Sometimes at work we have to face our fears in order to progress and one of the biggest fears for many is public speaking.
Perhaps you’ve been asked to give a presentation, or chair a meeting, or simply attend a work event which will be full of strangers that you want to impress. But the thought of it is terrifying and you’re busy coming up with all kinds of excuses to get out of it!
Which is not surprising, because public speaking triggers a fight or flight response in our brains which has been hard wired in there since we were cavemen (or women). Now facing a room full of expectant faces isn’t as life threatening as fighting off a saber-tooth tiger, but our brains still can’t tell the difference and so many of us continue to fear public speaking.
As an introvert myself, I can completely relate to these fears, but have gradually picked up a few of tools and tricks which help to calm my nerves before giving my ‘Happy Workplace’ corporate workshops and which I want to share with you.
1. Be prepared. Rehearse your material and get to know it inside out. Choose your outfit the night before. Google your journey so that you know exactly how to get there. Arrive early so that you have time to check out the meeting room or venue, or browse the attendee list. The more familiar you are with what’s to come, the calmer you will feel.
2. Use the 4-7-8 breath. This breathing technique originally comes from yoga and has been adapted for use as a relaxation tool by integrative health champion Dr Weil. He suggests simply breathing in though your nose for 4 seconds, holding for 7 seconds, then breathing out forcefully though your mouth for 8 seconds making a ‘whoosh’ sound. Repeat this 2-4 times to slow your heart rate and calm your mind. Before a speaking event, I take myself off to the loo, shut the door and give myself a couple of minutes in private to use this breathing technique and it never fails to relax me.
3. Try the ‘Power Pose’. A 2010 study conducted by Harvard Lecturer Amy Cuddy found that simply holding the ‘power pose’ for 2 minutes can affect your body chemistry and increase your confidence. Her TED talk on the topic has been viewed 43 million times so she must be on to something! Want to try it yourself? Just adopt the ‘Wonder Woman’ pose (see top pic) and hold it for two mins. If you feel self conscious, take yourself off to another room or once again head for the loos!
4. Have your ‘Cheerleading Squad’ ready and ask for support if you need it. I always have a couple of close friends or family members on standby who know exactly when and where I’m giving my talk. If I have a last minute wobble, I can reach out and get an encouraging text back, and just knowing that they’re sending me love and support from afar helps me feel much braver and less alone. Who could be your cheerleaders?
5. The more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Honest. I don’t think I will ever LOVE public speaking but after I did my first workshop with 20 people, something clicked inside. I got through it and nothing terrible happened. Which must have told my fearful brain that perhaps this situation wasn’t so life threatening after all. When I did my next workshop, this time with 30 people, I was still nervous but MUCH less so and there were actually moments where I could relax and enjoy it! So keep pushing past the fear and it will gradually lessen over time.
Do you get nervous abut public speaking? What are your tips and tricks for getting through it? I’d love to know, share in the comments below...