All speech for business is public speaking. To fear and loathe public speaking is to put an unnecessary ceiling on your career. This fear is unnecessary but it feels very real and very intense. It should because it is real. The way you perceive things is subjective but there are some very real forces present whenever you find yourself in the public speaking spotlight: the energy of attention, the sense of judgment, and the fear of consequences.
Most people lump them all together and call it “nerves.” That nervous feeling is actually a reaction to the sudden awareness of the three-headed monster coming toward you. It sounds like a fantasy but these forces are real – and ever present. In order to tame the beast, you must look at the three heads separately. Let’s break it down.
The Energy of Attention
The energy of attention is the strongest of the three and it is actually the trigger for the other two. Whenever you speak to even one person you can feel the energy of their presence and they can feel yours. Increasing the number of people you are addressing increases that level of attention, or focus. It is a very real condition, just like the weather. You can’t change it and you can’t ignore it. But you can see it for what it is.
The energy of attention is the main reason why there is always a feeling of excitement when you speak to a group.
The larger the group, the higher the level of attention. If you are uncomfortable with the energy, you will probably find yourself feeling nervousness.
The Sense of Judgement
The second force that suddenly enters a public speakers awareness is the sense of judgment. The word judgment itself often gets a bad rap. No one likes judgmental people and a final judgment sounds so ominous and well, final. But we use our judgment in so many ways to make good and important decisions everyday. Judgment is also the sense that your listeners use to determine if you are indeed “driving the bus” and if they are comfortable following along.
So, when all eyes are on you and you feel like everyone is judging you, they are!
It is what they are supposed to do and it is, in fact, what you want them to do. Acceptance of this reality goes a long way to help you see things in perspective.
The Fear of Consequences
The last head on the monster is the fear of consequences. This force is not as strong as the first two but it is constantly there in the back of your mind. It can be a general feeling of wanting to make good impressions and taking advantage of this opportunity to advance your career. On a personal level, you may also fear stumbling and letting yourself down once again. Your mind can slide very quickly into the cloud of consequences if you don’t recognize the triggers that push you there. It can happen in the blink of an eye if you’re not prepared.
Don’t let the true nature of public speaking surprise you. Far too many people lose their way wondering, “why is this happening again?” You need to practice recognizing the forces that are at work in less stressful situations. Participating at a impromptu meeting can be a good practice opportunity.
Remember that all business communications contain an aspect of public speaking.
The reduced pressure of speaking at a meeting will allow you to monitor your reactions and get your mind and body used to being more at ease with the circumstances that surround you. Habituation, the scientific term for “get used to it,” takes recognition, practice and time. Public speaking does not have to be a once a month or a once a year roll of the dice. If you can eliminate the element of surprise, your odds of success will greatly increase.
What You Are Feeling Is Real, Yet Manageable
The energy of attention, the sense of judgment, and the fear of consequences are all real. Together they create an unstoppable wave that you need to recognize and prepare for in any business setting. This reality can certainly compound any lack of confidence you may have in your speech technique.
On the flip side, learning to ride the wave can increase the power of your message exponentially. It may sound like you’re playing with fire, but you have no choice. Your comfort, your confidence, and your career depend on your ability to harness the power of public speaking.