Fear of Public Speaking Hardwired
Speech Anxiety Worse for Some, but Most Can Overcome It
You Can Speak in Public
Here's the bad news. You cannot change your traits. They are part of your
personality. If you are a person with high-trait anxiety, there's no simple way
to become a low-trait-anxiety person.
The good news is that we can learn to win with the cards we are dealt.
High-trait anxiety is a challenge. It need not be a disability.
Witt doesn't try to motivate people. Instead, he teaches public speaking
Visualize. Picture yourself in the classroom or in the
meeting room, standing up, taking your notes to the lectern, and so on.
Visualize a successful outcome.
Practice. Practice going through your presentation, over
and over again. But do it with someone who is supportive, so that you learn to
succeed rather than to fail.
Sensitizers focus on the little things. "Through
visualization they can get all that negative stuff out, so when the real day
comes, they can get that out of their system and focus on real issues,"
During your speech, deal with symptoms as they occur:
- Dry mouth? Take a little sip of water.
- Knees knocking? Shift your weight and flex your knees.
- Hands trembling? Put them together.
- Voice is quivering? "Pause, take a deep breath or two, and smile. It is
amazing what a smile will do," Witt say.
- Sweating? "Forget it, nobody sees that anyway," Witt says.
"Those symptoms that distract us are treatable," Witt says. "It
doesn't take a PhD to figure this out, but so many people don't -- because as
sensitizers, they become so focused on their symptoms and their embarrassment
in front of other people."
There are, of course, psychological problems that require more than
visualization and practice. Witt recommends counseling for people who have
violent symptoms such as vomiting. But for the rest of us -- who fear that
everyone in the room can see our palms sweat -- it's a matter of gaining
confidence by learning a set of simple skills.
"Virtually every speaker gets nervous most of the time, or at least some
of the time," Witt says. "We all deal with our nervousness in different
ways. The important thing is it does not have to make us embarrassed or
frightened or upset to speak in front of other people. We can deal with that.
You may be nervous, but you don't have to be disabled in front of other