Public Speaking Skills: Public Speaking Fear Comes From Perceived Failure

Public speaking skill is just like any other skill in that the more success that you have, the more self-confidence in public speaking that you develop. The more failures, or perceived failures, that you experience, the more public speaking fear that you are going to experience. The nervousness or anxiety that you feel when you present is normal, but experiencing that public speaking fear for the rest of your life definitely isn’t.

Where does Public Speaking Fear Come From?

Think about any skill that you have developed in your life. For instance, you didn’t come out of the womb knowing how to ride a bike, drive a car, play a musical instrument, or work your iPhone. The first time that you tried any of these activities, you probably experienced some type of discomfort or nervousness. The key to gaining self-confidence in these, or any skill, is to have some type of success where you grow. If the early stages of the skill development are wrought with failures, though, the self-confidence will diminish. For instance, if someone who had never driven a car before gets behind the wheel of a car all by himself or herself (no teacher or coach), then there is a good chance that this first experience is not going to go very well. If the first attempt to drive is on a freeway, then that fear, just like public speaking fear, is going to be huge. At the end of the drive, the person might say something like, “I never, ever, want to experience that again!” If a boss forces the person to attempt the skill years later, that fear is going to grow.

Public Speaking Skill is Developed through Success

A better way to learn a skill is to start with something less risky. In the car example above, most people start in a parking lot with a parent or a coach. Once the confidence increases a little, then the new driver might move to making right-hand turns around a neighborhood. Then move to left-turns. Then maybe get into a higher traffic area. The freeway is last. If you are trying to develop public speaking skills and eliminate public speaking fear, you’ll want to take a similar approach.

Start with something less risky like speaking up at the staff meeting. Most managers or executives want input on ideas or problems during staff meetings. Develop a habit of speaking up at least once during these discussions. Next, volunteer to give a report on a project at a staff meeting. Once you get more comfortable with these types of public speaking opportunities, try something more risky. Maybe ask questions as an audience member in a bigger presentation. Remember that just as when you tried more complicated things in learning to drive, at every stage you experienced more nervousness, when you got to the freeway, the parking lot felt really safe. The same thing will happen with public speaking fear. As you start to experience more complicated presentations, the easier presentations become second nature.

A Public Speaking Coach can Speed Up Your Confidence Growth

Just like the parent or coach who taught you step-by-step how to drive a car, a good public speaking coach can shave a lot of time off your learning curve. For instance, if you went in the parking lot for your first driving experience, it might take you a while to learn how to park correctly. The hardest part would be that you would have very little frame of reference to compare your skill with, so you may not know when you are doing a good job. That questioning that you would have in the back of your mind would cause nervousness. One of the most important parts of coaching is having someone tell you when you did the skill correctly. By the way, you don’t have to go out and find a professional business coach or public speaking coach. Just look for someone who you think presents very well in front of a group and ask the person to watch you and give you feedback. A lot of toasting clubs use this type of coaching.

If your time is short, though, you might want to hire a professional coach. A good public speaking coach can help you develop public speaking skills in a day or two that would take most people years to develop and keep you from developing bad habits. For instance, when I was in my twenties, I wanted to learn how to play golf. I was broke, so I bought some cheap second-hand clubs and went down to the municipal golf course. After a few months, I got pretty good, but I had a terrible slice which hurt my range quite a bit. When I played with friends, I was always two or three strokes behind the group. Eventually, I just figured that golf wasn’t my game, and I stopped playing. Years later, I tried taking it back up and went to a golf-pro near my house. I asked him how long it would take me to become competitive. He said, “Well, if you had come to me in the beginning, maybe a few months, but now, it’s going to be much harder.” When I asked him why, he explained to me that because of my slice, I had developed a habit of turning my body differently to correct the symptom. I knew my ball was going to drift, so, over the years, I just changed my aiming point. My body had become used to that swing, that I had to unlearn that habit before I could re-learn a more proper swing.

If I had just practiced early on with feedback from someone who could already do what I wanted to do, I could have saved myself some time and frustration. In public speaking skills, you can too. Look for a mentor who has already eliminated his/her fear and let that person coach you. Your coach will help you eliminate your public speaking fear much faster.