Public speaking continues to be a top fear of humanity. Whether you’re speaking to a group of ten or ten thousand, public speaking is nerve racking. Yet most professionals agree that public speaking is a powerful skill capable of transforming one's business or career.
As a professional speaker for over eight years, I’ve had experience training small groups of executives, pitching business plans to key stakeholders, and delivering keynote presentations to thousands of people around the world.
The below is my best advice for removing anxiety before any presentation.
But before I share my pro tip, lets better understand why humans fear public speaking so much.
One of the core needs of humans is a sense of belonging. Humans have a deep desire to be accepted, cared for, and involved in meaningful community. Humans are tribal species who live, work, and survive together.
As a survival technique, humans are biologically wired to scan the social group to identify where they stand.
Let’s take the social group of work as an example. Our brains scan and evaluate if we are in the center of the team as a leader, in the neutral middle, or being pushed out or excluded from the team.
If the early humans who roamed the plains were excluded from their tribe, their chance of survival was minimal. After all these years, humans still avoid exclusion and seek belonging.
When you speak up in a group, pitch a new idea, or deliver a keynote presentation you risk exclusion. Our palms get sweaty before public speaking because we fear being embarrassed or judged for our thoughts, ideas, or suggestions which would ultimately lead to the group rejecting us and pushing us out of the group where survival is limited.
How do you overcome this human hard-wiring and reduce the fear of public speaking?
Uncover the unknowns.
Humans fear what they don’t know. And leading up to a presentation, there are many unknowns.
Here are a few examples of the unknowns that exist for public speakers...
- Content, structure, and length of the presentation
- Size and demographics of the audience
- Size and layout of the presentation room
- Audio and visual set-up
- Flow of the agenda
Whether you're conscious of it or not, these unknowns are what contributes to the anxiety felt by public speakers.
Turn unknowns into knowns and your public speaking anxiety will decrease and confidence will increase.
As a Millennial and Generation Z keynote speaker and trainer, I help companies lead, engage, and sell to the emerging generations. If you'd like help solving tough generational challenges inside your organization, click here.