How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

If you are interested in public speaking fear tips, you know how nervous you may feel when you need to step in front of an audience.

How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking

I do feel nervous most of the time when I needed to deliver a speech. Although I know almost everybody feels the same, that doesn’t help too much.

In time, I found that there are ways to significantly reduce this stress. In principle, I don’t think it’s a good idea to try to ignore what you feel, but to acknowledge, accept your feelings and manage them. Yes, you feel a bit nervous and it’s ok. There are a number of ways that enable you to take control of the situation, manage your fear and deliver a great speech.

Here is what I found to work well:

1. Practice in a Low-Risk Environment First

If you are not an experienced speaker and you suddenly need to face a very large audience, you feel a lot of pressure. A much better approach is to expose yourself to public speaking gradually. Start by delivering speeches to small audiences, in low-risk situations.

There is an organization called Toastmasters, which brings together people interested in developing their public speaking skills. This is the perfect way to make continuous progress, via practicing in low-risk situations.

2. Hypoventilate

I’m sure you already know that a certain way of breathing can help relax. However, most people do it wrong. If you breath too much, this will actually increase the level of stress you feel. So, if you start breathing deeper and at the same pace or faster than before, it doesn’t serve you well.

Take a short breath, then let the air go out naturally. Repeat this a few times, trying to slow down and breath less. You will start to feel more relaxed.

3. Profile Your Audience

When you need to deal with the unknown, you generally tend to become nervous. Therefore, a good strategy to help develop confidence is to reduce ambiguity and unknown elements.

Research your audience in great detail. Know their level of familiarity with the topic, their level of education, demographic and psychographic profiles, how big your audience is and so on. This doesn’t help only with putting you at ease, but it is also one of the most important steps in developing a great speech.

4. Prepare Thoroughly

When you prepare your presentation thoroughly, you feel much more confident. The ideal situation is when you are an expert in the field. Try to deliver speeches on topics that fall within your area of expertise. However, even if this is not the case, become very familiar with the topic your speech is about. You will then not be caught off-guard by the various questions you may receive from the audience.

5. Rehearse Smartly (Don’t Memorize The Speech!)

The importance of a good rehearsal can’t be over-emphasized. Don’t try to memorize your presentation, though. This is not what the rehearsal is about. The idea is to get very familiar with the content, think about the points that you want to stress and anticipate questions from the audience.You may also discover that the flow of the speech can be improved and decide to engage into some fine-tuning.

Overall, a few rehearsals make me feel much more at ease when I step in front of the audience.

6. Get Familiar with the Environment

Try to rehearse the speech in the actual location, if possible. If not, at least arrive earlier at the location, in order to get familiar with it. Try to double-check before how the technical equipment works. It is well-known that the technical challenges are very common and you don’t want to experience that with all eyes on you.

7. Leverage Interactivity

The extent to which you can implement this tip depends on the size of your audience. You want to avoid a monologue. This creates a you versus them feeling that can add to your stress level. Try to interact a lot with your audience. Ask them questions, encourage them to share personal examples, make them feel part of your presentation. Of course, avoid to engage into any conflicts with members of the audience. This will create a more relaxed environment.

8. Make Visual Contact (Especially with Receptive People)

Don’t just look in the direction of your audience, but make visual contact with the people you can. Try to find a few smiley, positive faces and disproportionatelly make eye contact with them. It helps you feel supported and connected to the audiencce. This technique works very well, so don’t miss it.

9. Learn How to Manage Difficult People and Challenging Situations

Sometimes you may get into a situation in which the audience is difficult. It may be that it’s non-responsive or even hostile to you. If you are equipped with techniques to manage such situations effectively, you will be more relxed. It helps to be aware of them even if you don’t encounter such challenging situations. Because you know in the back of your mind that you are prepared just in case and this is comforting.

Read: Public Speaking Step-by-Step Guide

10. Visualize a Positive Outcome

This can be used anytime and it also helps with developing confidence and a positive state of mind before delivering a speech. Visualize yourself delivering the presentation in front of a positive, supporting audience. Use elements from your rehearsal and visualize yourself in the location, to make it more realistic.

The more you practice, the better you will manage public speaking anxiety. Allow yourself to feel a little tensed, as it’s perfectly normal. All people experience this. Then, apply the how to overcome fear of public speaking tips above. You’ll become more and more confident and relaxed when you need to speak in public.

Photo: Aleksi Aaltonen

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How To Deal With Interruptions And Take Control Of Your Time

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Interruptions are a huge time waster. At the same time, we are exposed to interruptions all the time. And don’t think that this only happens when someone else triggers them. Many of them are determined by us.

Whenever you start to engage into multitasking or stop what you are doing and completely switch to doing something else, you become an interruption victim.

The modern workplace leads you into such a way of working, even if you have a natural tendency to focus. Think about it! You start working on something and then you get a phone call. After ten minutes you get an urgent email and you need to double-check something quickly and reply. Then you go to the department meeting, you finally start working again on the project and your boss wants to talk to you. And then there are some more urgent emails demanding your attention.

Sounds familiar?

There are two big problems with this way of working. First of all it is not efficient, to say the least. If you start doing something, interrupt, start over again, interrupt and so on, you need to spend time several times to remember where you left-off. However, the second problem is that you can’t really avoid interruptions.

So what to do?

Change The Way You Respond To Interruptions

Most people take it for granted that when they face an interruption, they need to stop what they were doing and deal with it. This is indeed one way to manage an interruption and in some cases it is the only way. However, in most situations you can choose from a number of alternative options.

Your aim is to take control. When it’s a must, you do need to stop your activity and shift your attention towards something else. Assess each time if this is really the case though. Even if it’s not the case, you can still choose to allow yourself to be interrupted, if you believe it’s the best thing to do. But the key is to control wether of not you allow a certain event to interrupt you.

Let’s discuss more specifically and expose the biggest offenders.

Emails

A lot of people continuously check, sort and respond to emails. This is a never-ending stream that can keeps you busy forever. How many times did it happen to you to wonder what happened for the last couple of hours? And most importantly, why haven’t you significantly advanced with the project you were working on? In most cases, this is due to less than ideal email management!

The answer is to set limits that suit your needs, but put an end to the continuous email management. For example, check your emails only three times per day, at set hours.

Maybe the nature of your activity demands that you react faster. However, try to set at least some blocks of time in which you don’t check email at all. Use them to focus exclusively on the task at hand.

Phone Calls

When the phone rings, we all have this unstoppable urge to answer. You don’t have to answer the phone though, if it’s not an appropriate time for you. As with emails, set aside time blocks in which you don’t answer the phone.

Let the people get through to the robot. Of course, you then need to review your voice mail and missed calls and call back, as needed. The difference is that you’ll be able to group together several calls and do this when it’s a better time for you, without destroying your productivity.

If you do need to answer, keep the conversation brief and to the point. If you need to have a long conversation, schedule it for a time that suits you.

Unexpected Visitors

If it is really important to finish your current work, you don’t need to interrupt yourself just because someone shows-up. Agree a timing for a separate meeting and continue your work. You need to learn to say no and stick to your projects.

Don’t let external events run your agenda. If you do decide to take a break and have a five minute chat with a colleague, do so. But you need strong discipline. Don’t turn this into a half hour gossip session.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging is a great invention that facilitates collaboration. It is a double-edged sword though. The most common mistake is not keeping conversations brief. If you try to work on your project while checking the messenger conversation every one-two minutes, your productivity will be nothing to write home about.

Setting limits is easier said than done, though, so you need to develop an effective approach. First of all, change your status to “busy”. Then, if you notice that you find yourself engaged into long conversations frequently, try to completely turn-off instant messaging, at least for a few hours every day. The world will not crush, I promise!

Social Media

This is another biggie. Furiously checking Facebook, Twitter and the likes every five minutes is a sure way to burn through your day and do nothing. These are amazing time sinks. Like with emails, set aside two or three times a day when you allow yourself to check your accounts. One time per day is better if you can and it is more than enough. You will see your productivity explode once you get out of this race of keeping-up with every status and message.

Multitasking

Although technically you still continue to work on something, multitasking is in fact an interruption. Your productivity is dramatically reduced by this rapid succession of attention shifts from one project to another.

In reality, there are of course times when you need to multitask. Whenever you can avoid this practice though, do it. Finish one task and only then move on to another.

I know you may actually be proud of your multitasking abilities. However, try single tasking and compare results. If your productivity does not explode, I rest my case.

Looking For Something

How often does it happen to you to look for some lost object or piece of information? This is quite a common time waster. Although each time you do this you may only spend a few minutes to find what you are looking for, think about the compound effect.

How much time do you waste like this in a week and within a month? This is lost time that you can spend in a better way. Try to keep your desk tidy and spend some time to design a system to organize your information.

I’m still working to improve in terms of managing interruptions. I must say that when I do a good job at this, I definitely reap the rewards. I’m able to achieve more of what is important for me, no doubt about it.

Don’t try to attack all these enemies at the same time. Pick one and for a week focus on eliminating that specific source of interruptions. So, which one are you going to address this week?

how to deal with perfectionism

How To Deal With Perfectionism

how to deal with perfectionism

Why should you care about how to deal with perfectionism? Because this culprit can sabotage you big time in achieving life balance and in managing your time well. Don’t think that perfectionism is only about the endless pursuit to reach the highest standards in everything you do. There are a number of associated behaviors that together have a compound effect.

I know this first hand, as I’ve displayed most perfectionist behaviors I describe below. To be honest, I haven’t even realized how much perfectionism is affecting my life. We get so used to our beliefs and way of doing things that you sometimes we need a wake-up call. And once, while reading a list of perfectionistic behaviors, it hit me that I tick most of them.

10 Signs You Are A Perfectionist

  1. Excessively high standards. This is the classic sign of perfectionism. While in some cases it makes perfect sense to abide by the highest standards, it’s not feasible to successfully apply this to everything you do. This  approach is often associated with a black or white type of thinking, with no in-betweens.
  2. Excessively rigid standards. This is related to a perceived giving-up of the high standards a perfectionist pursues. Sometimes our plans are impacted by unexpected events. A perfectionist finds it hard to be flexible and make an exception from the rules he was planning to follow.
  3. Excessive need for control. Do you constantly strive to control everything around you? How about assuming excessive responsibility for how others think and behave? These tendencies lead to spending an excessive amount of time to make sure that absolutely all the details are well managed.
  4. Overcompensating. What does this mean? It’s when you do much more than it is needed, just to make sure that you eliminate any possibility to fail or make a mistake. A classic example is leaving two hours earlier for an appointment, when you know that it normally takes you thirty minutes to get there.
  5. Procrastination. There are a number of different procrastination causes, but perfectionism is one of the frequent ones. This happens when you put off doing something for fear that you will not manage to do it perfectly.
  6. Having difficulties to quit. Sometimes things do not go the way we want, no matter what. In such instances, it is better to admit it, cut your losses and move on. However, perfectionists find it difficult to do so. They just wouldn’t stop trying and pushing to get it their way. Are you guilty of doing this yourself?
  7. Being slow in making decisions. Because there are usually several alternatives we need to choose from when making decisions, perfectionists make up their mind slower. This is because they try to avoid any potential mistake and make the perfect choice. Those around them will quickly pick-up on the fact that they always take more time to decide what to wear, what to order when going out and so on.
  8. Excessive double-checking. In order to make sure no mistake has slipped through, a perfectionist will engage in double-checking over and over again his work. For example, you may double-check ten times that you filled-in well a tax form. Or you may double-check your calculations over and over again and fail to finish your math exam, because you didn’t get to do all exercises.
  9. Avoiding delegation. We can’t do everything by ourselves. However, in order to make sure that everything is done according to their high standards, perfectionists find it hard to let go. They fail to delegate and let other people do the work, because they believe they are the only ones who can perform the task in the right way.
  10. Being overly critical to others. This is an attempt to control what others are doing and determine them to do the things your way. it will not be long until excessive criticism will take its toll on your relationship with those around you.

Strategies To Overcome Perfectionism

If upon making an assessment of your thoughts and of your behaviors you identified perfectionist tendencies, think about how they affect your life balance and your relationship with time.

In most cases, perfectionism triggers feelings that impair your life balance. For example, consistently not meeting your very high standards may make you feel stressed, depressed or angry.

Moreover, you will likely spend too much time engaging in activities such as excessive double-checking and fine-tuning.

Therefore, there is a lot to be gained if you start to manage your perfectionist tendencies better.

  • In order to do so, make an inventory of your perfectionist thoughts and behaviors, their triggers, their frequency and their intensity.
  • Once you have identified the culprits, establish your goals. You can’t possibly change all your thoughts and behaviors all of a sudden. Pick a few related elements to work on in the following  months.
  • Then, you can start applying one of the following  ways to deal with perfectionism.

How To Overcome Perfectionist Thoughts

  1. Identify them. Although you partially went through this step previously, let’s try to become a bit sharper. It is not that easy to identify perfectionist thoughts, as some of them are not even conscious. Try to identify both your perfectionist thoughts and behaviors. When you notice that you engage into a perfectionist behavior, uncover the thought that triggered the behavior.
  2. Generate several alternative thoughts. Have a brainstorming with the aim to generate a number of alternative perspectives, even if you don’t agree with them. Like in a brainstorming, don’t apply judgements to the  generated options in the first stage.
  3. Assess the original and alternative thoughts, comparing advantages and disadvantages. Focus on examining the evidence that justifies or not a particular thought. In this way, you will be able to potentially expose many of your perfectionist thoughts as not being based on facts.
  4. Mentally prepare for different possible outcomes. This is a step that you need to work on continuously, in order to increase the extent to which you can tolerate uncertainty. By becoming more and more open to different alternatives and to giving-up the tendency to control everything, you will be able to implement the next step easier.
  5. Re-frame the way you approach the situation. Building on the previous step, choose a more realistic and helpful way to think about the situation.

How To Change Perfectionistic Behaviors

Perfectionistic thoughts and behaviors reinforce each other in a vicious circle. The best way is to address both. Changing your thoughts will help overcome perfectionistic behaviors. However, you need to also attack such behaviors directly.

  1. Expose yourself progressively and in a controlled way to the situation triggering perfectionistic behaviors. The way to do this is to allow yourself to break your excessively hight standards on purpose, in order to get used to the approach. You don’t need to do dramatic changes to what you usually do, but experiment with making small changes. For example, if you spend hours and hours in order to clean your house perfectly, leave a few areas that are a bit messier than you can normally tolerate.
  2. Break perfectionistic behavior once you catch yourself engaged into it. For example, if you find yourself double-checking something over and over again, make a conscious effort to stop after say one or two double-checks.
  3. Stop perfectionism-related procrastination. Break the task into smaller bits and just start doing it.

Changing thought patterns and behaviors is a longer term endeavor. You need to be patient and take action consistently and you will continue to make progress. The pay-off is totally worth the effort though. You will make more time for yourself and you will enjoy better life balance.

Image: cloud_nine