According to 'The Book of Lists', the fear of public speaking ranks number one in the minds of the majority of people. Far above the fear of death and disease, comes the fear of standing in front of a crowd. Public speaking is a common source of stress. Many of us would like to avoid this problem entirely, but that is nearly impossible. Whatever our work eventually we will need to speak in public to get certain tasks accomplished. And if we want to be leaders or achieve anything meaningful in our lives, we will often have to speak to groups, large and small, to become successful.
But instead of appropriate levels of adrenalin and excitement to optimize our performance, we get a fear response like we are being attacked by a wild animal. Everything in our body and mind screams "run away"! But we can't, we have to ignore our 'fight or flight' response and stay put. And what's more, we are supposed to sound eloquent and informed at the same time. Not an easy task.
The reason most people get anxious when required to speak to a group is that they are afraid of looking foolish or stupid in front of others. The fear that their lack of speaking skills might lower the opinion others have of them becomes overwhelming. The fear of public speaking often results from painful experiences during school days when we failed in class and were teased by the other children. Being humiliated can destroy a person's ego and confidence for a long time and a short experience followed by humiliation can result in this life long fear of public speaking. The brain links the negative feelings associated with that experience to other similar experiences.
Attaching emotions to situations is one of the primary ways that humans learn. But sometimes we get the wiring wrong. Many people suffering from fear of public speaking believe they are alone in feeling so frightened, when in fact this fear is shared by millions even though nobody likes to talk about it. If you can adopt the following sentence: "I stopped worrying about what people would think about me, when I realized how seldom people think about anyone but themselves" you have got it made.
There is no real trick to public speaking, there is only confidence. And confidence is gained by practice and experience. Of course good preparation and relaxation techniques before giving a speech help but practice will make you a master. To gain experience outside those scary live performances in front of your peers, joining a local Toastmasters Club is a great idea.
Or get yourself a Public Speaking or Speech Coach. In both cases you will get the chance to practice and hone your skills in a friendly environment. And you will get valuable feedback. Overcoming fear by actively and consciously facing it in the least painful way has proven to be extremely effective - also in this all encompassing fear of public speaking. So go out and speak! Finding your voice in public will be the most freeing experience you can imagine.
Barbara Hofmeister is the Author of several Self Development Workbooks and numerous practical Articles. She is a renowned Public Speaker, Trainer and Speech Coach. You find her Coaching Program at http://www.trainingvisions.com with the free weekly INSIGHT newsletter.