Overcoming Public Speaking Fear During Pandemic And New Normal

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Public speaking is the number one business development strategy for professionals, consultants, and high-end service providers. But what if public speaking unleashes a flock of butterflies in your stomach?

Overcoming the challenge of public speaking first involves managing the stress that comes with it. High levels of stress can affect your brain’s memory and spatial awareness capacities, which can make a simple speech feel like a gut-churning endurance race.

Jamie Sussel Turner, an award-winning author of two books on stress, and a TEDx Speaker Coach, is an expert on helping people overcome their fear. We met when I helped her edit one of her books. According to Turner, if public speaking makes you want to wretch, then you’ll need to dig deep and shift how you perceive both yourself and your audience.

“What we believe influences how we behave,” Turner explained. “When you rewire your beliefs you’ll turn your stress on its head. Adopting new beliefs will lead to new thinking which will lead to new confidence.”

Turner says there are five stress inducing beliefs every public speaker needs to process and shut down. Whether you’re aiming for a TEDx talk stage (or virtual stage), or preparing for a Zoom meeting with a single prospective client, shift your mind about these five beliefs:

It’s all about me. “Believing your talk is all about you leaves out an important element—your audience. When I’m on stage I imagine the spotlight shining on the audience, reminding me I’m here to serve the people who have taken their time to come and hear me speak.”

My future is riding on this speech. “You may feel like this one speech is crucial for attracting clients, or growing your business. Remind yourself that it’s just one talk. You will have other opportunities. Focus instead on what you can learn from this speech, and discover how to rock your next talk even more.”

I have to nail my talk. “This belief goes to the heart of perfectionism, especially if you expect your every point needs to be delivered just as you have planned. This is a formula for feeling shaky and uncertain on the stage. Instead, shift your focus to being present with your audience. They have no idea what you’ve planned to say. Often what I say in place of what I’ve planned is even more powerful.”

The audience is judging me. “Yes, they are. And guess what? There’s nothing you can do about it. If you try to be anything but yourself to please the audience, they will spot your lack of authenticity in a nanosecond. So, accept that being judged is out of your control—and let it go.”

I am not enough of an expert. “This belief speaks to imposter syndrome, the feeling that you are not worthy, and may be unveiled as a fraud. Instead recognize your worth as being uniquely yours. No one else has your experience or ideas. Yes, there may be experts who know more than you. But maybe their delivery or stories don’t resonate with the audience like yours. Someone in a position of authority thinks you’re a worthy speaker on your topic, right? You’ll feel more confidence, and less stress when you arrive on the stage believing in your expertise.”

So how do you unlearn thoughts and fears that might be subconscious, or deeply embedded? No big secret there, it takes practice.

“Challenge your beliefs before you meet your next audience. Write them down and speak them aloud,” Turner advised, “It might sound like this: I’m here to serve my audience. This is just one speech among many. I’ll be more confident when I’m not trying to perfect. I can’t control their judgments. I am enough of an expert.”



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