How to manage public speaking fear

Since the start of this year Bird has been delivering an ever increasing programme of training, workshops and presentations. Last night we were delivering a presentation on resilience for to a group of 40 people in the non profit and public sectors. It was a brilliant experience and the topic resonated enormously with our audience.

I haven’t always felt as confident as I did last night with public speaking. I have a public speaking gremlin that has been known to wrestle with me internally during key moments of address. This gremlin is barely visible to the outside world, but it makes for a very hot, sweaty and unpleasant journey through the delivery of a presentation.

I know I am not alone in having a public speaking gremlin, so many of us wrestle with this fear.

But I have come up with three approaches to tackle it, which I invite you to try should you know exactly the kind of gremlin I’m talking about.

1. Tame the gremlin! Identify that you have one and give it some form, picture it as a being, and imagine it is separate from you. Give it 30 seconds to say all it needs to say (eg. ‘who do you think you are?’ ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about’ ‘No one is interested.’) And then give a clear, concise response to your gremlin, such as ‘thank you gremlin, I hear what you are saying but it’s not helpful right now.’ Also buy the book ‘Taming your Gremlin’ by Rick Carson.

2. Be self compassionate. Last night before I spoke I decided to keep quiet at the side of the room rather than network and do some deep breathing and give myself a few affirmations. After the session I was able to talk and engage with everyone, but for me, a bit of self-support prior to the session is key.

3. Do a s**t load of presentations! Get so used to them that they are a walk in the park, they are second nature and you forget what on earth you were worried about in the first place. If you keep doing presentations, and if in some of them you say the ‘wrong’ thing or you get a bit hot and bothered and you see that by doing these things you don’t end up dying, a little bit of your gremlin’s power and energy dies. You prove to your gremlin that messing up or ‘failing’ doesn’t kill you, and so it becomes easier to take the stage once again.

In the words of Liz Gilbert, onwards friends! Go out there and be seen.

Sending love, Hannah

*Image by Davide Ragusa

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