This Article is About
giving a speech
sabre toothed tiger
stomach cramps
part timer
brain functions
brain stem
lack of confidence
stage fright
hypothalamus
Giving A Speech? Avoid The Pit - Manage Your Fear Of Public Speaking
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Public speaking is something some of us get to do some of the time, while many have to do it all the time.

The one shared link – part timer with veteran - is that flurry of fear before the performance. Actors - quite famous ones – maintain that the day the stage fright goes is the day to give up.

A frisson of fear is good if you can ride it, it will give edge, sharpen, and so get the audience onside. Whether spur to excellence or agent for disaster depends on how you harness it.

Levels of fear vary from person to person and it is interesting to note that some high-flyers report years of debilitating fear that is health depleting – causing headaches, fevers, stomach cramps, hours in the lavatory – overcome for the sake of a glittering career onstage, in the boardroom, after-dinner speaking etc. Some ambition knows no bounds!

What is at the back of this fear? - it can't simply be lack of confidence (although in many cases this is a contributing factor) when such accomplished people suffer so badly. It is the primal, running amok in a modern environment where it has no natural outlet, feeding on itself and producing neurosis in its poor victim.

Fear is experienced when an individual perceives danger – 'twas ever present in the primaeval forest! On sighting a sabre-toothed tiger (for instance) an observer would tense, restricting his/her breathing which would signal the brain. Its instantaneous response would provide the wherewithal for fight or flight.

The receptors and system for dealing with dire threats, are situated at the centre of the brain above the brain stem. The hub for rescue, it is primitive – reptilian even - its function, to ensure survival. (This, not being a scientific treatise, intends to give an insight into the mechanics of fear so it can be managed, please do not challenge my science!). Not equipped to perceive beyond the case in hand, the hypothalamus and amygdala take over momentarily and shut down other brain functions to ensure concentrated effort. Troops (eg adrenaline) are mobilised to ensure strength to fight or flee, whereupon those high folluting thought processes are freed so you may formulate your strategy. Once physical action is taken, the coursing hormones are spent fuel.

All the above is responsible for that blank mind syndrome - function of entering an exam room wondering what your name is, let alone your subject, or standing in the wings ready to go onstage when your lines elude you. Being primitive and still specialised in surviving danger, this part of the brain has not grasped that sabre-tooths are few and far between, that survival in the modern world often depends on the higher thoughts processes it is so keen to close off - and fighting your audience or running away is seldom appropriate. In addition, the adrenaline, not burnt up physically becomes toxic - hence the extreme reaction to 'nerves' in some.

Still, in extremis we are glad to know the system continues to reign! The trick to by-passing its influence is to fool it into believing you are calm and tranquil, that danger has no place in your environment.

How?

The first thing is to manage your thought processes before the event. Simple rule: having done all your preparation – you know you're word perfect - don't think about it on the day, make space between you and it.

Do anything you enjoy – walking, swimming, cooking, curl up with a book, meditate or do yoga (highly recommended!) but don't hit the bottle, a numb head will make you fuzzy and less than competent, as you know!

Practice deep breathing, the best relaxant. Remember it is shallow breathing and tension that sets the whole fear thing off – don't let on you're scared!

Then, once at the venue breathe, breathe, breathe – deeply, consciously clear your head.

Now you're ready for the talk/performance/exam.

Good luck. Slay 'em all...!!!

Of course if you haven't prepped/learnt your lines/swotted – you deserve all the fear you get.


Street Talk

Well done, Karen. Mastering your speech beforehand goes a long way in slaying the "fear" demons.

Reply
  about 8 years ago

Thank you for your comment, Scott. I believe 'knowing your stuff' allows you to enjoy the experience once delivery begins - nothing more satisfying!

Reply
  about 8 years ago
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