The fear of public speaking

Ground full of people, who are staring at you expectantly waiting for you to grasp that microphone and speak your truth. A microphone is a powerful weapon wielded by the ones of confidence, who have faith in their material, but why is such a situation an anxiety trap for some? Do they just not have something to share with society? I find that unlikely. The biggest barrier between them and public speaking is interestingly the society itself – the irony doesn’t fall on blind eyes. Why are we the ones holding the speaker up, well put in layman’s terms we are judgemental? When we listen to their talk we make an opinion of them, partially on their material and the rest on their mannerism; command of the crowd; confidence.

My father recalls fondly of his public speaking days, having delivered numerous talks, he had amassed quite the experience. “Imagine taking a walk through the jungle, already on the edge you hear a rustle in the bushes behind you. Your sudden reaction is that of either flight or fight, you chose to run away. But hops out a timid rabbit, and you find yourself quite embarrassed of running away from the rabbit because you presumed it to be much worse.” He says it’s this assumption of it being a lion you couldn’t have slain put you off but it wasn’t one, our mind played a trick on us and we fell for it. This analogy ties in with an important factor of public speaking- stage command. An important tool to wield the powerful weapon of public speaking.

Another aspect is the widely accepted 7-38-55 rule. It states that 7% of our communications is our word choice, 38% our tonality, and 55% our body language. A stark contrast to public belief that content is everything. Content indeed is not everything, putting an idea across with success requires confidence, stage command, and faith in the idea you chose to communicate with others. An idea you do not believe in, yet you put across with endearment is not likely to be successful- it might be considered manipulating the room.

A study found 97% of public speakers practice their speech before they go on stage, which proves that the conventional method has to be effective but is it enough? A question-and-answer thread suggests other methods to improve and build on our delivery of the speech. Having a good topic is a good start but knowing the ins and outs of the topic is important. We have to be well informed on any topic we decide to share with the room. Moving forward portraying a sense of confidence is important, if you’re confident you already have control in the room, the crowd should work on your cues they have to connect with the material and speaker to soak in the information that is being given to them. Preparation is key, being prepared for all the audio/visual cues and planning for any mishaps is crucial to have a smooth flowing speech. Finally, practice relentlessly, it is the most tried and tested method which links all the above measures together; practice will fine-tune all the kinks out of the speech and would also serve as a confidence booster to make you ready for the day and make look you forward to it. Now, this doesn’t mean that a little apprehension is bad, in fact, it is quite helpful; it will make you alert and aware of your surroundings, and if the need arises to adapt or change as per your observation of the crowd you could do just that.

“It is all but a performance”