Today, a woman in my church delivered a heartfelt farewell to our departing senior minister, and the hand that held her notes shook like a leaf. Her words were eloquent, and her speech was confident and composed; only her hand signaled her terror of public speaking.
Fear is a natural reaction when you speak or perform in public. Some people have learned to hide it or simply manage it better. There are many techniques to counter stage fright: breathing, meditation, visualization, and mindset are a few. If you think of your talk as a service or gift you are giving to the audience, you will shift the attention away from you and toward the people in front of you or on a screen.
If your hand trembles uncontrollably, try holding it firmly with the other hand or steady both hands on a lectern or table.
Here are two of my blogs that take a deep dive into performance anxiety, clinically known as “glossophobia.” Perhaps straw breathing will help calm you. Or a smile will connect you to the audience with emotion. You are sure to find a technique that will work for you here.
Butterflies in your stomach are common. Use the adrenaline to boost you to higher levels of performance. Even experienced speakers get nervous. But when you turn the jitters into your friend, it becomes part of your speaking ritual.
Sports psychologist Rob Gilbert said: “It’s all right to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation.”
The myth that speaking in public is the number one fear of human beings is an exaggeration. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld put it in perspective: “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Does that sound right? This means the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
Jerry got it right. Fear of extinction is number one. Social phobia and performance anxiety follow in rankings that vary according to who you ask.
Sometimes the best antidote to fear of speaking before a group of strangers is simply to be yourself with all your faults and imperfections. Trust is built on common human experiences and all of us share the gifts of imperfection.
Speak from your heart and everything else will follow.