I’m sure you’ve heard of Dear Abby, right? If not, look it up. It's an advice column for just about all things life.
I’ve decided to do my own version called Dear Matty (should be enough to keep the copyright attorneys at bay).
Except, to keep it in line with Tactical Talks, the questions and advice will primarily deal with public speaking.
It might even become a regular column on the blog. Only time will tell.
Here goes it!
Hey Matty, you punk ass!
I was recently asked to coordinate a meeting at work (WTF were they thinking, right???). Basically, I’ll be keeping the meeting on topic and making sure that it moves along. Like an M.C.
This will be a first for me and it’s only a WEEK away! Sure, I know what I’m supposed to do, but it’s still pretty scary having to stand in front of people.
These are my colleagues...I steal their lunches for crying out loud, now I have to lead them by way of public speaking? I feel like they’ll see right through me and ask me to pay them back for all the stolen lunches.
What can I do to feel more confident and not poop my pants? You better write back soon or else!
Joey The Lunch Bandit
I’ll ignore the choice words you opened and closed your letter with.
First things first, here’s a suggestion: stop eating your colleagues’ lunches (at least until after your upcoming meeting).
So, you want to feel more confident in this public speaking situation at work? Perfect. This is actually a fairly common occurrence which is interesting because most people assume they’ll never have to do any public speaking. They’re usually wrong.
I’ll do my best to prepare you Joey.
Since you don’t have much time, let’s get started.
1. Accepting is crucial
You ever seen the movie There Will Be Blood?
It’s not There MIGHT Be Some Blood, it’s telling you straight up that there’s gonna be blood.
Similarly, if there were a movie about public speaking, it would be called There Will Be Fear. There’s simply no way around it. Whether you call the physical and mental turmoil fear, or excitement, or energy, it’s all the same thing.
Calling it "excitement" is a good start, since fear has more of a negative connotation. Call it whatever you want, but understand that you’re going to feel “something.”
The anxiety that builds up inside you when you know you’re about to stand in front of an audience is 100% normal. Accept it ahead of time, that way you don’t get rattled when it does show up.
What this doesn’t mean: It does NOT mean memorize your words.
What this DOES mean: It means get a structure and even write up a mini-agenda for what’s going to take place at the meeting, even if only for your personal use.
That will give you a route to follow. It doesn’t have to be followed exactly, but a direction is all you need. The mini-agenda can also serve as notes which will give you peace of mind, knowing you’re safe from forgetting and getting the infamous “white out” (where your ability to think fails you).
Then, the night before, get everything together that you’ll need to conduct the meeting. Notes, mini-agenda, paperwork, outfit, water bottle, chap stick, jockstrap, etc. Put it all together and set it in a place that you will not forget to look for it.
Blocking your front door is a good option if you don’t have a habitual place where you put your keys, wallet, purse, or phone every night before bed.
Finally, on your way to the meeting, listen to a motivational song. It could be any type of music, you know yourself best. It just has to pump you up. Music is one of the most effective ways to get yourself mentally prepared.
With these steps you’ll be as prepared as you need to be.
3. Control Yourself
I’m referring to controlling your physical body.
The most effective way to do this, in all high pressure situations, is to take deep breaths.
When? As soon as you feel your heart beating faster. That is the telltale sign that the “excitement” has arrived. But remember step number 1, you have already accepted that it would, so it won’t rattle you, right?
Regardless, now’s the time to keep your cool as much as possible, and the physiological way to do this is to take deep breaths.
Inhale...3-5 seconds...exhale...3-5 seconds. Repeat this 3-5 times or as needed to calm your body and heart-rate. Don’t hold your breath too long and pass out, though. If you start to get light-headed, exhale.
The benefit is that you will be able to calm down the fight-or-flight intensity that comes with fear.
Fight-or-flight is our body’s response to fear, and its only concern is survival. Conscious thought or the ability to remember anything is not important to the art of survival, and so those brain functions get shut down.
This exact thing is triggered by the fear of public speaking, which is why there are so many accounts of the mid-speech white-out.
Deep breathing helps counteract these effects and prevents your mind from getting carried away to the land of glossophobia.
Sum it up!
You said it was your first time and that’s an important statement. Since you’re brand new, it would be foolish of me to throw the book at you.
An info-overload will make things worse unless you are able to spread the knowledge out over multiple speaking opportunities. I’m assuming this isn’t going to become your day job...so focus on these three things.
- Accept that you will feel "fear"
- Prepare yourself so you have a roadmap—DON’T MEMORIZE
- Breathe to keep your body a subordinate
That’s it. I’d get started if I were you Joey. Hope to hear from you soon.
Public Speaking Fear Eliminator
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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.