It seems the fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 73% of the population. The underlying fear is judgment or negative evaluation by others. Public speaking anxiety is considered a social anxiety disorder. Yep, I’ve been there and done that and you probably have too.
Now I’m no slouch when it comes to stepping out of my comfort zone. Over the years, I’ve ticked lots of things off my bucket list and even kept at some of them:
- A Bungy jump in New Zealand of course (but it was a one time only thing)
- A half marathon, when I’m not a runner – a tick in the box for this once only event as well
- Triathlon – when no-one mentioned ‘pool etiquette’ does not apply in the open water and triathletes swim directly over the top of you and you seriously think you’re going to drown.
- Tough Mudder and other obstacle course races in the freezing cold water or going through dark places when you’re claustrophobic
- Speaking at my dad’s funeral in my late 20’s (with the help of valium and sherry)
- Trying to speak at my sister’s funeral, which I couldn’t do (probably because I needed the help of valium and sherry)
- Public Speaking when some events go well and others not so well (luckily even people like Lisa Messenger admit to doing ‘howlers’ in the early days). Doesn’t help the stress levels though
- Collecting an award in New York and having my speech of a nano-second live-streamed around the world
Now I don’t say these things to toot my own horn, I just want you to put things in perspective when I say that singing for the first time in public when you have only been having lessons for less than a year is the scariest thing I.have.EVER.done.
Far more frightening than any of the above, including public speaking.
Let me tell you, last Saturday night when it was all over and I was back in the safety of my own home – I felt so invincible I could have stood on stage in front of a gazillion people in my pjs and ugg boots and presented an adhoc speech about what it’s like to being fearful on stage!
Here’s the challenge of singing in public, particularly for the first time (and probably for some time after this):
- You forget everything you have ever read or been told about breathing techniques and handling pressure
- People usually know the words you’re going to sing, so you can’t fudge it
- If you have a mental blank, you can’t ad-lib or turn it into a powerful pause
- It’s very obvious if you’re nervous because your voice wavers while trying to hold notes
- When you go flat, not only does it make you uncomfortable and throws you off your game, the audience cringe for you (think supportive smiling through gritted teeth)
Oh, how I could go on….
So here’s some tips for the next time you want to do some public speaking
- Like singing – find your unique presentation style. We tend to get caught up with what we think the audience expects
- Work out how you learn. It is pictures, learning in 2 minute or 5 minute blocks and then adding to it. Download the Self Confident Women’s eBook “Emotional Intelligence and Your Career” there are eLearning modules covering whatever issue you feel you need to work on
- Practice, practice, practice
- Don’t be too hard on yourself, if things don’t go quite to plan on the day
- There’s no such thing as perfect, so do the best you can
- In public speaking, it’s ok to forget what you were going to say, the audience doesn’t know your content and they say pauses are powerful. Take a breath, regroup and carry on
- and remember it could be worse – you could be singing!
Glenise Anderson is a Speaker, Behavioural Profiler & Coach who assists people to Transition Change with Confidence (and just wants to learn to hold a tune – let age be no barrier!)