Updated: Jan 28
Why are we so afraid of public speaking? How does one get over the painfully numb experience of talking in front of an audience and not feeling like we’re crashing and burning? First let’s take a look at why we feel so awkward about it.
Academic researchers have hypothesised that the intense fear of public speaking comes from evolution. They believe that in the same way our ancestors felt threatened by large predators and travelled in tribes, we like to do the same… no wonder speaking alone in front of a large crowd seems so terrifying! It’s almost like feeding yourself to the wolves.
As humans, all we are looking for are ways to survive and to feel loved. Constantly seeking a safe, warm and stable environment and also feeling validated and fulfilled. The funny thing about public speaking is that it feels like gambling the very thing we are looking for! You have an entire crowd of people that have the power to judge you and deem you worthy or unworthy of their love and attention.
That’s the fear based thought process. In fact, it’s so common that in 2009 psychologist Matthias Weiser did a study that measured patient’s responses to angry, happy and neutral images of faces. To increase the anxiety even more, he instructed those participants to do a speech in front of a group. He found that no matter the amount of nodding and smiling faces in the crowd, the participants were only focusing on the angry expressions.
It’s as if we’re addicted to the fear of being judged so much that we can’t seem to see that we have an amazing ability to use our speech to reach others in a powerful way. Everyone has a story that is worth telling and the great news is that there are tools that you can use to help you share those incredible stories and get your message out there.
So, what do these so called “successful speakers” do to become so confident in their speaking that they win over the crowd and help change people’s lives?
Quantifiedcommunications.com used analytics data to take samples from TED speakers, Fortune 500 executives and other leaders to find out exactly that…
Confident speakers show more passion.
Who wants to listen to a monotone speaker? Just like that boring high school physics teacher explaining Newton’s law like it was as exciting as watching paint dry, speakers that lack the excitement and visible passion for what they are speaking about will not engage audiences or influence any provoking thought from them. The successful ones show 22.6% more passion that nervous speakers through the use of their body language and expression. They look self-assured, they act like it and therefore their speech comes across more confident.
They have a deeper knowledge about their topic
Fearful speakers tend to get caught up in how well they’re speaking or what the audience is thinking so much that they forget what they’re talking about! Their confident counterparts on average have 1.2 times the knowledge about their topic. If they’re speaking about their life story, they not only go through the motions of their life, but they also understand deeply things about themselves and how the events in their life have shaped them. Would you rather hear a TED talk about how someone gained a lot of money in their life and then lost it all, or listen to one about why money was such a driving factor for them in their lives and how the chase for success consumed them to the point of self-sabotage and personal destruction? Audiences love interesting stories, but speakers also feel more confident when they delve deep into their knowledge about their own topic/story.
Successful speakers love to include their audience
Be relatable. A person in a crowd can really take away something from the speaker when they are able to resonate with what the speaker is talking about. This can be done through inclusive language, acknowledging the audience and building a rapport with them. For example, a confident speaker wouldn’t throw out a bunch of medical terminology about their time working as a surgeon without explaining it in basic terms (if relevant), as the audience wouldn’t understand or feel like they could relate to what the speaker was saying. Confident speakers know they have a responsibility of making sure their speech comes across clearly and engaging to their audience.
Thinking about becoming a speaker?
We all have a story to tell, that’s a given. If you are interested in working on yours to speak in front of a crowd and get your message across, congratulations! Becoming a speaker is life changing not only for you but also for the people you get to reach with your story. If you speak passionately, master your knowledge and work to connect with your audience then there is no stopping you. We all start somewhere and with practise, over time you will get there.
If you’re still not sure about where to begin, The Speakers Project lead by award winning, globally recognised Happiness Co founder Julian Pace is a great place to start. Julian has his own uphill battle story about how he overcame challenge after challenge in his life. He realised how important it was for him to tell his story and spread the message self-love, healing and happiness. Over years he has put in the hard work and dedication to become the inspiring speaker he is today. This project will give you the tools and in depth knowledge to help you discover your voice and fine tune your story so that you are able to able to start your journey to become a confident, passionate and inspiring speaker yourself.