Few things can trigger complete blinding panic like public speaking.
So many of us would prefer to bungy jump off a sky scraper than get up in front of a group of people and deliver a 15 minute presentation. Altering how you perceive public speaking and how you go about it, can turn a dreaded experience into a joyful one.
One of the first things to consider is ditching the script.
When public speaking, it is good to have a list of bullet points prepared so you know the various points you need to communicate. When you are reading a pre-written script to a crowd of people, there is more opportunity to notice how you are feeling on the inside, and to allow this to negatively influence you. Also, most people respond better to a spontaneous, conversational style of delivery, rather than something that sounds premeditated and repeated parrot-style.
Get your bullet points ready, and then go about communicating those points however you like. You will become more absorbed in what you are saying, and less so in how nervous you feel.
Causes of Public Speaking Anxiety
Often, speaking anxiety is connected to events from childhood. Embarrassing experiences involving having to perform in front of our family or our class while in school, for example, can cause discomfort around public speaking for decades.
When we are children and adolescents we want nothing more than to be accepted and to fit in. Standing alone in front of a crowd of peers and feeling judged can be an awful experience. If it doesn't go well, the memory of that negative event may be triggered later, on a subconscious level, bringing with it those same difficult feelings.
Sometimes recognizing and giving validation to those memories is enough to sever and shift the connection from your modern-day public speaking fears. If past experiences still continue to haunt, working with an experienced hypnotherapist can aid in rewriting the script and help you move forward with conficence.
Expectations of Yourself
The very best advice, when it comes to speaking in public is: Just be yourself. Don't try to be a "public speaker" or a "presenter" or a "lecturer". Use any notes you have prepared, but be willing to let go and deviate. Tell stories. Above all, be prepared to have fun. If you're enjoying yourself, chances are you audience will, too.
Let your natural personality flow, and remind yourself that YOU are not the subject of your public speaking. Once you stop trying to be something you are not, public speaking really can be a liberating, freeing experience.
Breathing properly helps to reduce tension and calm nerves, but improper breathing can enhance feelings of anxiety. When we are nervous, we tend to hurry through whatever we are saying, and this interupts our natural breathing pattern, all to easily making us gasp for air. So breathe deeply and slowly, speaking as you exhale. Be sure to pause often -- and remember it's almost impossible to speak too slowly.
Follow these few tips and you might even find yourself enjoying speaking in front of others.
Peter Field is a British psychotherapist and hypnotherapist. Please visit his hypnotherapy Birmingham and London site for more information. His public speaking hypnosis MP3 and CD is now available.