Scientifically backed tips for mastering public speaking, according to 5 psychiatrists

Welcome to The Science Behind Success – a blog series that explores the best ways our brains can perform better at work. With psychological research and interviews with executives in the field, we show you how psychology can help you overcome obstacles in the workplace and stand out in your career. Because a small change in mindset could go a long way.

If you’re anything like me, there’s hardly anything in this world that scares you more than the daunting idea of ​​public speaking (besides spiders, of course, but that’s a different problem overall …).

However, as marketers, most of our roles require public speaking. You may need to report monthly campaign numbers to your team, share the results of an exciting marketing experiment with the company, or pitch an outside team that you want to partner with.

Ultimately, in marketing, public speaking is often inevitable.

Even if you could hide from it, you probably don’t want to. Talking to large groups will make you more visible in your company and will strengthen your personal brand as well as your ability to network and be seen as a leader.

In recent years I have personally dealt with the need for public speaking. But that doesn’t mean I still can’t get sweaty palms and trembling breaths before I go on stage (or in this case, turn on my zoom camera …).

I’ve spoken to some mental health professionals to find out why public speaking is so scary in the first place, and share their food stalls below. We’ll also dive into some science-based tips for mastering public speaking so you can feel comfortable next time you speak to a room full of people.

Well, as for spiders … I can’t help you with that.

Tip 1: Make yourself curious about your fears

Alexis Verbin, LCSW, LICSW, said to me, “I always recommend taking the time to self-reflect and address fears without judgment or curiosity. It can be difficult to reduce symptoms if you don’t know why you are experiencing them experience or what they are to trigger this type of response. “

The fear of public speaking arises for a number of reasons, such as: B .:

  • Biological fight or flight response that can be activated
  • Past public speaking experiences
  • Lack of experience or knowledge on the topic presented
  • Low self-esteem and / or cheat syndrome
  • Audience makeup (i.e. high-level executives)

Verbin adds, “By identifying the ‘why’ behind your fear, you can help alleviate some of the problems associated with the unknown.”

“These ‘whys’ can also help you figure out what specific tools to use to address your unique needs. I would recommend using journaling to start this discovery process. Write your public speaking and past history Experiences on (+, neutral, -), positive and constructive feedback, triggers, negative self-talk, somatic complaints, etc. “

By identifying the reason for your fear, you can begin to directly address this more unique, personal fear. For example, if you are dealing with a case of Fraud Syndrome, before you give a speech, you may be able to compile a quick “fact sheet” of all your accomplishments to date and the praise you have received.

Tip 2: Use the familiar environment

Jenna Halloran Karl, LICSW, says, “You are likely to be less anxious if you are comfortable and familiar with your surroundings. When you present virtually and work from home, use this to your advantage!”

“Try to ground yourself in the room you are in by noticing calming things. Focus on what you can see, hear, feel, taste and smell in the room.”

“Focus on things that you can control, like being prepared, being on time, and how much you’re practicing your language.”

If you are presenting in an unfamiliar room, you can try spending some time in the room to develop a familiarity with your surroundings. Alternatively, when presenting from your home office, enjoy the picture of your family on your desk or the plant you love in the corner. These little details can remind you that you are indeed safe.

In addition, calming internal phrases can also be helpful. For example, Karl suggests: “Develop ‘coping thoughts’ in advance to recite yourself before and during your speech (Examples: ‘I am well prepared for this speech’, ‘I am doing the best I can now’, “If I blush, it’s only temporary. ‘). “

Tip 3: Increase the acceptance of your fears

Alexis Verbin encourages anyone suffering from public speaking related anxiety to try some ACT or Acceptance and Attachment Therapy (ACT) related methods suggested by Dr. Steven C. Hayes: “This empirically based model increases ‘psychological flexibility’. Through the use of a unique combination of mindfulness skills with acceptance, engagement and behavior change strategies. The aim is not to avoid or replace thoughts or emotions but to change your relationship with them. “

To do this, Verbin offers seven tactics that you can try:

  • Notice and observe: Take a step back and just notice your anxious thoughts about going on stage without trying to control them. Next, label them as mere thoughts. Work on becoming an observer of your experience instead of thinking about your fear-inducing thoughts.
  • Visualize: Take the time to sit still, close your eyes, and picture yourself putting the unhelpful anxious thoughts on the sheets of paper. Then take these leaves and place them on a jet of water where you can see them calmly floating into the distance. (Full version of this exercise here.)
  • It’s just a thought: Put the sentence: “I have the thought that …” in front of your negative or fearful thoughts to remind yourself that it is only a thought.
    • A. Example of unhelpful thoughts: I’m going to mess up my speech.
    • B. Example of cognitive defusion: I have a thought that I will mess up my language.
  • Fairy tale hour: Whenever a fear-inducing thought comes up, say to yourself in a friendly way, “There my brain is again telling this unhelpful public speech.”
  • Get silly: Say your thoughts aloud very differently. This can help reduce the level of seriousness you attach to thoughts so that you can actually view them as thoughts. (For example, you could say the thoughts out loud using the melody of a funny song like Happy Birthday. Use silly comic voices as you say your thoughts, or say your thoughts very slowly.)
  • Be careful and ground yourself: Practice awareness of the present moment, try the activity with five senses (below) and practice acceptance.

For the final technique related to mindfulness, Verbin suggests three alternative methods that you could try. Let’s dwell on it:

1. Awareness of the present moment: Before stepping into the spotlight, look around and remind yourself that in your present moment everything is indeed all right and that you are safe.

2. Activity with five senses: If you are struggling to gain a foothold in your present moment, try the five senses mindfulness activity. The goal is to get out of your thoughts and focus on your surroundings (i.e. what’s actually going on outside of your head). * As you breathe slowly, deeply, note and name the following:

  • Five things you see
  • Four things that you touch
  • Three things you hear
  • Two things that you smell
  • One thing you can taste

3. Accept: While speaking in public is uncomfortable for many, remember that fueling negative self-talk and fear won’t make the situation any easier. It will likely do the opposite. Instead, work on acceptance by creating a safe space for those uncomfortable thoughts to come and go like the wind. Try not to pay too much undeserved attention to your thoughts.

Tip 4: Mastering the mental test

Joann Toporowski, Psy.D., psychologist and executive coach, suggests: “A strategy that I talk about with my clients may not sound intuitive, but it has an impressive impact on their way of thinking and performance. This strategy is used as a mental test Once you master this simple strategy, you can use it to your advantage. “

“We know from studies of professional athletes that the same regions of the brain will light up when quarterbacks imagine throwing a soccer ball and when they actually throw a soccer ball.”

“This phenomenon has also been seen when professional basketball players watch recordings of a basketball game – the parts of the brain that are activated are specific to the hand muscles. Athletes have long known the positive effects of visualization and mental testing.”

To practice the mental sample, Toporowski said to me, “There are two steps to using the mental sample. The first step is to see yourself in the meeting room or on stage before your company behaves horribly, pointed out and then get fired – the more absurd the better. Feel the embarrassment, the shame, and the rejection. Part of you will quickly realize how extreme that negative outcome will be, and at that moment you can easily shake it off. “

“When you’ve mentally rehearsed the absolute worst outcome, you can handle the outside possibility that your conversation didn’t go as planned. If that happens, at least you can say that you weren’t shown and laughed at or fired.”

“The second step is to mentally rehearse the positive result after presenting the worst result. Imagine you are speaking eloquently and smoothly. Feel the pride, respect and trust in yourself. Imagine the praise That you get from colleagues and management. If you repeatedly imagine that the conversation is going well, move the needle in small but inspiring ways towards a positive outcome. “

Tip 5: challenge your thinking

As you are preparing for an upcoming presentation and you are feeling increasingly anxious, Jenna Halloran Karl suggests that you notice your thoughts and challenge them.

She says, “Challenge negative and catastrophic thinking by checking the facts. Do you have evidence to support those negative thoughts? What is an alternative, more realistic way of thinking about this situation?”

Karl adds, “Remember that worst-case scenarios are rare.”

For example, if you have the thought, “I am going to fail and everyone will think I am a failure,” challenge yourself by wondering if a presentation ever got people to say to you, “You You know, I think you’re a failure. “

Alternatively, question your perspective by asking yourself, “If someone else ‘fails’ during a presentation, do I really think they’re a failure? Or am I just feeling empathy?” Remember that most of your fears will never actually occur. Questioning the validity of each one can help minimize your fear.

Tip 6: move your body

If you go to a gym and worry about a stressful day at work, have you ever noticed that by the time you leave, you feel much more rested and focused? There is a the reason for this – The next time you prepare for the presentation, consider how you can get the physiological benefits of exercise.

KieVonne KingLCSW suggests, “Before speaking, give yourself enough time to move your body. Many people have confirmed that physiological responses to anxiety manifest in the abdominal region. Moving your body with the intention of relieving physical ailments can manifest to be helpful. “”

“This can be done by dancing, stretching and twisting, or any other form of physical activity that resonates with you. The most important thing is to combine movement with intent – what am I letting go and why – and deep breathing.”

Tip 7: Practice your breathing in advance

They say practice makes perfect … but have you ever thought about practicing when and how you will breathe during your presentation?

Jonathan WalshLMHC, therapist and coach, said to me, “What many of us experience as fear or panic when speaking in public is hyperventilation due to altered breathing patterns at the beginning of the presentations. The way to combat this is to write and write the first rehearse out loud for five minutes of the presentation, paying special attention to breathing at the punctuation points. “

“Keep practicing until you feel your breathing normalize and you have memorized both the text and your breathing pauses.”

Additionally, he adds, “Remember that fear is not your primary identity. Work on shifting your inner language from an embodied” I am fearful “to” I am just having some fearful thoughts “. When you have the emotion it removes some of the threat from her. Then you commit to perform well despite the inevitable fearful thoughts. “

Tip 8: remember why you are doing it

At the end of the day, you’re presenting for a reason – and not just a superficial reason like “I want to look good in front of my boss,” but a bigger, more meaningful reason like “I want to help” marketers are growing in their roles. “

Tap your reason. As Joann Toporowski says: “Whenever I give a lecture, be it in front of a small group of five or a room with hundreds, I think about what my goal is from the 10,000 foot point of view. As a psychologist and executive coach, my superordinate one The goal is always to help and support others. “

“This goal of helping others is at the forefront of my thinking when I write my speech, practice it beforehand, prepare for success by getting enough sleep and eating well, and calming myself down before I go on stage.”

“My bigger and more meaningful goal of helping others is making anxiety, fear, and nervous energy so much more manageable.”

“If you are still feeling like a cheat or are ill-prepared when you are in the spotlight, pull your shoulders back, look people in the eyes in the whole room, smile, breathe, and do the best that you can You can do good and bad to the end and everything else in between will be all right. “

Ultimately, public speaking is scary for most people – but that doesn’t mean that with a little mindfulness, preparation, and perspective you can’t master it. Keep these tips in mind for your next presentation. Over time, you will find out what works for you. Good luck!

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