients, this describes you:
You’re comfortable speaking in 1-on-1 and in small groups, you may even be more than comfortable, you may love it, but when it comes to speaking to a large group…something happens, you completely change, instead of being your normal confident self, you become a bundle of nerves, you second-guess your abilities, feeling judged from everyone staring at you, and your ability to communicate effectively drops off the planet, as you’re no longer able to speak as articulate as you normally do (you may ven feel like you “dumb yourself down”) and you rush through your speaking with one goal:
Get out of there and stop speaking asap!!!
You’re good at your job, a true professional that takes pride at being skilled on the technical side of your role, but you are lacking on the confidence side. You may feel frustrated because while you’re great at your work, you may not be getting the credit you deserve for your abilities.
This could be from your boss or you may have co-workers that are not as skilled as you, but they get recognized and promoted, not because they’re better than you, but just because they have more confidence/are better self-promoters.
If you’re self-employed, it could be that you provide amazing service to your clients, but for the results you provide, you should have a lineup of people wanting to be your clients, but instead, you’re frustrated because you’re not as in demand as you should be.
You may have competitors that while they don’t provide the same level of results you do, they have more clients because they’re better at getting exposure, at talking themselves up and this upsets you as you see ideal clients that you could truly help go to them.
Yes! This is me, why am I struggling!
Ok, so if so, you’re in good company because 61% of applicants to our program responded that their #1 frustration was that: “I get nervous speaking in public and it’s costing me opportunities.”
If you want to check out info on our program, click here: Workshop Link
We’ll focus on why this is happening today and in a future post, I’ll share the other responses applicants had.
Where Does The Fear Of Public Speaking Come From?
Now there’s a variety of beliefs of where this fear evolved from, often people have had a traumatic experience and are fearing having it again, which is valid, but let’s go back even further.
We are conditioned to fear speaking in public. There’s a prominent marketer, named Eben Pagan, who suggests that the fear of public speaking goes back thousands of years to our tribal days.
It makes sense because back then, we depended on our tribe for survival, we needed to “fit in.”
Speaking in public was a risk because it created an opportunity for you to say something that didn’t fit in with the group and back then if you weren’t aligned with the beliefs of the group, you could be kicked out. If you were kicked out of the tribe, well back then, that meant death!
So as he suggested, we have thousands of years of conditioning to hold our ideas back, to not speaking in public because it was the safe option.
Fortunately, now, the threat of being kicked out of a group virtually non-existent and having an opinion that’s different from popular beliefs will likely provide you with increased exposure, so it’s a good time to stand out.
In the competitive business world we’re in, you actually want to stand out because most of your competitors are busy just trying to blend in, which is the fastest way to become viewed as a commodity where you are only judged on your price instead of the unique value you provide.
So while we may have a conditioned fear of public speaking, today, it’s not a threat to our safety and the good news is that you can change your conditioning with the right training and experiences.
There’s noting wrong with you!
The second factor we must address, is the shame and judgement that people put on themselves when they struggle with speaking confidence. I see this often with clients as they feel that because they’re good at their work, they SHOULD be able to speak with confidence.
They know that there’s no threat to their safety with public speaking, so they feel embarrassed that they get nervous. By placing statements like “I should” be able to do this, what happens is we focus energy on something you’re lacking in, which further lowers your confidence.
This is a skill, like any other. When you learned to drive, were you a natural?
Probably not, you received training, practiced, and improve with experience.
While there’s no magic pill for speaking confidence, it’s a matter of getting a system and practicing. Our training program follows a systematic formula so you know the order to follow to control the nerves and speak with confidence. There’s no magic pill, only a proven system.
Now that we’ve established that there’s a historical reason to fear speaking in public and that there’s nothing wrong with you, please remove any embarrassment you may feel if sometimes you get nervous speaking in public.
What happens when I get public speaking nerves
Now, we’ll demystify what happens when you get nervous, so that you’ll have the ability to know exactly what’s going on, which will give you a greater sense of control.
The real enemy you’re facing is an aspect called “Cognitive Load.”
It’s bold to call this the enemy, but that’s what it is.
You know when you’re speaking and you have a hard time remembering what to say, or are not as articulate as you normally are, or experience “Jekyll & Hyde” speaking, where sometimes you’re confident and other times you’re overwhelmed with nerves and struggle…well Cognitive Load is the key to this.
Cognitive Load refers to the total amount of mental effort being used in the working memory. When you’re speaking in public, your mind has to process many additional tasks compared to smaller group or 1-on-1 conversations and this taxes your working memory.
Working memory is the system responsible for the transient holding and processing of new and already-stored information, and is an important process for reasoning, comprehension, learning and memory updating. This is where your presentation content is stored.
What This Means:
Public speaking presents a pressure-cooker situation. It brings many of your anxieties, insecurities, and expectations to do well to the surface. The pressure cooker that I refer to is in the number of stressors and intensity of stress you face when speaking in public.
It’s why you may be confident speaking in 1-on-1 or small group situations, but as soon as the group size increases, you feel overwhelmed and your abilities degrade.
When you’re in front of an audience, the number of stressors increase rapidly as you need to:
*Remember your content
*Make eye contact with many audience members
*Deliver your content in a way that’s authentic, yet be professional at the same time
*Handle the stress of being the centre of attention and have a large number of people stare at you
*Demonstrate that you’re an expert as the speaker, they expect that from you
*Ensure that you don’t waste your audience’s time, because that’s important
*Try to stay calm in this pressure situation and don’t blank out
*You may have had difficulty sleeping the night before, so you’re a bit tired
And these are just a few of the factors that are all contributing simultaneously to your cognitive load when public speaking. As these stressors compound, they all add more demand on your mind.
This creates a situation that is similar to a computer running too many programs at once. When you add all these programs simultaneously, the computer becomes overloaded and it’s performance slows down.
It’s the same with your brain when speaking in public and if you don’t have the training to control all the stressors that are compounding, when this happens, your mind becomes overloaded and switches into survival mode.
When you’re in survival mode, your cognitive abilities diminish as your priority is on protecting you, so your brain function is focused on safety instead of effectively articulating your message.
A few common experiences of trying to speak in public with an overloaded mind are:
*You’re not able to speak as articulately as you normally can, perhaps even feeling like you’ve “dumbed yourself down.”
*Difficulty in focusing on the audience as there’s too many people and you struggle with where to look
*You lose your train of thought or “blank out” sections of the material you wanted to share
*Your main goal of speaking in public is to get out the speaking situation as fast as possible
*You rush through your content because you want to finish ASAP
*You may prepare a script or cue cards and stare at them more than the audience, which reduces your connection and professionalism all because you have a hard time remembering what to say
When you experience these situations, what often occurs is you will feel disappointed in yourself, as you know you could have done a better job, that you have potential to be a better speaker, and that how you communicated, wasn’t as accurate representation of the professional that you are.
How Do I Reduce Cognitive Load?
The key to reducing cognitive load is also the reason that my training program is unique…it’s stress management.
When you are speaking in public, you will experience stress. This is the reality, there’s no magic pill to eliminate it, and you actually don’t want to eliminate all stress.
Think about the greatest accomplishments you’ve achieved in your life. Major achievements are often a result of pushing your comfort zone, experiencing stress, and breaking through it. Every time that I give a big presentation or try a new approach, I get nervous before presenting and this reassures me.
I view nerves before speaking as a signal that I’m pushing my comfort zone, that I’m about to take the next step in my career, and this then shifts the nervous energy into excitement.
So while we don’t want to completely eliminate public speaking nervousness, to speak with confidence we must learn how to effectively manage them so instead of experiencing dread and trying to avoid speaking opportunities, you’ll able to self-manage the stress so you’re able to add excitement to your presentation.
It’s not about getting rid of the butterflies, it’s about teaching them to fly in formation.
Why Stress Management Is The Missing Link
Stress management differentiates my program from other options because stress management was what my company, Level Up Living was built on. We started with offering training to reduce stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. After years of successfully facilitating training programs and 1-on-1 coaching, I had business professionals approach me saying that they don’t experience stress or anxiety, except when they have to speak in public.
From this, they asked if I could help them. I realized that this fear of public speaking was a major problem for many business professionals as it was costing them promotions, income, and was draining their happiness because they knew that confident communication was essential for them to achieve their potential, but they were frustrated because they didn’t have the skills and training in order to do so.
From this experience, I created the “Communicate With Confidence” program, where we take a holistic approach to speaking confidence and utilize stress management as the foundation so that you can seize the speaking opportunities, then combine it with the technical side of effective communication so that you can deliver your presentations in an authentic and professional manner.
This is different from most other trainers because they are solely communication trainers, so they provide all the technical skills necessary to speak with confidence, which is great, but from our experience, we have found that while having the information is valuable, when the stress levels skyrocket and your cognitive load increases, as your mind goes into survival mode, the result is that you’re not able to remember the technical points because you’re just trying to finish asap.
We view the stress management as essential to avoid the sleepless nights before speaking, to increase your mental capacity so that your cognitive load is decreased, which allows you to speak more articulately and remember what you had to say.
This allows you to actually enjoy speaking in public because instead of rushing through it, you’re able to reduce your nerves and be calm when speaking in public because when you have a system to control the nerves, speaking in public actually becomes quite addictive as you receive the adoration from the audience.
What Confident Communication Will Do For You
When you begin confidently seizing speaking opportunities, our clients regularly provide testimonials about how they received promotions, increased their income, gained a surge of exposure, are now viewed as a leader and these are all great, but the outcome that they say is the most beneficial is gaining their freedom.
They gain the freedom because they went from watching opportunities pass them by, they’re now able to seize them.
From dreading speaking opportunities and focusing on “how can I get out of this?” to embracing them as a way to reinforce their leadership qualities.
From being overwhelmed with nerves and being reduced to a shell of themselves when speaking, to owning their power and being the “real you” when leading the room.
To sum up the most important outcome for participants, it’s in gaining their freedom to no longer let fears and anxieties hold them back from moving towards their potential and to own their own power as you confidently move progress towards being the business professional that deep down, you know you can be.
If you are ready to become a Lion and gain your freedom to seize every speaking opportunity and to speak with confidence. click this link to learn more about the “Communicate With Confidence” program here: Workshop Link