Kafui Dey column - Public Speaking: ‘F’ is for Fear
Your palms are sweaty, your heart is pounding and your tongue feels like sandpaper. Your voice is squeaky, your legs are wobbly but you seriously want to run off. You are worried. What is happening to you?
These are classic signs of the fear associated with speaking in public. Without an antidote, this fear can turn you into a nervous wreck and dash all your hopes of becoming an accomplished public speaker. The question for which you must find an answer is how to get
rid of the fear.
Often I am asked whether I feel nervous or afraid when I am about to speak on a stage. When I answer “Yes”, this response often perplexes the poser of the question. “After all these years, shouldn’t the fear have gone by now?”
Actually, a bout of the nerves before a major performance is a good sign. It is proof that you are healthy. If you are motivated, you would want to do anexcellent job. You also don’t want to mess up on the big stage. It is natural to feel tense before a major moment. That is why top athletes and footballers jump up and down and roll their necks from side to side before the starter’s gun goes off or the referee blows his whistle.
As a public speaker, your main tools are your mind and your voice. To deal with the fear of failure, condition your mind by repeating short affirmations like the following:
“I do a great job every time.”
“I always give audiences a great experience.”
“I am excited to share my stories with these wonderful people.”
You can also pray to God to be with you. That seems to work for some speakers as it gives them the sense they are not alone.
Afraid that your voice will fail you at the moment you are invited to talk? Practice some vocal exercises by articulating the following vowels with exaggerated lip movements (“ay-ah-eh-oh-eye-or”).
Minimize the chances of a cracked voice by drinking a glass of room temperature water before speaking. It will keep you hydrated and ensure that your vocal cords and tongue are promptly called into action when needed.
How about the content of your talk? Can it strike dread into you? Of course, especially if you agree to speak on an unfamiliar topic. Without mastery of a subject, you cannot be expected to speak confidently and with assurance about it.
The cardinal rule for banishing fear from your public speaking is this - speak only about what you know and speak often. Speaking often is another way to deal with anxiety, nervousness or fight. Constant, regular practice will allow you to accumulate experience so that nobody or nothing can intimidate you.
Fear is contagious and very often our loved ones and friends can infect us with their worries and anxieties. Questions like “Are you sure you can speak to such a large crowd?” can introduce doubts into your psyche. If unchecked, these doubts could grow into full-blown fear. Nip them in the bud. Focus on your goals and don’t allow anyone to distract you.
Remember to condition your mind and vocal cords, speak on familiar topicsand you will gain confidence to channel your fears into delivering agreat speech!
This is an extract from my new book on public speaking. Want to pre-order a copy? Please emailPublicSpeakingAtoZBook@gmail.com.