“I wonder- did I tag this as journal piece because of my public speaking and wanting to do it correctly, or because Janet Esposito is a social worker? So many things one can do with a MSW. Lord, lead the way”
I am the last person to deny how agonizing the fear of public speaking can be. But I’ve learned, personally and through my work with many coaching clients, that the more we let go of our need to conquer the fear, the more it eases naturally.
To heal the roots of why we’re afraid, it’s best to work on three levels.
We must slow the body down at the moment the fight-or-flight reaction wants to speed us up. This means we need to deliberately move more slowly, speak more slowly, and respond more slowly.
Deepen your breath, letting go of tension with each exhalation. You may want to associate the breathwork with counting, calming phrases like “let go,” or visual imagery, such as a wave gently rolling in and out.
Say to yourself, “I know these feelings are unpleasant, but it’s okay. I know they won’t hurt me; they’re simply uncomfortable.”
Research shows that people who relate to a stressful event as a challenge release epinephrines and norepinephrines. These hormones lead to a more empowered and even euphoric feeling.
Don’t brace yourself for calamity; focus your attention on what you want to create. When you catch yourself feeling anxious, reach for a better-feeling thought (e.g., “If I lose my composure, I can regain it”).
If you find this difficult at first, keep inching your way over, being slightly less negative and more positive.
When we’re driven by our ambitions, we’re more strongly identified with our ego than with our heart. Imagine leading with your heart.
Look at individual people in your audience and feel compassion. Think about the burdens many of them are carrying in their lives.
Consider the anxiety and fear that we all share as part of being human. Focus on your true purpose in speaking and performing, and remind yourself this is not about you; it’s about the information, inspiration, or enjoyment you can provide for others.
This excerpt is adapted from Janet Esposito’s book “Getting Over Stage Fright” (Love Your Life Publishing, 2009).
I love this real, sound advice. It is much better than the advice I often hear on campus “Imagine them all in their underwear.” That is bullshit advice if I ever heard any. I have spoken in public countless times, and imagining someone in their underwear has never relaxed me or put me at ease. I have strengthened my voice and presentation over time by the tips above and many others. My way to overcome fear of anything is to jump right in. What’s yours?