photo courtesy of WOCinTech Chat [FLICKR]
Sweaty palms, shallow breath, shaking hands and an overwhelming sense of dread. According to a recent report by the BBC, a fear of public speaking (Glossophobia) can actually limit your career prospects. However, the truth is that most individuals fear performing in front of crowds – statistics show that 74 percent of all people suffer speech anxiety to some level.
Communication mentor and Right Voice for You facilitator, Fiona Cutts knows first-hand the struggles associated with delivering speeches and presentations in the workplace. Now she is keen for others to understand the tools that liberated her from the panic and judgment, and allowed her to speak publicly with authenticity and confidence.
“I used to be so shy that I could scarcely say my name in public,” Cutts said. “My fear of public speaking was so intense that people would often say to me, ‘How are you going to make this work in the corporate world?’ I did made it work, through a mixture of avoidance and sheer determination, but eventually the effort caused me to develop chronic fatigue syndrome.”
The cure to Cutts’ ongoing speech anxiety was revealed to her in a sudden and unexpected way. “One day, I was spontaneously asked to present at a work conference. Right there, and then. I didn’t have time to think, I just had to get up and share the information,” she said. Cutts delivered the presentation without any sign of anxiety.
In that moment, she realized that her fear was not an inevitable factor of her psyche. “If you don’t have time to think about what you’re capable of, you find that you are capable of so much more,” Cutts said.
Drawing from that first spontaneous experience, Cutts has learned to overcome her fear of public speaking. She said the secret is to:
Reject the need to be perfect: “There is no need to be ‘right’. If you didn’t have to get it right, if you didn’t have to be perfect, how would it be?”
Keep the focus on yourself: “Focus on what you are saying. Don’t worry about what the audience is thinking about what you are saying.”
Be playful: “I had unconsciously decided that presentations were supposed to be serious. But, just before that first experience of confident speaking, I had been laughing and relaxed and I carried that fun energy and intent into the presentation.”
Stay connected with the audience. “When you are in panic mode, it’s easy to turn inwards and hyper-focus on your fear and your reactions to that fear. Maintaining an emotional and energetic connection with the people around you stops you from withdrawing into yourself.”
Cutts is now a Right for You facilitator, helping people all over the world to move beyond the fear of judgment, and into a more comfortable relationship with public speaking. Drawing from her personal experience, she believes it is entirely possible for anyone to become comfortable expressing themselves in front of others.
“Not only am I relaxed in front of a room full of people, I have found that I actually love speaking and singing in front of others,” she said. “The change has been truly miraculous for me and, now, I want to empower others to find their voice as well. I have come to understand that where people have the greatest fear, is often where they also hold the greatest capacity.”