The fear of public speaking is very real. This fear, almost a phobia, is experienced by millions of people around the world, professionals or not, prepared or not. It is a human question above all else. It is not even about the level of technical knowledge that the person has in their professional sector but about something much more complex, linked to our human condition.
But all this does not mean, at all, that we have to resign ourselves to experiencing panic every time we go to speak in public. Suffering, at least in the long term, is not a mandatory condition. There is room for improvement here.
After decades working with professionals who find themselves in the constant need to speak in public, at shortnews247 we have discovered keys to answer the question of how to combat the fear of speaking in public, to improve this situation, to achieve a positive evolution in the weather. There are techniques with a lot of potential, techniques that we are going to explore today.
Public Speaking Anxiety is Real
Public speaking is one of the most psychologically intense activities for most of us. Doing it or simply the expectation of it can generate significant levels of anxiety in us.
However, when we look at it objectively, it is completely natural for us to experience anxiety. The scientific community argues that we carry the anxiety of speaking in public basically registered in our DNA. Our ancestors evolved to detect gazes and alert them to the possible presence of a threat to their lives. Being seen was a problem for survival. Therefore, our visceral reaction to being seen by a small group or a crowd of people is not only natural but responds to vestiges of past behavior when we face dangerous situations.
The mind registers the threat in the multitude of looks and sends all kinds of signals to the body, which responds by speeding up our breathing, raising our body temperature, reddening our skin, paralyzing us and even causing tremors everywhere.
That said, that this anxiety has an evolutionary meaning does not mean that we have to resign ourselves. Let’s see how we can improve.
First Steps Towards Improvement
Understanding where anxiety comes from is the first step towards a sustainable improvement of our public speaking skills.
Once at this point, we can work on the next steps. Before talking about mindfulness, a central concept that will help us radically improve our public speaking skills, we must explore some useful practices that will lead us to improvement.
- Plan your speech with the audience in mind: What do most of us do when preparing a presentation or speech? We focus on content based on technical guidelines and what we think is best to share. Alternatively, we can try thinking first about the audience we will be presenting to. We have to ask ourselves questions like, who will listen to us? Why do you take the time to attend? What do they want to learn and how do they want to benefit? Understanding the audience will give us more security in the speech that we are going to prepare.
- Take great care of your criteria moments before the presentation: The turning point that will define the success of our presentation is not necessarily the development of it but, many times, the minutes before we stand in front of the audience. It is in these moments that we become conditioned with the wrong ideas. Many of us think about how the audience will judge us negatively if we don’t do it perfectly. Such criteria can predispose us to failure.
- Prioritize individual connection: A common habit is to look at everyone but not see anyone while speaking in public. We scan the audience with our eyes but at no point do we make a direct eye connection, eye to eye with members of the audience. This is a mistake, both at the level of avoiding stage fright and achieving a high-level oratory. We can think of the example of Bill Clinton, who in his years as a young politician was characterized by his technique of connecting individually with his gaze, gradually getting involved with the entire audience. Yes, he can be uncomfortable the first few times we practice it, but he is undoubtedly a very powerful weapon at the oratory level.
Mindfulness: What is it?
Now that we’ve explored ways to improve our situation on stage, let’s explore the most powerful resource we have for overcoming the fear of public speaking: mindfulness.
Due to the use and abuse that has been given to this term in recent years, let’s start by defining it at the most basic level.
Mindfulness is the basic and fundamental ability that the human possesses to be present, aware of what he feels, aware of his immediate environment, aware of his impulses and reactions. Mindfulness is paying attention at the most basic level possible, it is observing and listening to what is happening inside us at any given moment.
We all have this ability of mindfulness, some less or more developed than others. It is not an oriental magic trick or an esoteric art, but something that we can all do at will and that, with practice, gives us better and better results.
There is also an important distinction to be made: mindfulness does not literally translate to the act of meditation. Meditation as an activity has many forms. We can sit quietly or with a guided session to practice our mindfulness skills. We can also practice yoga, which is an act of meditation that combines the physical with the mental.
But, in reality, mindfulness is a skill that we can use at any time and in any situation. We can decide, at will, to pay objective attention to the thoughts and feelings that inhabit our minds at any given moment.
So what does practicing mindfulness look like in public speaking?
Mindfulness and Oratory
Mindfulness has the proven ability to help us with our anxiety in all areas of life, including our fears of public speaking.
In fact, mindfulness is an ideal practice for significantly reducing anxiety before and during our presentations, inevitably improving the quality of our speaking in the process. How can we make progress here?
- Take time to explore the most basic application of mindfulness: This means that we must practice meditation with increasing frequency. Start small, read about it, listen to guided sessions, set aside 5-10 minutes each day to practice.
- Accept the difficulty of the practice without getting frustrated: In our society, we are not used to sitting alone with our thoughts and not judging the thousands of messages that bounce around in our minds. This practice is an assault on our current lifestyle, so getting started will be difficult. You will be repeatedly distracted. But we promise you, with time, it will get easier.
- Integrate breathing as a key component: Our breathing is much more important for our emotional well-being than we think. Simply paying attention to the rhythm in which we breathe, the duration and intensity of our inhalation and exhalation, all this without judging or labeling it as good, bad or worse, will give us a mental clarity that is not accessible in any other way.
- Take the learning of meditation into daily life: The key to mindfulness, as well as its greatest benefits, is to bring the heart of the practice of meditation to every moment of our days. The act of observing what we feel and think without judging or interpreting our identity with such thoughts is something we should practice multiple times a day, on the go, especially when we feel overwhelmed.
This last point, that of calm and objective observation, represents what we really must do before and during our presentations in public.
Do you begin to feel anxiety invading your body while speaking in front of dozens of people? This is where the greatest benefits of mindfulness come in. Make sure you are breathing deeply through your nose, watch the rhythm of your breath, identify the thoughts in your mind without being judgmental.
Working to Defeat the Fear of Public Speaking
Practicing mindfulness and using this very human ability to defeat the fear of public speaking will bring you the most immediate, significant and sustainable benefits among all the other options we have.
However, it is not all free.
Although mindfulness is an inherent skill in our nature as human beings, it will take work and effort to unlock its full potential. The first and most significant step in that direction is to create the habit of meditation. Starting with 5 minutes a day is accessible to everyone and will bring, even imperfectly, enormous benefits.
And if we combine this practice with the help of people dedicated to unlocking its full potential, even better.