Dealing with Public Speaking Anxiety: Guest Post

Who better to give tips about anxiety than a licensed therapist?  The Presentation School is proud to present you with a guest blog by Autumn Hahn, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Hypnotherapist.

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Fear of speaking in public is ranked higher than fears of falling, spiders, the dark, and even death on opinion polls. However, as our society grows and communication becomes increasingly more mobile and global, the need for public speaking is growing as well. We work with others and are constantly in groups, but some speeches are more comfortable than others. Here are some ways to get from “talking with friends” to “addressing a crowd.”

  1. Realize that we are always speaking with groups of people. We address our children, our friends, our family members, and our coworkers many times each day. In informal settings, we are unconcerned about those nuances that can stress us out when we address a more formal group. While we should certainly look our best when addressing a formal crowd, we can become accustomed to fixing our hair and clothes to present our best self in any environment, even in everyday situations. This authentic version of self, even if only practiced for the week of the presentation, will make us feel more at home during the speech.
  2. Understand that everyone wants you to do well. Some people come from a supportive, loving environment, whether they were born into it or created it later in life, while some people are not there yet, but everyone is aware of how it feels to have that support and to lack that support. Therefore, it is basic human nature to be altruistic and to want comfort for others. When we speak in public, our audience is there to support us. They are interested in the topic, or are meeting an obligation, or are ready to be swayed to interest by our words and actions. Thinking of the audience as social support can take the edge off your presentation because this is more like the way we speak with friends and coworkers and there is no need to rehearse with them.
  3. Recognize that anxiety is a physiological response to perceived threat. When rabbit sees wolf, rabbit becomes strong, alert, and motivated in order to run away. When we understand that our body is simply responding to a new situation, and there is nothing to be done to “fix” anything that is not wrong, we can see that our perception was faulty and thank the messenger for bringing this message, then dismiss him. When we dismiss the messenger (fear) for bringing the message (run away), we do so with the understanding that the message (perceived threat) was in error. Once we are logical about our mind’s response to the error, our body immediately follows suit and the feeling of anxiety changes to that of facing a challenge.
  4. Utilize breath work as a last minute fix. Just before we address a crowd, the body may still be in “flight” mode. Here is a quick tip to trick the mind into calm: Breathe in for 2 counts and out for 4 counts. When we are anxious, the breath comes quickly and raggedly. When we slow the breath consciously, it takes only 2 such breaths to reset the mind to center.

When I was taking my undergraduate classes, I put off public speaking until the last semester. I lived through it, and even got over my fear during that class. Since then, I’ve been required to do speeches in graduate school, train others, run group therapy sessions, discuss mental health issues with the community, and even address a group of 120 friends and family members of patients when I was initially told there would only be 15 of them. I hope these tips take you from trepidation to calm in 2 breaths or less.

Autumn Hahn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist specializing in trauma, anxiety, and grief at Clear Mind Group in Weston, Florida. She also conducts team building and corporate seminars to increase communication skills anywhere in the US. You can follow her on Twitter @ClearAutumn and on Facebook, or call 954-612-9553 for collaboration and consultation.

AutumnBW

 

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