A quick Youtube Search of “Speaking Anxiety” will come up with a few keywords:
BEAT speaking anxiety
OVERCOME speaking anxiety
And they are usually paired with the word:
Unfortunately, these terms and promises are doing more harm than good. For example, if you were to find a video titled “Become a champion marathon runner IMMEDIATELY,” you might be slightly apprehensive to believe any claim the video makes.
You must have the same apprehension with anyone trying to sell you that you can conquer your speaking nerves, especially if they claim you can do so immediately.
SPEAKING ANXIETY IS NOT A CHOICE
No matter what anyone tells you, speaking anxiety is not a choice. It is a biological and neurological response to high-stakes social interactions. Yes, there are ways you can re-wire your brain not to feel paralyzing fear when speaking to others, but our brains will always go into flight, flight, or freeze mode.
Wait a minute, Erik!! I know someone who doesn’t get nervous when they speak! They are cool as a cucumber.
Yes, they may appear to be, but I assure you that brain science and over 25 years of experience in coaching speakers prove otherwise. Their nerves look different (not being prepared, using distraction tactics, putting disclaimers to their arguments), but they are still very much present.
In my Youtube video on this topic, I break down the difference between “lying nerves” and “roller coaster” nerves and why we should NEVER “beat” or “overcome” what we feel before we go into a high-stakes speaking situation.
MINDSETS ARE THE KEY TO SPEAKING CONFIDENCE
While we never want to eliminate speaking nerves, some mindsets support us in transforming those fears into fuel.
Trust The Process
First, you must trust that this is just ONE high-stakes speaking situation. It is not your first one or your last one. It FEELS dangerous at the moment, but remind yourself that you are not in physical danger.
Part of effective communication is establishing a powerful feedback loop. Public speaking is not about laying all of your ideas down to an audience and then leaving; it is about interacting, confronting, getting curious, and digging deeper. Trust that communication is always a process. While we can’t always guarantee the result, we can always be ready to respond and interact in a way that supports our message.
Perfection Is A Lose-Lose Game
Most public speaking is highly controlled. Even my own Youtube videos are edited. That’s not good or bad…but it does give our brain a subconscious signal that we must be PERFECT in our delivery, and that’s just not the case.
I have never given a perfect speech. I hope I never do.
Do you know what I would have to do if I gave a perfect speech?
I would have to give it again.
I would have to achieve perfection over and over again.
And then, I would also expect perfection from those around me.
That is only setting me up for failure every single time.
Let’s release our need to be perfect speakers. Instead, let’s embrace the need to be impactful speakers.
100% Comfortable is 100% Ineffective
High-stakes speaking is not comfortable. You know, comfortable speaking because you see it all the time. It is the standard introduction, the typical speech, the ones that bore you to death. On first impression, they are not damaging or insulting. But they do take up a precious resource: time.
If you are going to use someone’s time, make it worthwhile. Say something meaningful. Your audience may reject you for it, and that’s okay because some will not. However, if you choose comfort in these situations, you will also decide not to impact.
No, it doesn’t always feel great to step into those situations. But the outcome is always worth it much, much more when you are saying something of value. And those nerves you feel? That anxiety?
It is only telling you that you are on the right track.
Speaking nerves are natural.
They are beneficial.
They are not something to overcome.
They are something to embrace and use as fuel for your message.