By Monique Farmer, APR – Founder of Avant Solutions
For many, the thought of standing in front of an audience can send shivers down our spines. From seasoned communication professionals to business leaders, the fear of public speaking is real and pervasive. However, with the right rituals and practices, this fear can be transformed into power.
Rituals & Practices: Tools for Mastery
One fundamental rule to remember is not to wait until you’re standing in front of your audience to manage your anxiety. Instead, engage in rituals that ground you and help alleviate that surge of nervousness before it takes over. One of my favorite go-to’s? The “Wonder Woman pose,” a symbolic stance that instantly energizes and empowers me. It’s what’s commonly referred to as a power pose. Adopting stances like the “Superman” or “Wonder Woman,” a lot of us remember from childhood–even for just a few minutes, has been shown to boost confidence. It’s not just about feeling good; it’s about embodying the energy and vigor you wish to project.
Studies have long emphasized the importance of using rituals to combat anxiety. Engaging in just five minutes of meditation, for example, can center your mind and body. If you’re new to meditation or seeking guided practices, “Headspace” on Netflix is a great starting point and also one of my faves for a quick anxiety release practice.
Another personal favorite technique I use is deep breathing. This simple act can calm the racing heart and clear the clouded mind. When nervousness threatens, I take slow, deep breaths, allowing the calming effect to settle over me. Deep breath for 30 seconds. Hold. Slow (I mean, take your time) exhale release.
Of course, one of the most powerful antidotes to anxiety is preparation. Knowing your content thoroughly can work wonders. This means dedicated time for practicing. It doesn’t mean memorizing your lines, it means understanding your message, anticipating possible questions and being prepared to engage in meaningful dialogue. Owning your content is the first step to owning your confidence, thereby eliminating any traces of negative self-talk.
Non-verbal Cues Matter
It’s often said that actions speak louder than words. Indeed, more than 90% of what we’re saying isn’t coming out of our mouths. When you walk into a room, your body language conveys messages before you even open your mouth. The way you stand, the calmness of your gestures, and the steadiness of your gaze can either affirm or betray the confidence in your voice.
A Universal Fear: The Statistics
You are not alone. The fear of public speaking isn’t a solitary battle; it’s a shared struggle. Recent research indicates that as much as 70% of the population grapples with some fear of public speaking. A survey in Canada reinforced this, with a third of the respondents expressing severe anxiety when addressing a large audience. For many, these fears root themselves early, often manifesting before the age of 20. Furthermore, for some, public speaking anxiety isn’t just an isolated concern. It can be an offshoot of a broader social anxiety disorder, which is believed to be prevalent in 15 to 30% of the general population. This anxiety often expresses itself in fears of saying something embarrassing, forgetting content or stumbling over words.
Understanding that you’re not alone in your fear can be comforting. But the real transformation happens when you employ tools and rituals to take control of your nervousness. Embrace power poses, rely on deep breathing, and dive deep into content preparation. Harness the power of non-verbal cues. With these tools, you’ll not only address your fears but also command any room with grace and confidence.
At Avant Solutions, we’re committed to equipping leaders with the tools and strategies they need to communicate effectively and with confidence. Our executive communication training and workshops are designed to hone the skills that ensure leaders are prepared and ready to crush their next presentation.
Remember, fear is universal, but the power to overcome it lies within each one of us. Today, make the choice to face it, conquer it and let your voice resonate with unwavering strength.