A Coaching Power Tool created by Leah Braun
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
There are many ways to approach an intimidating task. Tasks such as performing in an orchestra, competing in a race, or public speaking are just a few examples of tasks that can be frightening for people. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines fear as,
… to be afraid of, expect with alarm, or to feel fear in.
It is natural, in fact healthy, to feel some stress before a task where one will be ‘in the spotlight.’ It is not healthy or helpful to let that fear prevent one from performing or ruin the performance. Rather, it is useful to recognize the fear, manage it, and go forth with confidence. Merriam Webster further states that confidence is,
… a feeling or consciousness of one’s power or of reliance on ones circumstances.
It is a faith or belief that a person will be effective and do a good job. Below is an example of how the paradigm of confidence vs. fear can be managed when one is speaking publicly.
The mere thought of public speaking has many people panicked. Yet most of us at one time or another has been called on to speak in front of others. For many of us doing so is a regular part of our jobs. I am one such person. Until recently I was a Chaplain Assistant in the South Dakota Army National Guard. In this role I was asked to speak publicly in a variety of forums: to report to high-ranking officers in staff meetings; to teach suicide prevention courses; to lead marriage retreats; and in many other situations. After I speak I often get positive feedback such as,
You’re so confident up there! or You are such a good public speaker.
What the individuals who give those flattering comment don’t know is that I have to work very hard before I speak and there was a time when I was completely stifled by fear and couldn’t do it at all. That is an entirely separate topic; what I want to share here is how I achieve confidence and overcome the fear to speak each and every time I do speak publicly.
- Give yourself credit and praise for wanting to improve the skill of public speaking. Some people avoid it at all costs.
- Go easy on yourself. Public speaking is a skill that must be developed. Anyone can learn to do it. Don’t beat yourself up for being afraid; it’s something that we want to do well and fear creeps in when we think we can’t do it well and will embarrass ourselves.
- Look for opportunities to be in front of a group. Perhaps assisting someone who is speaking or teaching. Feel yourself gaining confidence as you realize you can do it and that not all of the attention is on you.
- Look for opportunities to speak publicly. What groups, organizations and work situations are you part of where you may be able to practice this skill? Consider joining a group whose aim is to improve public speaking, such as Toast Masters.
- Try to pick out characteristics of speakers you admire rather than telling yourself, “I want to speak just like so and so.” Instead, say, “I want to create energy or be funny like so and so.” This mindset gives you freedom to develop your style while focusing on the type of public speaking you look up to.
- Start small. Don’t envision yourself in front of 300 people. This may be an eventual goal for you but what about speaking in front of 3 people? How about 10? How about 25?
- Start as informally as possible. Are you able to comfortably share an idea to a group of co-workers? Can you do this seated around a table rather than standing?
- After you speak, allow some time for self-reflection. How did you feel? Did it go as planned? Were you as confident as you had hoped? Acknowledge yourself for completing the speaking. Forgive yourself if you did not do as you had hoped. There’s always another opportunity.
- Recognize that you may have a legitimate anxiety issue. If that is the case you will want to speak with a doctor and possibly a counselor. Medication such as a beta-blocker may be necessary.