I have taught many classes and spoken to many different groups. When I first began, I was nervous and my performance wasn’t so great, but as I became more comfortable in front of groups my performance improved significantly. So did the experience of those attending. It took me quite a few years to learn how to be comfortable, though I could’ve learned much quicker, had I known how much easier it really is to overcome a phobia of public speaking.
In many of my classes I help teach others how to eliminate their phobia of public speaking. Usually I can get them to overcome the phobia permanently within a few minutes. The problem is that most people never take action to put the fear to rest and, therefore, they just continue to feel afraid when speaking, which reinforces the fear, or they simply avoid public speaking all together. In both cases, there is never an attempt to actually face and overcome the fear.
So how do you overcome a public speaking phobia? It is actually possible to permanently lose this fear within a few minutes. I have seen it happen numerous times. I will illustrate with a story.
I once had a young female student who was very timid. When in front of a group, her shoulders slumped, her head was down, her eyes were down, her voice was very quiet and she would constantly fiddle with something in her hands. Her body language immediately communicated failure and fear.
After class I took her aside and asked her to tell me what she was thinking about just before she got up to speak. She replied that she was nervous and was thinking about how much she didn’t want to speak, how she wasn’t any good at it, how she was going to fail and how she just wanted to get it over with. I told her that this was exactly why she did so poorly at speaking; she had convinced herself she couldn’t do it. I asked her to come 15 minutes early the following day and be ready to speak again.
The following day when she arrived I could see that she was already beating herself up in her thoughts. Her body language looked as it did when she spoke the previous day. One by one, I pointed out each detail of her body language that communicated fear and failure.
Then, I asked her to show me how someone who is a terrific speaker would stand. Instantly her entire posture and facial expression changed. She stood straight and proud and looked directly at me. I asked her to speak like someone who is a good speaker. After a few attempts she was speaking louder than I ever heard her speak before.
Then I asked her to go into the empty room next door and, until the start of the class, stand, move and speak like someone who is an excellent speaker. I told her, no matter what, for those 10 minutes, she must maintain this attitude. And, most important, for those 10 minutes, the content of her speech would change. Instead, she would tell her invisible audience how great of a speaker she is, how natural it comes to her and how she really enjoys it.
Already noticing an improvement from her change in posture and volume of voice, she did as I instructed. Soon I could hear her voice booming through the closed door. When she returned to the classroom she walked confidently up to the front of the class and had the audience hanging on her every word. Everyone was shocked at how completely transformed she was. She never had any fear of public speaking after that.
If you want to know how to overcome a phobia of public speaking, try this out for yourself. You may be amazed how easy it is to put this fear to rest. Many times, all it takes is a simple change of mindset or how we use our bodies to allow us to quickly and permanently conquer our fears.