The fear of public speaking is an epidemic, and people will do just about anything to cope with it.
Most deal with it using mental tricks, which is not actually wacky. As silly as it sounds to picture your audience in their underwear, the methodology behind it is actually on point. The fear is mental (although symptoms are physical) and a refined mental “trick” can actually work wonders.
The methods I prescribe, including mental techniques, deal with the root of the problem rather than a one-night stand with survival. Just “getting through” a speech is a Band Aid and nothing more. I guess that works for some people and so be it...even if I disagree with the means.
Though some of what we'll cover is actually done instinctively as a result of fear, the weirdness comes from the fact that people will use them deliberately in order to combat fear.
Basically, there are some weird methods people use to cope with their nervousness, and today we’re going to go over the weirdest:
1. Wear something really wacky
Think about wearing a funny coat (like a pimp jacket) while giving a speech. Or what about a wacky hat or some other shtick? One way that it helps is that it’s like wearing a costume or a mask. If the speaker wears it, they cannot be seen. And being hidden is safe.
There are other ways this helps, too. Since the speaker feels hidden, or at least their true self disguised, they feel the freedom to be a little wacky. In essence it’s an act.
Lastly, the absurdity of the wackiness takes the attention away from the speaker and puts it onto the shtick instead. So, it serves as a distraction to pull the attention away from the speaker, and that's exactly how a nervous speaker likes it!
2. Look at the wall...just above their heads
This one I suppose wouldn’t be so awkward if done in front of a large audience, and with minimal lighting above the audience members nearest the back of the room. Okay, it’s still pretty wacky. Anything that requires overt tricks which prevent you from making a direct connection with the audience (eye contact being the most intimate) is not something I’d recommend.
When a speaker makes eye contact with me, it’s something I take note of. Using this trick would mean that nobody in the entire audience will be able to make that connection with you.
3. Look at the center of the forehead!
Instead of looking the audience members in the eye, focus smack dab in the middle of the forehead!!! Sounds like a clever idea, right? Not really. It's actually very obvious when someone is "looking" at you but not really. If anything it creates unnecessary questions in the minds of the audience, which detract from what you're speaking about.
Apart from that, it could be construed as some weird form of deception. Do you want to come off as a deceptive creep in order to cope with your nerves? Is it worth it? Looking above their heads toward the back wall might be a better option if eye contact gets your fear-jollies all riled up...
4. Look at the ground
Here we have another case of “If I can’t see you, you can’t see me.” In fact, that reminds me of the movie Big Daddy with Adam Sandler. In it, Adam Sandler’s son gets nervous in front of strangers and so he (Sandler) gives his son a pair of sunglasses that supposedly make him invisible…just as long as the sunglasses are on.
Spoiler alert! They don’t actually work, and neither does looking at the floor when standing in front of an audience. They’re still looking at you. But if it makes you feel less nervous...
5. Hide behind the lectern
Using a lectern is quite common for politicians and academic speakers. Some of them may benefit from the lectern in regards to nerves, but definitely not the primary reason those types of speakers use one. What I’m referring to are speakers that have an opportunity to freely use the stage, but that instead choose to glue themselves to the lectern for fear of drowning in, well, fear.
For the same reasons people cover their crotch with their hands, the lectern also serves as a means of protection from the scary audience. It creates a physical shield which provides a sense of security. I guess if you have a lectern and your anxiety is on high alert, why not use it?
6. Glue yourself to your notes
Reading non-stop from notes is the equivalent to adding another wall of defense to protect against the audience. Since the notes are likely on a lectern, this is double protection. The speaker feels that a) they don’t even have to look at the audience and b) the audience can’t even see them because they’re hidden behind the lectern. Now that’s some serious safety!
Might as well wear a wacky hat while you're at it. Then you get triple action defense!
7. "Forget" to wear your eyeglasses
This one came to me by way of an esteemed doctor who regularly speaks to his peers in the medical community. After he told me that he gets nervous when speaking, he said that to get over his nerves, he simply "forgets" to wear his glasses.
Why would this matter? Well, without them he can't see past a few feet in front of him. He told me he can tell when he is looking at a someone's face, but it's all a blurry mess. So, again, we find the same thinking of: "If I can't see you, you can't see me." Sneaky sneaky, Doc! This is very clever I must admit.
If you need glasses to see beyond a couple of feet, maybe this is the method for you!
There's no doubt that the fear of public speaking is real, and people deal with it in any way they can, even if it means parlor tricks. I'm sure there's more wacky methods out there, but we covered 7 of them. Some wackier than others 🙂
Oh yeah, there's one more I forgot to mention. I asked a couple of pros (Nick Morgan) what the wackiest technique they had heard of was, and this is what I got...
Not bad. This could get pretty expensive, though.
These are a few weird and wacky ways that might just work for you. If you'd prefer to overcome the fear for good, I'd recommend maintaining some of your dignity and doing something a little more permanent, perhaps this.
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About this guy...
Howdy! My name is Matt Kramer and I used to suffer excruciating death when speaking in front of a group, now I LOVE it. Overcoming this fear has changed my life and it can change yours, too. My focus is to help you overcome the fear of public speaking so you can build the confidence to go after what you want in life.