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‹ View all articles 3rd September 2013

Ginger Video Nibble 1: Why do we find public speaking so scary?

Nerves and Confidence

Hello, there! I’m Sarah Lloyd Hughes, author of “How to be brilliant at public speaking”. And I’m on a secret mission to help public speakers communicate in an authentic and fearless way. To actually give you permission that being yourself is not only enough, but it’s precisely what makes you a powerful communicator. So my plan is to do a mini-series of nibbles of ginger wisdom just for you to give your public speaking and your confidence more broadly a general shove in the right direction. Nothing fancy. Nothing too professional. Just few tips from me in my bedroom talking on camera in an in-formal way.
And the first thing I want to share with you is something people ask me a lot, “Why do people get so afraid of public speaking?” Now, if we look at it look at it biologically, eyes looking at us, they remind us of being under the watchful eyes of a predator. In the wild, it’s not good to stand out too much because it normally means that you’re going to be singled out for a nice dinner of a predator. So the animal instincts kick in. The fright-flight or freeze. That’s why we start to sweat. We start to get adrenaline in funny parts of the body, in the arms, in the legs - because we’re ready to run away from danger. But when we come back to our senses, we realized that we’re not in danger. We’re just standing on stage being looked at by people, feeling a little bit awkward. So we can’t reasonably run away from that situation. But the feeling of that is what makes us feel scared of public speaking.
Now, the problem is not so much the feeling but what we do with that feeling. We judge it. We judge it as nervousness. We judge nervousness as wrong. We say to ourselves, “Gosh, if I’m nervous, the audience are going to see me. They’re going to think I’m not a good public speaker and I’m going to fail. Now, the feeling is not the problem, it’s the judgement of the feeling. Because the judgement of the feeling makes us react in a way that we try to squash it and therefore we give it even more energy and it makes us even more panicky.
So what we really need to do instead is just notice the feeling. Let ourselves know that it is just a feeling. It’s just a natural, biological reaction to public speaking. Then, let it pass. When we let it pass, the wobbles, the shakes, the fidgets, the bright red feeling, they settle. They settle and we can do a better a job.
So the fear of public speaking is not a problem in itself. The nerves that is attached to public speaking is not a problem in itself. The problem is when you judge it and make it wrong. Enjoy your fear. Let it relax. Let it pass and you’ll do a great job with your speaking. 
Watch out for more Ginger Nibble Videos on public speaking, public speaking nerves and other great public speaking tips.

 

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