James Ranka earned two BA degrees. One in Mass Communications; the other, Music Performance. He is also a photographer and photo artist.
You Are Not Alone
If the notion of public speaking makes you quiver, shake and panic, you are a part of the American majority.
Most every poll result and scientific research verifies that public speaking is number one on the 'what are you most afraid of' list.
I find this discovery to be quite surprising!
Most Americans would rather jump from an airplane, hold a living tarantula or DIE rather than hear that dreaded footstep noise made from walking toward a podium . . . to simply talk!
Fear of public speaking is no laughing matter. It stops career advancements, career changes or even the process of interviewing for a needed job.
What is Fear?
The first step in winning any battle is to know your enemy. In the public speaking arena, FEAR is your primary opponent.
Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers, by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. defines fear as:
Fear (fēr) the unpleasant emotional state consisting of psychological and psychophysiological responses to a real external threat or danger, including agitation, alertness, tension, and mobilization of the alarm reaction.
These are just a few of the many adverse reactions fear arouses.
Stop The Negative Self-Talk
Tiger Woods, Julia Roberts, Anthony Quinn and Bruce Willis head a long list of celebrities suffering from the fear of public speaking, but these famous people plowed thick fields of fear to bring home bounties of personal victories.
The one thing I neglected to reveal about these celebrities is all four of them also suffered with severe stuttering problems. Most likely, you don't, or have never dealt with this speech disorder.
In a nutshell, here's the lesson: If these people (and remember, they ARE people, not gods) can overcome their double whammies, it's truly possible to defeat your solitary fear of public speaking.
How To Destroy This Fear
1. One must be brutally willing to do anything within the law to destroy this crippling fear. The scope and breadth of your motivation determines the amount of success.
2. Seek out professional help and FOLLOW THE PROFESSIONAL'S ADVICE! Some unorthodox methods may be suggested. You may be surprised in finding some of these "weird" suggestions may help you overcome this public speaking fear imposter.
3. "Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain." In other words, give speeches! I started by standing in front of my then 10-year-old daughter and a few of her friends. From there I would add one or two adults from my immediate family... you get the idea.
Start with the people who will not judge you and start with a very small group. Continue this action until you deliver at least 2 speeches in front of a crowd of 50 or more. By this time, your comfort level should have progressed to a much higher number.
4. Use imagery. Picture yourself calm, poised and collected every time you are in front of a group or anytime you are speaking in public.
This is not as easy as it first seems.
This method takes a lot of practice in noticing everything about the room. You must mentally visualize and respond positively to the sounds you know will be present, looking over the masses of people, watching someone close the doors to prevent interruptions, the sounds of those doors closing, etc., etc.
If possible, check out the area on the DAY BEFORE you are scheduled, and take mental notes. Then practice being relaxed and tranquil throughout the entire upcoming sequence of events.
(I am a Christian - the only religion I read and truly understand - so I won't delve into every religion known to man here.) When Jesus faced imminent and barbarous death, He prayed... Not once or twice, but 3 times. I cannot conceive of any trauma worse than crucifixion - not even public speaking, although some people swear they would rather die a horrible death than speak in public.
For whatever reason, prayer works for me. The decision to pray in earnest calms my quaking mind and my racing heart - This is my secret to overcome the fear of public speaking.
Notice, I wrote 'my secret'. This method may not work for you. Extensive lists of books, CD's, DVD's and articles like this one, will help you discover methods that conquer the fear of public speaking.
Practice, Practice, Practice
I've been a glossophobiac (fear of public speaking) for many years. I know its sinister M.O.and the damage it inflicts on your public presentations and your self-esteem.
Like the famous people mentioned earlier, I beat glossophobia.
Follow one or all of the 5 tips and never, never, never give up. One day you will actually look forward to hearing the sounds your footsteps make as you walk for the podium. Then, as you look over the audience, you will catch a deep breath and start. "Hello, ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure for me to be here."
© 2011 James Ranka
James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on May 03, 2012:
Daniel Kingsley on May 03, 2012:
These are very helpful pointers. As a public speaking trainer I'd like to add one more which is about really connecting with your audience.
It taps into the research done into the Social Nervous System by Dr Stephen Porges.
Dr Porges' research found that it is deeply soothing for human beings to feel connected to each other. Simply by allowing your eyes to gently meet the eyes of the people you're speaking to (and here's one of the keys - for long enough for you to feel a real connection) your SNS will be switched on and the body's self-soothing response will be activated. This is particularly helpful when speaking in public. Not only will you feel relaxed and connected to your audience, they will also feel connected to you.
Lee Glickstein has developed this into a method that he calls Speaking Circles - see his book Be Heard Now (available cheaply on Amazon).
If anyone is interested in taking this method further I offer training in London ( www.stepfowardandspeak.co.uk ) and there are other facilitators in various other parts of the world - see www.speakingcircles.com
James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on November 02, 2011:
I've used many gimmicks also - some worked; some failed, but when you find yourself in front of a crowd shaking like a tiny leaf in a gale, one will try anything! LOL!
ronhi from Kenya on November 02, 2011:
One trick that always works for me, is to pretend i am looking at the faces when am actually looking at the foreheads...hahaha.....and yes, prayer helps too. Thanks for sharing