Speaking in front of other people — whether it’s on stage, during a conference call or just at a party — is an important challenge to those of us who choose to live our lives fearlessly.
Being fearless does not mean you will not feel fear.
It means you will feel the fear and do it anyway.
That is courage!
It’s about having an opinion, owning your opinion and voicing it in front of other people.
Fear Of Public Speaking
I’ve had many, many clients terrified of public speaking or who experience social anxiety at big parties.
When they have to step on a stage, speak to a group of people or speak up in meetings, they became paralyzed with fear.
“What if I don’t know what to say next?”
“What if I freeze?”
“What if people see me struggling?”
Why Is It So Terrifying?
We’ve all got an Inner Critic who cares what other people think, so it won’t shut up.
Like the worst ever helicopter mom, that part wants you to stay SAFE.
So it doesn’t WANT you up on stage!
To your Inner Critic, expressing yourself in front of other people who you can’t control causes you to feel like your standing with no clothes on in a snow storm confronting a grizzly bear.
That part doesn’t want you to do your job, if it means leaving yourself vulnerable to criticism, judgment or rejection.
Time To Get Into Discomfort
Your Inner Critic doesn’t understand you’ve got important work to do.
You have a choice… listen to the critic or do your thing.
You’ve got to be willing to get into your “discomfort zone” to do it.
Tips For Quieting Your Inner Critic
1. Your talk could be a game changer for someone in the audience.
It’s normal to worry that what you’re saying isn’t new or unique.
And maybe that is true.
But someone in the audience, even if they’ve heard what you are speaking about many times before from other sources, they may need to hear it from you…at that moment, for it to finally hit home.
It’s not possible to connect with everyone in the audience, but trust you’re definitely there for someone.
If you can help or persuade even one person, then you’ve fulfilled the purpose of your talk.
Before you begin speaking, it helps to scan your audience, wondering who that person might be.
Then show up for him or her.
2. Set your audience’s (and your) expectation.
Your Inner Critic loves to ask, “What makes you the expert? Surely, there are people in the audience who know more than you!”
Your critic may be right – you may not be THE expert.
Someone in your audience may know more than you.
If that is a worry or concern, you could start your presentation with a statement like, “I’m still getting up to speed on this, but here is what I have put together for you today…”
When you open with a statement like this, your Inner Critic won’t worry that you’ll have to live up to some kind of know-it-all guru-like status.
You’ve now set the audience’s expectation dial to “human.”
3. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know.
Do you cringe at the thought of having to take questions?
“What if someone asks me something I don’t know?”
Not knowing doesn’t make you less; it makes you human.
When you receive a question outside the realm of your expertise, mirror their curiosity, “Good question… ” and assure them you’ll do more research to find the answer.
The inquirer will appreciate that response much more than hearing you struggle for an answer.
You will also feel more relaxed, because you gave yourself permission to then move beyond the question.
Be who you are and know what you know – these are two things your Inner Critic can’t argue with.
4. Show up to give, not get attention.
The root cause of your Inner critic’s panic is it’s fear of being judged.
When you’re worried about what people think of you, you’re making it all about YOU instead of THEM.
You simply can’t control what other people think.
You may be surprised at just how liberating this understanding can be especially when you remind yourself of it regularly.
5. Make a just-in-case plan for the freeze.
So what do you do when your Inner Critic wakes up in the middle of your talk and puts a freeze on you?
Plan for it…
Be ready to execute one or more of these strategies to mollify your critic:
- Do this 5-second grounding exercise to get you back to where you need to be… take a deep breath in, imagine you’re breathing in courage and calm and exhaling out the fear and tension.
- Remind yourself this is not to make this about you – you’re here for them.
Remind yourself that you can’t control others’ perception of you.
- Bring in humor. You could say, “Sorry, I was all up in your business for a minute.” Or “Please enjoy the music while I get through this freeze moment.”
You’ve already set the stage that you’re human, so it’s all good.
What does your Inner Approval Critic say to you when you’re speaking in front of other people or social situations?
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