Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Help needed with fear of presenting in public

I’m the CEO of a mid-size company, and as the company grows I am been required to do more presentations. These presentations cause me enormous amount of stress, and I feel very uncomfortable. Can you shed some light on this issue and provide some advice.

Dear CEO,

What you are experiencing is fear of public speaking otherwise called speech anxiety or stage fright. It’s that sense of fear that overtakes us when we have to present in from of an audience, and it doesn’t matter if the audience is large or small.

Many research papers show that fear of public speaking is among the most common fears along fear of death. The fear of speaking could be triggered by a past even in which you were asked to present, and you felt you failed or did not do as well as you’d like, or it could be a natural fear of inadequacy, rejection, being judged as incapable or incompetent. So how do you deal with this fear.

First of all realise that fear is natural. Whenever we are getting ready for a big event our body prepares us by getting adrenaline released, which causes all of the symptoms we associate with speech anxiety, including having sweaty palms, feeling flushed, increased pulse rate, etc. Everyone, including successful actor, sportsmen, and politicians experience the exact same thing before a performance. However, it is how you interpret and manage that fear that makes a difference. This fear can help you add energy and enthusiasm to the presentation or it can block your performance, if you let it. Most people who are afraid of presentations, see this fear as a negative indicator, and therefore start imagining negative situations in which they forget the presentation, the mind goes blank, people think they are incompetent etc. The key here is to use the adrenaline to your advantage and use the energy to connect with the audience.

Here are some tips on managing your nervousness:

            Visualise the presentation from the beginning to a successful end, when everybody  applauds and congratulates you for a job well done, including some mistakes and recovering from them, and ending the presentation successfully. For example, many of us imagine thinking that our minds will go blank during the presentation, and it may, but the important thing is how you recover from it.  Instead of just thinking about whatever your fear is, imagine it happening and you gracefully recovering from it.

            Breathe deeply , I know it sounds obvious, but it is important to take a several deep breaths until you feel calm and centered. By breathing slowly and deeply, you body starts to calm down, and  you can focus on delivering your message rather than on the fear.

            Practice, don’t try to memorize the presentation word for word. It adds stress if you miss a word. It is better to have one or two word notes that may trigger the point, and rehearse the presentation several times before the actual presentation.

            Another option may be to seek an executive coach (link to, hypnotherapist, CBT provider, NLP practitioner that could help you tackle directly the fear. I had a client who asked me to help her with fear of skiing, she had been skiing for a long time, but didn’t seem to get better. We had one session, and she went on a skiing holiday, She later called me to say how dramatically she had improved , and she was now going down expert slopes.

Fear is natural, but it is also a learned behaviour, which you can unlearn. It is possible to give presentation and be excited and inspirational instead of worried and nervous. Executive coaching can help you deal with the fear and practice with someone that can provide you with feedback.

For more information on our executive coaching (links to services to help with public speaking, please click here