Would you rather die than speak in front of group of people? Relax, you’re not alone. Surveys consistently show that more Americans are more afraid of public speaking than just about anything else– spiders, snakes, heights, even death. And yet your ability to articulate your business’s mission, advantages, and benefits is crucial to its long range success. From local service clubs to press conferences, trade shows, and stockholder’s meetings, public speaking is not a discretionary skill.
Speech anxiety is the technical term and over 85% of us suffer from it. Symptoms range from sweaty palms, dry mouth, racing heat beat, tremors, gastric upset, weak knees, to tightness in the throat and general paralysis. Your nervous system acts as if something is extremely dangerous and has prepared itself for flight, fight, or freezing.
Speech anxiety occurs in a three part cycle. First there is the development of a “performance orientation”, this followed by a surge of physiological arousal, and finally there is maladaptive self-talk that defines the arousal as fear. Research indicates that people with speech anxiety often produce a tremendous increase in heat rate (up 200 to 250%) when they first start speaking. Fortunately this decreases rapidly as the speaker proceeds, although the memory of the discomfort remains as a powerful discouragement from future speaking ventures.
Many business people have missed tremendous opportunities and a few have even abandon their enterprise entirely just to avoid public speaking. Perhaps you remember other pupils back in school who readily took a failing grade, rather than have to stand in front of the class to recite a poem. And even if you have engaged in public speaking for many years, it is not unusual for periodic bouts of speech anxiety to return.
The following quiz is based on techniques gleaned from psychological and communication experts. These are most effective techniques available today to help master speech anxiety.
- You should think of your speech as a kind of performance and focus on remembering your lines. True False
- Exercise can help you relax before a presentation. True False
- Always memorize your speech word for word to build confidence. True False
- Your audience doesn’t matter a good speaker goes on with the show regardless of the audience. True False
- Your speech should be natural and conversational in tone. True False
- Once start feeling very anxious it’s all over and you’re heading for disaster. True False
- What you say to yourself about the speech is not important. True False
- Practice in imagination can be very help in making a speech. True False
- Always stay right behind the podium, moving makes you anxious and is very distracting. True False
- Always come to the place where y9ou will speech a couples of hours early. The longer you stay there the more relaxed you’ ll feel. True False
- Don’t try o eliminate all the tension, you need some True False
- If you feel anxious or scared, tell your audience. True False
1. False Adopt a “communications” rather than a “performance” orientation. Keep in mind your primary goal is to communicate effectively. Make your communication objectives explicit, succinct, and attainable. They should be the centerpiece of your presentation.
2. True Take a brisk walk or engaged in other exercise prior to going to the location of the speech. Physical activity is an excellent way to reduce stress and tension and prepare for making a presentation.
3. False Never memorize or read your speech. Think of the presentation as a one-sided conversation. Some good speakers often practice by standing at the podium with their notes and simply “telling” their presentation to one or two people. Use an outline or roadmap for your speech rather than a complete text.
4. False Your should always know your audience. Have a good idea who they are and what their needs, attitudes and interests are. Try speaking to one person in the audience at a time. Tradition says to try to imagine the members of your audience as naked or in their underwear in order to reduce their capacity to intimidate you. You might also imagine that the audience is composed entire of clones of yourself. It’s important to develop a positive attitude towards your listeners. See them as attentive and helpful, not as the enemy.
5. True Speak the way you normally talk. Don’t try to project a phony oratorical voice. Conversational tone is your aim. Use contractions, but limit idiosyncratic slang or jargon.
6. False Realize that the intense arousal you feel at the beginning of a speech is very short lived and will reside quickly. Reinterpret these arousal signs as excitement rather than fear, it can even help.
7. False You should always actively challenge irrational and self-defeating assumptions and program yourself with encouraging positive self- talk. Replace “They are going to hate me and I can’t stand it.” with “This is difficult but I know I can do it.”
8. True Picture yourself succeeding. Pick a good speaker you admire and imagine your self responding just as they do during a presentation. There is good evidence that this imaginary practice can effectively shape behavior. If you can’t imagine giving an effective presentation, then it’s all that much more difficult to do in reality. Before long computer technology will allow people to practice giving give virtual speeches and this will be a major advance in overcoming speech anxiety.
9. False Moving around is very important as it creates more interest and breaks up the monotony of a passive speaker and it gives you a chance to walk off some of the tension.
10. False Come to the area of the presentation about 15 minutes early. You might want to check it out earlier in the day to make sure all is prepared, but don’t wait in that area for any extended period of time or you will build up tension. A final brisk walk just before the presentation is helpful.
11. False Remember your goal is to control and manage your tension. Don’t try to eliminate it entirely. This is neither possible nor particularly desirable. You need some of the arousal to energize and give life to the presentation.
12. False Warm up the group and yourself through self disclosure, but never make the audience uncomfortable by telling them you’re scared or by showing disappointment in your presentation. Remember you probably did much better than you realize.
0-3 Nervous Nellie 3-5 Fair 6-8 Good 9-12 A regular toastmaster