Lost For Words

Are you the rare person who does not experience some level of anxiety and memory loss when faced with a public speaking occasion! Nearly everyone has been faced with a speaking assignment and has experienced the dread associated with saying something wrong in front of a group of people. This fear of speaking in public brings up all sorts of insecurities. You find yourself thinking of all the bad things that can possibly happen, including; losing your place, fumbling for words, appearing nervous, boring your audience, not knowing your subject well enough, and not being understood. Every previous speaker who has impressed with his grasp of his material and his ability to inform and entertain only contributes to your fear of speaking in public.

Mark Twain said it best, “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” 

One frequently experienced feeling is that you are exposing yourself emotionally to the audience and you naturally shy away from this kind of activity. You feel that your abilities are on display where the audience will see all of your flaws revealed. The insecurity arises here from the thought that all of this matters to the audience. You want to control the audience’s reactions but you know that you can’t have an effect on how they view your shortcomings. So you practice and practice until you feel you’ve got it perfect. Ironically enough, one source of anxiety can come from being over prepared where your delivery will suffer from an artificiality that detracts from your message.

What are the underlying causes for this insecurity? Starting with the premise that public speaking is an occasion to experience high levels of stress, you zero in on your own ability to handle stressful situations. Past experiences colour your perceptions about how you respond to stress. An examination of your skills can lead to a negative feeling about your ability to deliver meaningful material in an interesting manner. You may feel that you are just not that brilliant. Sometimes, the sheer volume of material that needs to be delivered may intimidate you. You are acutely aware of the time allowed and the number of points you have to make to be effective. There just seems no way that you can deliver all the necessary points, leading to a sense of futility.

More causes for a fear of public speaking involve believing that you have to please everyone in your audience. You know that you can’t be all things to all people so you feel anxiety from that source. However, the most basic cause of a fear of public speaking involves the thought that your future success in your work situation depends on your speaking ability rather than on the merit of your other work efforts.

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