Glossophobia – a fear of public speaking – is pretty common among people. Almost everyone suffers from the fear of not performing well in front of others, at least to some degree. It is only natural to feel scared because humans are wired to be concerned about what others think about us. We get a sense of importance when we know other people admire and acknowledge the work that we do.
A perfect example of this is how and why we post about the fancy places we visit or the fun things we do on Facebook. We do so to please the audience of our posts. We constantly seek the validation of people viewing our Facebook profiles. It simply goes to show that we care about what everyone else thinks about us, but that is not necessarily a negative quality. It is only natural to feel so. In fact, it is those people who care about what people think about them who end up being successful public speakers.
I wanted to write this blog because public speaking is something all of us will do at some point in our lives. It is a fantastic skill to possess, especially if you want to reach great heights. So let’s get started.
A crucial step in delivering a great speech is to know your audience. There are essentially two types of audience – strangers and people you know. Most of us are afraid of going on stage and making a mistake or forgetting something we are supposed to say, especially when the audience members are people you will face again after the talk is over. If they are a bunch of strangers, you can at least convince yourself that if you screw up, you will never see them again. This is not the right way to think about it. In order to give an effective talk, you ought to know and love your audience.
So first, acknowledge the fact that you have a phobia, if you haven’t done so already. You may have realised this from past experiences. Being aware of your struggles or fears and wanting to face them is the first step to dealing with it. Next, talk to your audience before the speech. When you know the thoughts and feelings of your audience members, you may actually feel more comfortable around them.Find out how they feel about public speaking, what experiences they have had, etc. You can talk to them about your struggles with glossophobia as well. Finally, accept the fact that you are human and you are bound to make mistakes. Once you accept this fact and assure yourself that making a couple of mistakes isn’t the end of the world, the chances that you actually make a mistake will reduce significantly.
Now that you know how to tackle your speech on the D-day, I will walk you through how to prepare for the speech.
BEAT PROCRASTINATION – USE THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE
The most important step above all – do not procrastinate. Others may be procrastinating because they don’t have to deal with glossophobia. But you need that extra time, so do start preparing as early as you can. Even if you have a month’s time or 6 month’s to prepare, get started on it right away. I’m not asking you to finish 90% of the work within today. But it is important to just start. The Pomodoro technique, which is a reward based method of dealing with procrastination, is an effective way to motivate yourself to start working. This involves a timer and dedicating a vigorous 25 minute work session where you read up on the topic assigned and write down a few main points that you want to include in your talk. Do not use your phone or laptop while doing this, unless of course you need to browse the internet. If you need to use your phone or laptop, close all other applications on the phone and/or other tabs on the web browser. Essentially, focus your attention on the task at hand. You can then take a 5 minute break (no more, no less) where you can treat yourself to a healthy snack or get some fresh air and then resume another 25 minute work session. Each of these work sessions is called Pomodoro. After 4 such Pomodoros, you can reward yourself with a 10-15 minute break. This is one of the best ways to deal with procrastination because most people can’t really focus on a task for more than 20-25 minutes. You can of course modify the timings of the work-break sessions to one that best suits your capacity and goals.
Notice how I said eat healthy snacks and get fresh air. This is only because eating sugar ladden treats or heavy snacks will make you feel tired faster. It will then force you into procrastinating again. So, a little bit of discipline and self-control is key to getting things done in time.
BE GENUINELY INTERESTED
Unless the speaker is interested in the topic, the audience will not have any interest in listening to the speech. So, the best thing you can do is to choose a topic that you are passionate about – a topic that you genuinely want to share with everyone. If you talk about how the speech is going to benefit everyone and why you feel it is interesting, they will want to hear more. However, if you did not have the chance to choose the topic and you don’t like the topic at first, then you have no choice but to work hard to like the topic. The only way to do this is by learning everything you can about the topic. You are bound to find something in it that you like. From there, you dig deeper into the subject and start preparing your presentation. Remember to write from the heart.
Perhaps you need to give a talk about procrastination, just as I did a while ago. The research for my speech involved learning about parts of the brain and body that affect our way of thinking – the pre-frontal cortex, responsible for making rational decisions; lymbic system, the one that makes you want to go out and play; amygdala and adrenaline glands, for the fight or flight response that gets you get all scared, yada, yada, yada. This information isn’t particularly appealing to engineering students like myself. But then, I came across a TEDx video by Tim Urban on procrastinators. He conveyed the same message, but in a funnier and more interesting way and so I decided to talk about him and quoted some of the things he mentioned in his TED talk. The video is viral now and I have included the link at the end of this blog for those who haven’t seen it yet.
So, what we can infer is that when the speech comes from the heart, it is bound to touch the hearts and minds of others as well.
PREPARE, PREPARE & PREPARE
The only way to keep your panic monster at rest and thereby avoid panic attacks is by being as prepared as you can be. One helpful step you can take is to simply start preparing. Once you start, you will feel a little more at ease. Do a little bit of preparation every day. Draw up a plan that you can and will stick to. If you have any other commitments coming up ahead, make note of it and make up for it on another day. Doing this takes a lot of patience and discipline, but it will surely pay off. Once you get your speech ready on paper, practice it front of the mirror. Record yourself on your phone or video camera. Observe the kind of gestures you make and the tone of your voice and keep improving your methods. Practice the speech in front of your family and friends and ask them to give you an honest opinion. Do keep in mind that they only want what is best for you so learn to take their criticism well. Prepare yourself so well that you start to say it well even in your dreams.
So, how does a glossophobic person look confident during a public speech? He fakes it! Take the example of Adele, who is now a Grammy award winning singer. She used to be afraid of performing on stage. There are several other celebrities who are glossophobic, but don’t seem so at all – Julia Roberts, Tiger Woods and Bruce Willis. All 3 of them are not only glossophobic but even have a severe stuttering problem. They all faked it till they made it. So, now you can too!
Some valuable tips on how to fake confidence: your posture. When you are standing in front of an audience, strike up a power pose – think Wonderwoman or Superman.
Observe how they stand up tall and appear strong, confident and powerful. Your hands should be open so that you feel more comfortable or appear so. If they are closed, your shoulders would end up slouching or bending and this may make you feel more anxious. So, if you try striking this Superman/Wonderwoman power pose you will instantly find yourself feeling confident. Just give it a try.
Another great tip is to use your hand gestures when you are giving the talk. This along with eye contact is the best way to capture the attention of your audience. When making eye contact, it is important to look at each person for a certain amount of time. If you look away too quickly, it will make you look nervous. It is said that you should maintain eye contact for the same amount of time you would take to pour them a glass of water at their table. This can easily be a good 3-5 seconds.
So, there you have it – a complete guide to how to tackle that speech/presentation even if you are glossophobic. I hope you find these tips useful.
Go through this video if you want to learn a bit more about why we procrastinate. But get right back to work after you do! 😮