Why Public Speaking Is An Important Skill For Business And For Life
Hate public speaking? Let me paint you a picture………That moment when you’re facing a team, a group of people or an audience. You can hear your heart pounding in your ears. You have butterflies in your stomach. You know you’re probably going red. Your mouth is dry and you can’t go to the bathroom one last time….. Sound familiar? You are not alone.
For many people I coach, public speaking is as high on their list of anxiety driven fears. It’s up there with bungy jumping, heights, spiders or any other phobia. In this article I hope to demystify why this happens, look at tips and techniques that help regulate the stress response, then encourage you to give it a go by sharing WHY it is an important skill to develop both personally and professionally. Let’s dive in.
The Neuroscience behind the fear of Public Speaking
Many people experience feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and self-doubt when it comes to public speaking. These feelings are often based on the fear of failure, the fear of being judged or rejected, and the fear of not being able to articulate thoughts or ideas effectively. The brain’s response to these perceived threats can trigger the release of stress hormones, leading to physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, and an increased heart rate. For those interested in science, here’s how it all works:
- Amygdala activation: The amygdala is a small almond-shaped structure located in the brain’s temporal lobe that plays a key role in processing emotions, including fear and anxiety. When we perceive a threat, such as giving a public speech, the amygdala is activated, and it triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.
- Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation: The HPA axis is a complex system of interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands that regulates the body’s stress response. When the amygdala is activated, it sends signals to the hypothalamus, which then signals the pituitary gland to release a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then signals the adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream.
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure: Cortisol and adrenaline cause the heart to beat faster and increase blood pressure, which prepares the body for a “fight or flight” response.
- Rapid breathing and shortness of breath: In response to the increased heart rate and blood pressure, the body also increases respiration, which can result in rapid breathing and shortness of breath.
- Cognitive impairment: The stress response can also impair cognitive functioning, making it difficult to think clearly, remember information, and communicate effectively. This can lead to stumbling over words, forgetting what you were going to say, or feeling like your mind has gone blank.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Let me share that even the most seasoned public speakers experience all of the same symptoms. Why? Because the message they have to share matters. Speaking is important to them and delivering value to their audience is a priority. Being perceived as authentic and credible, matters. So how do these speakers overcome their fear and appear confident?
Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking
It is important to understand that the fear of public speaking is often based on inaccurate or outdated information or thought processes. The great news is that our brains are highly adaptable and can be rewired through intentional practice and mindset shifts. Here are some tips to help overcome the fear of public speaking:
- Practice, practice, practice: The more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you will become. Look for opportunities to speak publicly, even if it is just in front of a small group of friends or colleagues.
- Challenge your Self-Talk: Instead of telling yourself that you’re a bad public speaker or that you’ll embarrass yourself, reframe your thinking to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. For example, you might tell yourself that you have important information to share, or that you’re excited to connect with your audience.
- Embrace your authenticity: One of the most common reasons people struggle with public speaking is because they feel like they need to be someone else in order to be successful. Instead, focus on being your authentic self and sharing your unique perspective with your audience. And if you’re not sure where to start, book a coaching call with me!
- Visualization: Before a public speaking engagement, it can be helpful to visualize a positive outcome. Take some time to imagine yourself giving a successful presentation, receiving positive feedback, and feeling proud of your accomplishments. This can help to build confidence and reduce nervousness.
- Controlled breathing: Deep breathing exercises can help to calm the body’s stress response and reduce nervousness. Take deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, counting to three as you inhale and exhale.
- Physical preparation: Physical preparation can help to reduce nervousness by building confidence in your abilities. Practice your presentation multiple times, either alone or in front of a small group of friends or colleagues. This can help to build muscle memory and reduce anxiety.
- Positive self-talk: Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations. Tell yourself that you are capable, confident, and prepared. Remind yourself of your strengths and past successes.
- Connect with the audience: One way to reduce nervousness is to focus on the audience and their needs. Remember that your presentation is not about you, but about the information you are sharing and the impact it can have on the audience. Make eye contact, engage with the audience, and focus on connecting with them in a meaningful way.
- Reframe fear as excitement: Instead of focusing on fear or anxiety, reframe these feelings as excitement. Recognise that nervousness is a natural response to a challenging situation, and that it can be channeled into positive energy.
- Use humour: Humour can be an effective way to reduce nervousness and connect with the audience. Including a joke or humorous anecdote in your presentation can help to break the ice and create a relaxed atmosphere.
- Get feedback: Finally, it can be helpful to get feedback from others on your public speaking skills. Ask a trusted friend, colleague or mentor to watch you practice, and provide constructive feedback on areas for improvement. This can help to build confidence and improve your public speaking skills over time.
Importance of Public Speaking in Business and Personal Life
So why do I believe that public speaking is such an important skill for success in both business and personal life?
- Building a personal brand: Public speaking can help individuals establish themselves as an authority in their field and build their personal brand. Effective public speaking skills can also help to enhance their credibility and increase their visibility.
- Meaningful connection with your audience: Public speaking allows individuals to connect with their audience in a meaningful way. By sharing their authentic voice, stories and perspective, individuals can inspire and motivate their audience to take action, reflect on their own position and make change, or make a difference. Effective public speakers have the ability to capture the attention of their audience, convey their message clearly and passionately, and leave a lasting impact.
- Achieving goals: Public speaking can help individuals achieve their goals. Whether they’re trying to secure funding for their business, persuade others to support their cause, or land a new job or promotion, public speaking can be a key factor in their success. By mastering this skill, individuals can effectively communicate their ideas, build relationships, and achieve their goals.
So why wouldn’t you?
Public speaking really is an essential skill for success in both business and personal life. By recognising and overcoming your fear of public speaking, you can establish yourself as an authority in your field, connect with your audience in a meaningful way, and achieve your goals. Remember to practice, challenge your self-talk, and embrace your authenticity in order to become a more effective public speaker. With dedication and practice, anyone can become a confident and effective public speaker. I’ve done it, taught it, and seen the results first hand.
Trust me on this.