Glossophobia. The fear of public speaking. It is a fear that affects millions of people around the world. It can inspire fear, anxiety, dread, panic — overall unpleasant feelings. Some are excited by it, they feel anticipation, a thrill, a rush – even joy! It has a power over us (whether exciting or terrifying) that needs to be addressed so that we can perform our best and have impactful communications.
It’s interesting, there aren’t many articles or blogs on how to shape or control the excitement people experience, yet this is a common topic for many of our clients who need to rein in or manage the impulsive performer in themselves. That said, there are absolutely countless articles, blogs, YouTube presentations, and talks out there teaching people “How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking.” But here’s the thing, this isn’t about overcoming that fear, it’s about harnessing that energy and using it for something better!
Occasionally, there is no guidance, just an expectation that you are simply good or should do it right, and it will be felt and seen when ‘it’s’ right. Most of The Human Communication Studio’s clients approach public speaking without any training or guidance, or, they are trying to do what works for someone else.
The Human Communication Studio is focused on developing skills that support the communicator in being understood clearly and building a skill base that is also a vehicle for problem-solving when issues come up. Of course, most of the requests for support are for the types of communications that are risky, have an audience of more than one, and dredge up nerves. An interview, presentation, speech, an oral exam or defense are just a few of the possible situations that generate fear or nerves in the speaker. In all of these situations, there is one thing you have control over: you. Build your skills, gain confidence, and know what to do with those nerves!
Handling the Fear of Public Speaking with The Power of Performance
The performing arts produce performers that learn how to deal with stage fright, fear, and nerves all the time! It is a necessary part of being successful. A director might be grounded in any number of theater art traditions, philosophies, or techniques that all influence the approach to acting and performing but it is up to the actor to manage their own worries and discomfort, to make themselves malleable for the best performance.
Part of the work we engage in here at HCS borrows from the proven training, skills, and strategies of the performing artist’s physical toolset that support all aspects of public presentations, including fear and nerves. You aren’t going to simply overcome your fear of public speaking, but you will be able to transform it into something powerful!
Speaking in public, to lend voice and body to make a point, give an answer, share a story, teach a concept, or demonstrate expertise demands more from every person doing it than their regular everyday interactions. Yet, most of the basic skills involved are essentially the same.
Some people are naturally inclined to express themselves vocally and physically throughout their day. They are practicing a skill set whether they realize it or not. Those regular, day to day interactions help set them up for success in a more pressure-filled communication. Those that are not as inclined may not be practicing that skill set daily, putting them at a disadvantage when those pressure-filled communications come along. Most of the time, people are not aware of what basic skills they employ in everyday communication with others nor do they have a vocabulary or way to describe what they do with their body. Identifying these basic skills and giving you the vocabulary to grapple with them is the first step in improving your communication!
Transform Nervous Energy into Meaningful Movement and Gesture
You have the ability to harness that energy source (your nervous energy) and to pour that energy into a physical action that supports your intent.
Communication is not simply verbalizing ideas. Your most powerful communications can be practiced in your body movement, concentration, or intent; competing on the soccer field, organizing a cause, conducting an experiment, playing an instrument, or cooking a meal. All of these activities require energy and that energy is channeled into physical movements, concentration on the task, or processing your intent, such as thinking what to do next.
Observing your natural use of energy or focus in your body can inform you as to how you can deliberately employ a skillset to replicate or expand on what you physically need to be successful in channeling your nervous energy into meaningful movements and gestural patterns that support your content.
Fearful and nervous public speakers should become aware of how they use and are influenced by Frame and Stance and Line Focus. These concepts are physical mechanics of the body including the position you stand in and the way you present yourself to others. Briefly, Frame is the structure of your body, and Stance is how you hold and present yourself. Combined these can be used to give, or receive attention by directing your body (or using Line Focus) towards your partner in the communication. These all have an impact on what we call the Emotional Center – you might know it better as a “gut feeling.”
Understanding how those tools influence the Emotional Center can be deliberately leveraged to mitigate the intensity with which they affect you specifically. For example, the exposure of a full front framed position in front of 12 or 200 people can create a vulnerable feeling in the presenter that overwhelms their thoughts and concentration, derailing the hours of preparation.
You can practice deliberate use of Frame and Stance, as well as Line Focus to shift the Emotional Center to begin to have agency over how you direct your energy and even how you receive energy from your audience.
We understand that is a lot to take in! Don’t worry about it! Work with us and you’ll understand how to leverage your nervous energy and fear of public speaking to deliver better presentations, speeches, and other forms of public communications. There is no shortage of advice and formulas but, ultimately, you must find what works best for you to effectively give voice, presence, and physical life to a public presentation and prepare a strategy that addresses your fears.
Subscribe to our video learning platform and our YouTube channel. Listen to the free podcast WTF Do I Do With My Hands? and learn about physical communication skills and strategies that you can practice to assist in directing your nervous energy into deliberate actions. Watch the Frame and Stance, Line Focus, and Emotional Center videos for an indepth look.