What is the biggest fear people around the world have?
Public speaking? Yep.
It’s interesting to look at the core of why we are the way we are. Why we do the things we do. And why we fear the thing we fear.
It turns out that our fear of failure might stem from our deep need to be part of a group. Our ancestors needed to be part of a group for survival. We were less likely to be killed by a saber toothed tiger if we were in a large group.
So every time we get in front of people we’re afraid of being judged and effectively kicked out of the group. Because in early times getting kicked out of the group would likely mean loneliness and death.
Now, how can we overcome this deep fear?
Here are some tips.
High performance athletes are recognizing more and more the power of preparation. Both physical and mental preparation.
I love a story that golfer Johnny Miller tells sometimes. I think it was Johnny Miller. It could be Ken Venturi, but the lesson is the same nevertheless.
Whoever it was would golf with their dad when they were young. The kid would hit a good shot. But every once in awhile the dad would then kick the ball into a bad lie. The kid would get angry…at first.
But eventually the dad’s lesson was that life will give you bad breaks sometimes. Especially in golf. And being prepared for those bad breaks would give the kid preparation on how to deal with them. That’s an edge over others that would react poorly to bad breaks.
It also built a sense that the kid could handle everything and that they’ve prepared more and better than others. That builds confidence. When you feel that you’ve gone above and beyond the requirements you feel incredible and it’s true with presenting too.
When presenting, go through the standard practice of running through the presentation multiple times. But also prepare by throwing yourself curveballs. Imagine someone laughing at the wrong time. Imagine a heckler. Imagine losing your place.
The greats in sports throw curveballs at themselves to prepare. Do the same and you’ll feel ready for anything during your next presentation.
We tend to place the idea of quality too high.
I’m a believer that you can achieve quality without quantity.
Presenting can just come down to a numbers game. You have to build your quantity before you become good at it. It’s really no different than anything else you’ve accomplished in life.
Now, you may not want to go through the struggles in the office setting. You may want to find other opportunities to speak in front of others.
Join local community groups. Volunteer at events. Lead events. Speak in front of your collected friends and family. Give a toast at Thanksgiving.
Find opportunities to speak in public. Focus on the quantity and not the quality. Don’t focus on failures. Focus on getting in your numbers.
What’s the number?
It turns out that for most things we really only need 20 hours to get pretty good at something.
So there’s your goal. 20 hours of speaking to get pretty good at it.
When I was in high school I was in a business group. One year we were part of a sales challenge. We had to go in front of a handful of local business leaders and sell a product. I think it was a Christmas ornament.
I had no idea about selling. I had no experience. No preparation.
But somehow I ended up winning the thing.
The way I did it, as best as I can remember, is that right before I went into the room I acted like I thought a salesperson would act.
I thought about the positive salespeople I had encountered at stores, in businesses, etc. Then I pretended to be just like them. I acted like a salesperson.
I don’t really know why it worked, but it did work.
I used that same tactic in my first job out of college. I really had no clue about talking in meetings and things like that. I wasn’t the best at it, but I think I did pretty good.
I would watch the leaders in the company and pretend to be them when I was presenting.
It’s amazing how you can trick your brain and feel confident by imitating others.
4. Self Reward
By this I mean that often we feel anxious because we’re worried about how others will think of us. It gets back to the idea that we’ll get kicked out of the social group if we make a fool of ourselves.
But that’s really an illusion in some ways.
For the most part, we’re all only concerned about ourselves. That includes people in the audience. They really don’t care about you. They care about how what you’re presenting affects them. They care about how they can use what you’re presenting to better their lives.
They really don’t care if you do well or not. Sure, they might think you did a bad job, but they only think that to make themselves feel a bit better.
When you know that it can lessen the pressure. And it can hopefully bring your focus back internally. You’re not presenting for others. You’re presenting for yourself. You don’t need their approval. You only need to know that you’re doing this for yourself.
I know that mindfulness has become a bit of a cliche in recent years. But it turns out that it really can do wonders for presenting. It can help with the anxiety of getting up in front of people and presenting. Whether it’s in business or for something like singing.
Anxiety comes from thinking about the past and the future. Mindfulness is about recognizing the world that’s happening in the present.
It’s certainly not always a fun thing to get in front of people and present. In most business settings it’s a requirement. The things listed here are ways you can improve your presentation skills so you can move yourself and your business forward.