Many – if not most – speakers experience nerves. They are normal, and can often be turned to your advantage. The fear which powers them is perfectly rational on one level, since speaking in public is a potentially stressful thing to do. The truth is, however, that there’s nothing to worry about, particularly when you arm yourself with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel onstage.
Still, glossophobia – the fear of public speaking – is sufficiently widely spread that its symptoms are common and recognisable. In fact, I’ve gathered them together into a syndrome I call Presenteritis.
Presenteritis causes a blank mind and dry mouth, butterflies in the tummy and cold feet. Very often it causes sweating and high heart rates. The cruellest thing about the condition is that the very symptoms with which it is associated actually make it harder to speak. That is, by being afraid of public speaking you are actually getting worse at it!
It’s hard to speak when your mind is racing, and it’s tough to stand calmly and confidently when your legs are trembling. So what’s to be done? The good news is that Presenteritis is fairly easily cured, and that its symptoms clear up almost immediately.
I offer courses focused on overcoming Presenteritis, but here are some top tips free of charge …
The best way to beat your fear of public speaking is by doing it. Presenteritis is so debilitating because it makes it harder to speak – your throat tightens and you can’t get your words out, or you stutter and lose your diction. Because it is a syndrome caused by fear, overcoming that fear is the only way to beat it.
Let me explain. Take one symptom of the syndrome: a squeaky voice. This is caused by tension in the muscles. Your neck muscles contract, drawing up your shoulders and pulling your head down. This has the effect of narrowing the range of voice – and audiences will hear this.
If, on the other hand, you are confident enough to hold your head up high and relax – well, your voice will be just fine. How, though, can you get there? Easy: through practice.
Psychologists have a technique called exposure therapy. An exposure therapist will make you spend a lot of time – up close and personal – with spiders in order to cure your arachnophobia. It might sound counter-intuitive, but exposure therapy is in fact the best known treatment for phobias of all kind.
In other words, if you’re afraid of speaking you should speak more often. Your fear is having a physical effect on the quality of your speaking, and this experience will seem to justify your fear. In fact, Presenteritis is just a sign you haven’t yet spoken enough. So – face your fears. Speaker, heal thyself – perhaps with a little help from your friends? Drop me a line and we can get talking.