While addressing a celebration party for the successful completion of an oil & gas project in Guwahati, the General manager of OIL India, invited our project manager, my ex-boss and myself to the stage.
After presenting the bouquet, the GM handed over the Mic to my project manager to say a few words.
But.. you know, It’s me…my heartbeat was fast. Might be, after project manager, my ex-boss would speak and then might be, it’s my turn! I had to deliver a speech! Me??? I found….Hands shaking…….Forehead sweats……The mouth goes dry……Stomach hurts….I felt Light-headed (lack of oxygen)….Shallow breathing.
It was like I had a panic attack!
Fortunately..( Or Unfortunately???) My Boss observed my condition. He whispered if you want, you can go back to your seat! I might be waiting to hear that!!!
I hurried back to my allotted seat. Relieved.
But feeling defeated! Also, Humiliated! Disgusted!
Was it Me???
Though a bit relaxed but that feeling of running away! It’s like a total surrender!!!
That was me. It’s ten years back!
I had been a victim of fear of public speaking.
As per the study, Out of the top ten global fears, fear of public speaking is termed as the greatest fear that hinders personal growth. This fear of public speaking surpasses the fear of death which is also termed necrophobia.
Fear of public speaking is also termed as glossophobia
The word come from the Greek root “glossa” which means ‘tongue’ and the root “phobia” means ‘fear’
It’s the biggest career stopper!
As Fear of public speaking is concerned, There are 4-category people.
The Avoider -They have so much anxiety that they will go to any length to avoid it. They may even give up promotions or pass up job opportunities to avoid the spotlight
The Anticipator– They start getting nervous as soon as they hear a speech, presentation or job interview is scheduled.
The Adrenaliser-They become nervous just before the event and are suddenly hit with a surge of energy
The Improviser-They are the last-minute type who either put off preparing or spend no time preparing.
Can you say…. where I stood on that day? I mean which type. Avoider..? Anticipator? Adrenalizer? Or Improviser ??
I think I was not only Avoider, I was also an anticipator and also a mix of Adrenalizers and Improvisers.
Now, come to hidden obstacles…you know…there are six deadly fears associated with public speaking.
Fear of…criticism or being judged.How people will judge me, How I will react against silly judgement.
Fear of…forgetting. What will happen if I forget.
Fear of…embarrassment or humiliation. If I make a mess, I will be humiliated. It often happens.
Fear of…failure…If I fail to deliver the speech
Fear of….unknown.sometimes it exists in the unconscious or subconscious mind. Very difficult to find out.
Fear of…bad past experiences. If something bad happens in past that will hunt you.
You know, who are the transmitters for these?
It’s not a blame game. Sometimes by parents, siblings, peers, outside the home by some authority figure.
Once identified which category of person we are and know your fear, we can rest assured: half of the race is already won!!!
Here is a quick fix. Against all deadly fear of public speaking, we can reframe it.
I am a poised and confident speaker and I handle all challenges gracefully.
That day,s humiliation I still carried was also, because, I carried a Myth.
My nervousness is worse than anybody else which is totally baseless. Refer history and you will so find many great communicators like.
American president-Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln. Then, Mr Bean fame Rowan Atkinson, adventurer and billionaire Sir Richard Branson, Famous Golf Player Tiger Wood.
American business magnate Warren Buffet and the list will go on and on.
My running away from the stage was also.. adrenaline-based.
As you know. adrenaline is our body’s way of preparing for crucial moments.
As per Charles Darwin, despite reasoning powers, we humans use to react in accordance with our primitive instincts which is fight-or-flight response–a physiological reaction either to flee from danger or fight it.
But in a stage freight, can we flee every time. No way. So, we have to fight it.
Adrenaline is actually our friend; it makes your body and brain work better. We need to get used to it that it will give us an extra boost for our speech performance.
And, we can follow three simple tools to overcome the fear of public speaking. And, Of course, all these tools are absolutely free.
Water, air and…??
Third one? Lets it be a secret for time being.
We should drink plenty of water to make ourselves hydrated so that our mouth and throat won’t get dried up.
Also, we need to learn proper breathing techniques which is belly breath or diaphragmatic breath or in simplest terms, we can name it Deep Breathing.
We can do it by expanding our stomach like the bulb of an eyedropper. With each breath in, we have to deliberately expand it till the belly fills with more oxygen and during breath out, we have to squeeze the belly to take out all carbon dioxide towards the lungs.
And, the third one??
A set of vocal warm-ups.
Before any speaking engagement, warming up of vocal chord is the best way to start. By vocal warm-up exercise, you give them a chance to loosen up and relax. As you may be knowing, releasing tension from the body and voice also reduces your chances of injuring your voice muscle. As through vocal warm-up exercise, one stretch vocal cords, you can find yourself better prepared to deliver the speech with better posture.
So Friends, with these tools, what we can do???
We can also speak without fear.
You know, our nation’s father figure, the great communicator, the great leader, Mahatma Gandhi also suffered frequent panic attacks in his student life. If He can overcome, why not we??
To overcome fear, we should first know, from where Fear generates in our body.
Of course, the fear reaction starts in the brain and spreads through the body to make smart adjustments for our defence or flight reaction for our benefit only. This fear response starts in a vital region of the brain called the amygdala. The almond-shaped set of nuclei in the temporal lobe of the brain is responsible for the emotional reaction that is how much something means to us.
As a matter of fact, the amygdala activates whenever we see a human face with an emotion. This reaction is more pronounced in case we stand in front of thousands of people looking at the speaker on stage and fear develops.
But the most interesting part is, Amygdala learns from the experience. It can not identify whether FEAR is real or fake.
But as due to this public speaking situation, fear once develops, it leads to bodily changes that prepare us to be more efficient in a dangerous situation like public speaking. Like my that celebration ceremony situation, the brain becomes hyperalert, pupils dilate, the bronchi dilate and breathing accelerates. Heart rate and blood pressure rise.
Another part of the brain called the hippocampus is closely connected with the amygdala. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex help the brain interpret the perceived threat. They are involved in a higher-level processing of context, which helps a person know whether a perceived threat is real or fake.
For that, simply we can do one thing. Let our Amygdala faces the fear again and again. That means, we have to go to face public speaking engagement again and again. Over time, the amygdala will learn from the new experience that is to face the audience in public speaking and will realise that the fear is not real.
That’s why FEAR has an acronym which is False Evidence Appearing Real!
So, Face the fear. As I am facing the greatest challenge that is the Fear of Public speaking.
Slowly, your definition of Fear will be going to change like mine.
FEAR-Fear Everything And Run to FEAR- Face Everything And Rise.
As the new definition of FEAR is based on scientific facts of the Amygdala learns from experience, you can easily overcome the greatest fear of public speaking and of course, your personal growth is bound to escalate to a new height.