You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know if you have it, the feeling that comes with the anticipation of your upcoming speech. Even as you go about your normal day, you can’t stop thinking about your speech. Thoughts of the size of your audience and “all eyes on you,” are enough to set you off! And as the day of reckoning approaches, all kinds of negative thoughts start going through your head, “what will happen if forget or slur my words? what will happen If I panic? What will happen when I get that frog in my throat and can’t speak!” As the day of your speech comes closer, your thoughts grow stronger. You can’t stop thinking about it. All day and night, a minute doesn’t go by without the dreadful thoughts surrounding your speech. Now sleeping even becomes difficult. Your dreams are now dominated by nightmarish scenarios of embarrassing yourself on stage.
You now think about ways you can back out of your speech. But then you realize, “I need this speech, If I succeed, it will mean everything to my career.” And then you get a phone call, you find out that twice as many people as you originally had thought are going to be at your speech. Your anxiety just doubled. It’s off the charts. It’s redlining. And now there is no backing out. If you’ve ever experienced this, then you know what it means to have “Glaussophobia,” which is the Greek word for the “Fear of Public Speaking.” In broader terms, it’s also called Stage Fright.
So Where Does This Fear Come From?
The fear of public speaking and stage fright both point to the same subconscious process that causes a small almond sized shape set of neurons set deep inside the median temporal lobe of the brain called the Amygdala which triggers the “fight or flight” response to sudden stimuli (real danger), or “memory triggered” perceived danger which ultimately leads to the feelings of panic, anxiety, sweaty palms and wanting to run for the hills!
I know too well these feelings of panic and fear of public speaking, because for so many years, it was the 6 inch invisible clear glass wall that stood between me and my desire to speak and engage an audience. I would see others masterfully take the stage, and I would sit there just yearning to do it. The few times that I did manage to speak (by the prodding of others) were accompanied by fear and panic and without having the proper coaching or guidance, I just gave up and couldn’t make it to the other side of that invisible wall of fear.
Fast forward many years later, coaching and speaking has now become my career. What was once my biggest fear, has now become one of my biggest passions. As most people, I struggled for many years to find the path to getting past my fear of speaking, but it didn’t have to be that way. I struggled because no one ever gave me the road-map For many years, no one directed me on the path to speaking success.
For example, no one told me that most people’s fear of speaking could stem from just one 30 second bad experience in first or second grade. The teacher pushed and prodded to get you up in front of the class and do a loud reading and snickered, yelled or balked at you when you didn’t pronounce a word right. The yelling or snickering of the teacher and the class making weird faces was all that would be needed for your amygdala to record the emotional event and store it forever. The amygdala remembers all emotions and responses and then stores it in the long term memory bank. The amygdala is that part of the brain that also signals the “flight or fight” response. And the amygdala is quite immature, it can’t tell the difference between a real event such as running from a fire (flight) or the “false sense” of fear and panic of speaking to an audience (flight). It only knows a recorded emotion and treats the panic of a perceived fear (an audience) the same as it would a fire – both causing the “flight response” to be activated in the same way.
So years later, that 30 second event in grade school now gets transformed into what most people feel as the fear of public speaking. And who hasn’t had that bad experience of standing in front of class in first, second or third grade, and getting snickered, yelled or balked at by their teacher in front of the whole class. Now wonder why most of the world suffers from this fear!
Why Some People Never Developed the Fear
Have you ever wondered why some people just never developed a fear of public speaking? It all could point back to that scene in second grade. For example, John, Cindy, and Sam all had the same experience with their teacher snickering and yelling at them in front of the class. But John was a bit different. He didn’t have a highly sensitive amygdala and never processed the experience the same way Cindy and Sam did, so John never developed the fear, whereas Cindy and Sam did end up developing the fear of public speaking because of their more sensitive amygdala. Studies have shown that people with a highly sensitive amygdala were more prone to developing the fear of public speaking.
Conquering the Fear Doesn’t Have to Take Time
Many people think that phobias take time to overcome. This is simply not true. Most people say, “I have had this fear for so long, I don’t think I will ever get over it.” If you think back to the event in grade school, it only took 30 seconds to record a perceived emotional experience and tell the subconscious mind to run from anything related to getting up in front of an audience ever again.
People who have had a bad landing and develop a fear of flying, or people who have gotten into an accident and developed a fear of driving or someone who was pushed into a swimming pool at a young age and developed a fear of swimming, all had one thing in common; the onset of the fear took just seconds. If you think about it, with all these events taking just seconds to develop into a lifelong fear, shouldn’t logic dictate that a fear that took seconds to develop, be reversed in just the same time?
The good news is that it can. In fact, It has been scientifically proven that the field of energy psychology (Emotional Freedom Technique) can have a tremendous effect on the amygdale in that it can fairly quickly neutralize and desensitize the negative emotions attached to it for all phobias. And this includes the phobia of public speaking. The field of NLP (Neuro Linguist Programming) also can have a huge impact in desensitizing the amygdale to the fear of public speaking and other phobias.
I have seen these techniques work with my own eyes. Not only has it helped me years ago when I finally got on the road to conquering my fear of public speaking, but In my professional coaching practice, I now successfully use these techniques of both EFT and NLP to help my clients desensitize the fear they associate with public speaking.
Conquering The Fear Leads to Mastering The Art
Once you “conquer” the fear of public speaking, your true journey now begins. Being able to engage an audience and take them on a roller coaster ride of highs, lows, twists and turns of emotional experiences and leave them off at the gate saying, “wow, what a powerful message, what a speech, what an experience,” is truly an art form. However, you cannot embark on that road, until you have gotten off the road of fear. When you are thinking about sweaty palms, panic and sheer terror when you picture an image of yourself on stage in front of an audience, you cannot be thinking about how you can deliver a moving message or even make them laugh.
Only when you are able to laugh at yourself, will your audience laugh with you. But the good news is, that when you conquer you fear of speaking, (which can happen very quickly) you have allowed yourself to cross over and pass to other side of that invisible glass wall where you now find yourself standing on the foot of the mountain. And while you’re packing up you gear and readying yourself for the climb you look up and say, “I am now ready to journey up to the top and master the “Art of Public Speaking.”