There is no such thing as public speaking.
Sound impossible? If you suffer from fear of public speaking, the claim must truly seem absurd. Yet it’s absolutely true.
Before I reveal the method in my madness, let's examine a simple yet inescapable fact: Each of us learns to dread this thing we call “public speaking.” Fear doesn’t emerge in a vacuum. And it doesn't grow stronger without our help.
Making Speaking Enjoyable
Speaking in public, then, becomes anxiety-provoking because we make it so. That's the case in part because we forget that it should be enjoyable, not painful. After all, the things we hope to achieve in a speech or presentation are the very same goals we aim for in interpersonal communication:
- We want to be heard.
- We want to connect with people.
- We’d like to help people if we can.
- We’re offering guidance or leadership.
- We want to express our emotions.
- We’d like to bring about positive outcomes in people’s lives.
In our professional lives too, speaking in meetings and to larger audiences has the same end-goals we'd aim for if we were talking one-on-one to stakeholders:
- We need to convey important information.
- We’re trying to solve a problem.
- We have a vision we want to share with others.
- Our product or service meets a need, and we want to tell people about it.
And in the enjoyable moments of our lives as well, we speak to communicate what matters most to us, as one human being to others:
- We wish to honor a person or an organization.
- It’s a special occasion, and we want to say something about it.
- We’d like to share something interesting or funny with our audience.
In all of these situations--personal, social, and professional--we’re trying to move people: to positively change the way they think, feel, or behave. And so we talk to them to make that happen.
Talking Works, "Giving a Speech" Doesn't
We talk—and that little word says it all. We don’t orate, declaim, rant, or recite. We have a conversation with someone who is listening, which is the most natural and effective way for one human being to communicate with a person or a group.
When we do this with family, friends, colleagues, and chums, we speak easily and naturally. Our voice, body language, personality, and sense of humor emerge effortlessly. It’s just us, sharing something we hope our listeners will find interesting.
But a change takes place when we speak in more formal settings. That’s when nervousness and self-consciousness really kick in. Suddenly, those individuals we talk to effortlessly become part of a huge creature: an AUDIENCE, with hundreds of eyes, hands, and feet.
Now we’re no longer in an easy conversation with people. Instead, we’re GIVING A SPEECH; and in this arena of supreme danger and stage fright, we're hoping simply to survive!
What we’ve done, of course, is create an inner reality that’s much worse than the actual one. We sense danger when there really isn’t any. Is it any wonder that we race through our speech, fearful and uncomfortable, demonstrating at every moment how unpleasant it is to speak in front of others?
You Hold the Key to Your Own Success
Here’s the good news—the great news—about not only surviving but thriving in situations like this: You already know how to be a confident and dynamic public speaker. In fact, you’ve been using the exact skills, in just the right way, your whole life.
You just haven’t realized it.
So here’s the secret that’s not such a secret about reducing speaking anxiety:
“Public speaking” is nothing more than a conversation with more than one person.
If you happen to be standing up while giving your speech or presentation, then it’s simply a conversation on your feet.
In other words, you’re perfectly positioned to talk your way through your fear of public speaking. In fact, that’s the only way to do it! And here's more good news: To be good at speaking in public—to be fully confident and to enjoy it—you just have to speak as you would in a one-on-one conversation.
There’s never a need for you to become “better” than you would be while chatting with your friends. In fact, it’s the attempt to do so which makes you feel like you don’t look or sound like yourself. No wonder, because you don’t!
Talking—just talking—to people is what will make you come across at your absolute best. There really is nothing fancier or more scientific you need to know about speaking with confidence. When you speak like yourself rather than that "excellent speaker" you’d like to be, you maximize the talents you already have in abundance.
So congratulations on being an interesting person who has something to say. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.