What can you do when you are afraid to speak in front of a group and on top of this when your boss is sitting front row? Most people are terrified to speak in public, regardless of who is in the audience. Jerry Seinfeld made the joke that at funerals, most people would rather be in the coffin that giving a speech in front of the gathered crowd.
What do you do when you have to present or give a speech anyway? Do you run to the bathroom? Find the nearest exit? Call your mom? Have yourself arrested? Take a shot of Whiskey? See the audience naked? (That might scare you even more in some cases depending on who is in the audience at that time.) No, none of the above is recommended to actually attempt at resolving the issue.
Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Sigmund Freud said that anxiety produces repression. He saw anxiety as a repressive mechanism that is caused by the projection of a past trauma onto a current situation. When we are scared and there is no “actual” physical danger, we are in a state of projection. It means we are “checked out” and reliving some past event. So when we are afraid to speak publicly and a boss or someone important to us is present, we subconsciously project onto them. We objectify them or the situation. We are projecting in the future, what we believe is the worst thing that could ever happen or has happened to us earlier in life. Our mind is having a field day of fear. Common remedies for fear of public speaking include drinking beforehand or imagining that the audience is naked. Here are techniques that work:
- Check back in to the moment. Your anxiety took you on a trip to the past or the future, and now it’s time to come back to the moment. Shake hands with some before you begin your speech. Touch objects such as furniture, the podium, anything that belongs to the physical world. The physical world is now, and that’s why it brings us out of the past and anchors our performances. Gravity and breathing are your two best friends when speaking. Feel the weight of your body, breathe deeply several times.
- Acknowledge the person who makes you anxious. Take a moment to publicly acknowledge the person to demystify him or her for the time being. You can go as far as sharing a story or your feelings about them. If you do it openly and from the heart, you’ll be fine. Begin your talk by introducing them. The introduction shows that you’re in control.
- Express your intention for the speech. Intention acts as the powerful backbone of your presentations and speeches, giving a sense of purpose and direction. An intention is the wish that you mean to carry out. Express your intention with a verb followed by an adverb. To introduce myself clearly. To acknowledge the audience authentically. To present the agenda slowly. To share my knowledge humbly. To connect with the audience warmly…etc.
By confronting what confronts us, we make it disappear. We break the dynamics that do not empower us. Use your speech to fill the space of the room with life, intention and self-expression. The courage to speak gives us wings.