Crushing the Fear of Public Speaking: The 2020 Definitive Guide

PERSON ON STAGE SCARED

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
― Jerry Seinfeld

Introduction

The fear of public speaking is typically the number one greatest fear that people hold.

Perhaps you fear being judged or looking incompetent. Or maybe you fear speaking your truth which is different than mainstream social beliefs, scientific or industry paradigms.

Sometimes these deep-seated fears of being shunned for being different are deeply embedded in your ancestral DNA after centuries of being physically attacked or ostracized from a community.

CAVEMAN BEING ATTACKED OR CHASED BY MONSTER

The need to belong and be socially accepted is deeply embedded in your genetic code, but in the modern world these extreme outcomes are far less likely, and your level of fear or anxiety as a speaker may be unfounded.

In fact, we are in a world of unprecedented change and transformation, and it is imperative that you be an effective leader by speaking you truth. Whether to teach, inspire or motivate, your message needs to be heard.

SOMEONE STEPPING ON A FEAR MONSTER NAMED PUBLIC SPEAKING

In this 2020 Definitive Guide on Crushing the Fear of Public Speaking, we’ll introduce you to revolutionary tips that will not only make you an effective, confident public speaker, but also a powerful transformational leader and change agent.

Hacking your Physiology: How to calm your nerves and direct your energy to work for you

CHAPTER 1

Hacking your Physiology: How to calm your nerves and direct your energy to work for you

Preparation: How to visualize your successful speech

CHAPTER 2

Preparation: How to visualize your successful speech

CHAPTER 3

Visualizing won’t make you an expert: know your content!

STRUCTURE YOUR MESSAGE FOR SUCCESS

CHAPTER 4

How to structure your message for success

Letting Go: Hacking flow states while speaking

CHAPTER 5

Letting Go: Hacking flow states while speaking

How to use Whole-Brain Presenting to engage your audience

CHAPTER 6

How to use Whole-Brain Presenting to engage your audience

Mindfulness and Fear: Why slowing down is necessary in the Information Age

CHAPTER 7

Mindfulness and Fear: Why slowing down is necessary in the Information Age

CHAPTER 8

How to use Mindful Communication as Transformational Leadership

Confident Superhero Pose

CHAPTER 9

Confidence when Power Poses Don’t Work: Try this instead

USING NLP HACKS TO AMPLIFY MESSAGE

CHAPTER 10

How to use NLP hacks to amplify your message

CHAPTER 1

HACKING YOUR PHYSIOLOGY: HOW TO CALM YOUR NERVES AND DIRECT YOUR ENERGY TO WORK FOR YOU

When you’re preparing to step on stage to give a speech, it’s likely your heart and mind start to race. Or maybe you experience anxiety at the thought of having to speak in front of a group.

The important thing to remember is that no one is born a great public speaker! People become great speakers through repetitive practice.

CONFIDENT PERSON SPEAKING ON A STAGE

Everyone is nervous at some level, but the good news is you can hack your body and mind and redirect that nervous energy to work for you. The tips in this chapter will help you calm your nervous system before and during your speech.

Breathe

When you’re anxious, the first thing you may notice (if you’re able to notice it) is your shallow breathing.

By breathing deeply before a presentation, you’ll flood your system with oxygen, which will elicit a feeling of safety in your body. 

Remembering to breathe while on stage is equally important. Allow for pauses during your speech.

These pauses not only create a powerful moment with your audience, but you will also reap the benefits of allowing your mind and body to come into the present moment where you may access an innovative thought or comment to add.

DIAGRAM OF BREATHING EXERCISE BELOW

Before going on stage, try a deep breathing exercise:

  1. Inhale for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
  2. Hold your breath 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
  3. Exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
  4. Repeat this breathing pattern five times.
PERSON WITH CLOSED EYES, BREATHING

Soften Your Eye Gaze

Rather than gazing intently at your audience, soften your gaze to engage your peripheral awareness. Intensely focusing your eyes turns off your other senses and signals to your body that there may be danger in your environment, putting your body into a fight or flight state.

PERSON WITH INTENSE EYE GAZE

If you breathe and soften your gaze, you’ll realize you don’t need to start talking right away. You can soften your eyes, walk on the stage, gaze at your audience, and take a moment before speaking.

Expanding your awareness here can help you to tune into the energy of your audience.

Try practicing softening your eyes in a public area where there are people around, or even in a nature setting. Relax your eyes and scan back and forth. Then focus intently on a single point and notice the difference in your level of awareness.

GAZING AT AN EXPANSIVE VIEW SUCH AS A BODY OF WATER AND AN OPEN SKY

Dealing with Excess Energy

If you find that you tend to have excess energy built up on the days you are presenting a speech, consider exercising to release this energy. The endorphins may help you release feelings of anxiety and stress, and lessen your shakiness.

Michelle Brady of Safe Forward Training even suggests engaging in a full workout two days prior to your speech, followed by a light workout on the day of your speech to help relax and ground you.

PERSON EXERCISING

Use Pauses

While pausing is an effective tactic in speech delivery, it also serves as a helpful mini relaxation method that allows you to feel calm, while appearing you are giving thought to what you are saying.

THOUGHTS AND STOP SIGN

Try pausing after questions or at the end of sections. This will give you a moment to breathe, and it will give your audience a moment to think and reflect.

CHAPTER 2

PREPARATION: HOW TO VISUALIZE YOUR SUCCESSFUL SPEECH

In chapter one of this guide you learned how to work with your breath, soften your visual gaze and give yourself space for calm by strategically using pauses while speaking. Practicing these physical exercises consistently will certainly help reprogram your body’s fear and anxiety responses to public speaking.

In this chapter we’ll focus on a highly effective mental exercise to program yourself for success.

Harness Your Fear, See Your Success

Your mind is a powerful movie-generating device. If you play a negative or fearful movie in your mind, you’ll notice your body tensing, your breath shortening, and different emotions flooding your system.

Feelings of fear and survival create an adrenaline loop in your mindbody, even if you are not actually in a harmful situation.

PERSON WATCHING MOVIE IN THEIR MIND

Likewise, when you play a positive or optimistic movie in your mind, your body will have a corresponding response: you may feel relaxation, safety, trust, or perhaps excitement, joy, power and confidence.

SUPER HERO-LIKE STANCE WITH A SMILE

No matter the movie, your nervous system cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality; it creates a corresponding physiological response just the same.

You have the power to choose your movie at all times, so why not choose to see your speech in a positive manner, reinforcing feelings of confidence and success in your body?

Try visualizing your successful speech over and over again until the day you deliver it:

  1. Remove distractions and sit in a quiet place.
  2. Get comfortable and close your eyes.
  3. Visualize your presentation start to finish, all of it going perfectly. See people applauding you, taking selfies with you or asking for autographs. See people engaged, looking curious with smiles on their face, asking questions.
  4. The most important part of this visualization is to feel these feelings so they become anchored in your body as a pattern to be expected. Do not get up from your visualization session until you viscerally feel your success in your body.
PERSON SITTING AND VISUALIZING

CHAPTER 3

VISUALIZING WON’T MAKE YOU AN EXPERT: KNOW YOUR CONTENT!

Unless you are a highly skilled extemporaneous speaker, no amount of hacking your physiology or visualizing is going to make you confident if you are not well-versed in the area of expertise on which you are presenting.

This does not mean you need to over prepare and anticipate every single question that could come out of left field after you present, but you do need to have a healthy level of confidence in your content and your ability to share your message with your audience.

AUDIENCE WITH QUESTION MARKS OR ASKING QUESTIONS]

Be sure to ask yourself these questions before you begin planning your speech:

  1. Who is your audience? Do you really know who they are?
  2. How big is your audience?
  3. Where are you presenting? What do you need to know about this particular location that may impact the way you plan and deliver your speech?
  4. How long do you have to speak? How can you be prepared if your speech time ends up being cut short or even extended?
  5. Who else is speaking? How will a speaker who speaks before or after you impact the way you deliver your message? This may be out of your control, but consider how your message may be received in the context of those other speeches.

Practice Full Out

When you practice your speech, be sure to practice as if it were the real thing. Film yourself presenting. This is not just a casual practice, but a dress rehearsal. Use your visual aids if you’ll be using them during the real presentation.

When you practice your speech many, many times, you will feel greater confidence in your delivery. The first five percent of your practice may feel challenging, and you may experience inner resistance, but the last 95% of your practice will then feel much easier!

MOUNTAIN OR HILL WITH 5% STEEP UPWARD SLOPE AND 95% EASY DOWNWARD SLOPE

Don’t Memorize

Repetitive practice is great, but don’t learn your speech verbatim. Improvise so you won’t panic if your forget everything. Know the overall structure and main points.

Body Language

Remember and practice your body language. Use the gestures that feel natural to you. Move around the stage (or room where you are practicing) while you speak rather than stand like a board in one spot.

PERSON GESTURING

Practice Emotional Expression

Display the emotions you are explaining in your speech while practicing. For instance, if you are speaking about your feelings or shock or frustration in discovering a fact or statistic, express these emotions in your face. Not only will this add a human element to your presentation, but it will also hide your nerves.

DIFFERENT FACIAL EXPRESSIONS: HAPPY, CONFUSED, DISAPPOINTED, SHOCKED

Try Virtual Reality for Practice

In a study on reducing anxiety levels of students in public speaking in the Journal  of Education and Educational Development, researchers stressed the significance of a virtual environment in helping individuals overcome the fear of public speaking and developing greater confidence.

The results indicated that VRT (virtual reality therapy) sessions successfully helped students reduce public speaking anxiety. There are many virtual reality environments including apps, courses and programs available for practicing your presentation skills.

PERSON WEARING VR HEADSET

CHAPTER 4

HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR MESSAGE FOR SUCCESS

Once you have your speech topic, you’ll want to think about how to structure your message so that your audience understands your topic, and so that you deliver it with the greatest emotional, lasting impact so that your audience will remember the information and take action accordingly.

Focus Your Intent on the Audience

According to a study on students overcoming speech anxiety, the authors suggest a few things that hold great importance during a speech or presentation:

  1. Intent to be open with your audience
  2. Intent to connect with the audience
  3. Intent to be passionate about your topic
  4. Intent to listen to your audience
LARGE AUDIENCE

These intentions help speakers connect with the audience and become motivating speakers. The audience will be more interested in your speech and will help you to be comfortable while speaking, so keep your audience as your priority while you begin planning your speech.

Focus Your Intent on the Audience

According to serial entrepreneur Eric Edmeades, creating a predictable start and finish to your talk will help build your confidence and take your speech to the next level.

First, consider F15: the first 15 percent of your presentation. This part of your speech will require the most effort to launch the talk. Think of it like an F-15 jet. The launch requires the most energy, and once the aircraft is in the air, it can ease up. This F15 of your speech could include a good, predictable laugh from your audience early on.

Next, focus on L15: the last 15 percent of your speech. Use this time to help set yourself at ease and to wrap up your message in a powerful way.

Use a Speech Map and Storytelling

While planning your speech, create a speech map.

For each important section of your speech, use three stories, each illustrating two points each.

SIMPLE SPEECH MAP: ONE SECTION, THREE STORIES WITH TWO POINTS EACH

Remember to keep your focus narrow while developing your content. Keep in mind the time and attentiveness of your audience. Use your mental discipline to focus on a single purpose for your speech and keep it simple and to the point.

No one wants to be overwhelmed with information. For instance, if you are discussing one aspect of a project, there is no need to discuss objectives or details for the entire project.

Silence is Golden: Use Pauses

When the time comes to deliver your speech, you can naturally feel into when you need to pause for your own sake or to benefit the audience.

Beforehand, though, you can also consider during your planning phase where a pause might add a powerful space for the audience to absorb your words or the important idea you are expressing to them. This pause can give them time to feel and process an emotion more deeply.

“SILENCE” WITH CRICKETS

Don’t Let Them See Your Nerves

While you’re planning or practicing your speech, remember not to let your audience see your nerves or tell them you are nervous.

By not mentioning your nerves, there is a good chance people will walk up to you after your speech and tell you how good you were, which will build your confidence even if on the inside you felt very nervous.

Remember Your Unique Historical Context

In the Digital Information Age, the rules of communication have changed–audiences have shorter attention spans, lots of information to sift through, and many available perspectives from which to choose.

Keep these factors in mind, as they require you as a public speaker to be dynamic, engaging and authentic like never before if you wish to have a lasting impact.

CHAPTER 5

LETTING GO: HACKING FLOW STATES WHILE SPEAKING

While the fear, anxiety and tension of public speaking can seem entirely negative, it can actually be harnessed to access flow states where you experience optimal performance and being “in the zone.”

In fact, people with the most anxiety and tension about speaking have the potential to be brilliant speakers because they are deeply experiencing emotions of fear.

Why is feeling fear good? Well, if this is you, it means you have the ability to deeply connect with listeners. In these states, you are both deeply connected to yourself and to the audience. At this point, your speech is not about performing; it is being with your audience.

The Conditions for Flow

According to flow researchers at the Flow Genome Project, the conditions that elicit flow include novelty, complexity and unpredictability. If you are in a high-risk situation, with a rich, sensory environment, and you are experiencing intense full-body awareness, you are primed for flow.

The Four Phases of the Flow State

According to flow researcher and author Steven Kotler, once you are familiar with the stages of flow, you can move beyond the struggle phase. Athletes get into flow regularly to enhance their performance, and as a speaker, you can do the same.

Here are the four phases of flow:

  1. Struggle: In this stage you may feel overwhelmed. The situation is out of control and you feel very uncomfortable with it. This is the stage most people stay stuck in when they experience fear and anxiety, especially during a speech.

  2. Release: Now it’s time to let go. You feel the tension or struggle and then release your attempts at control, so your attention is driven intensely into the moment.

  3. Flow: This happens automatically when then tension is built up and you release attempts at control. You detach, become the observer and the tension dissolves. Your speech flows easily in this state. You are not your small self; you feel a part of something greater, or perhaps that you are merely a channel for your speech to flow through. You trust.

  4. Recovery: This state happens after the event, when you are able to integrate and process your experience, typically while you are asleep. This stage is very important–it creates a new sense of normal and expands your ideas of what is possible for you.

For instance, the experience of becoming comfortable as the center of attention in front of a group becomes a new state of normal for you, and a new positive memory is formed. So each time you practice your speech in front of a group and have a positive experience, the expectation of that positive experience becomes more deeply embedded in you.

Why bother to hack the flow state during a speech?

When you enter a flow state, you unleash powerful neurochemistry in your body. Dopamine increases curiosity, excitement, muscle firing and timing as well as pattern recognition. Anandamide is a blissful mood enhancer and fear inhibitor. Norepinephrine speeds up your heart rate, increases your attention and narrows your focus. Endorphins relieve pain and induce pleasure.

NEURONS FIRING

These neurochemicals correlate with shifts into theta and gamma brainwaves, allowing you to gain new insights, and process data more rapidly. In the flow state, different regions of your brain synchronize, and disparate thoughts can combine in new patterns of awareness.

If you’ve ever seen Jason Silva’s Shots of Awe videos, he is an excellent example of harnessing flow as a speaker, without planned content.

CHAPTER 6

HOW TO USE WHOLE-BRAIN PRESENTING TO ENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE

In the previous chapter you learned about hacking flow states to optimize your potential when you are speaking publicly. The key benefit of achieving this state is in the harmonization of disparate regions of your brain, which gives you greater access to mental and physical resources.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use more of your brain in a different manner: to create a more exciting and effective presentation delivery that deeply engages more of your audience’s brains.

Left-Brain Imbalance

Much of the way the Western world operates is very left-brain oriented, and most people give business presentations in a very left-brain manner.

The perception is that being rational, factual, analytical, data-oriented and unemotional makes one appear more “business like” or credible.

The drawback to this approach, though, is that it only engages half of your audience’s brains. Whether you are teaching, inspiring, motivating or persuading an audience, you need to engage your audience’s entire brain for a lasting impact.

Right-Brain Engagement

When the right brain hemisphere is engaged, it produces dopamine, which enhances memory retention. The right brain can be engaged through story, metaphor, images, humor, human interest or anything that evokes emotion.

BRAIN WITH LEFT HEMISPHERE BLUE AND RIGHT HEMISPHERE VERY COLORFUL

Crafting Your Own Whole-Brain Style

You will need to determine your own authentic presentation style based on your personality, the appropriateness of your message, venue and audience. If you can engage both left and right brain techniques in your speech, this makes for an effective, enjoyable speech.

SIMPLE QUADRANT CHART WITH LEFT-BRAIN V. RIGHT-BRAIN STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES LISTED BELOW

Left-Brain Strengths and Weaknesses

Each style of speaking possesses strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the left-brain strengths are logical, precise, analytical, organized and unemotional, to name a few.

An example of this kind of speaker would be a high-level politician, or scientist delivering a somber talk. When overdone, these strengths can come across as weaknesses: rigid, unimaginative, boring, cold and robotic.

POLITICIAN SPEAKING AT A PODIUM

Right-Brain Strengths and Weaknesses

The right-brain strengths are emotional, persuasive, expressive, energetic, humorous, warm, confident and articulate.

An effective example of this style of speaker might be Tony Robbins. When overdone, though, these traits can come across as unprofessional, pushy, over the top, insincere or arrogant.

DYNAMIC, EXPRESSIVE SPEAKER

They key is to strike the best balance for your authentic style and personality, as well as the tone of the message you are delivering. 

Be sure to check out the Neuro-linguistic Programming Hacks in Chapter 10 of this guide for more ways to deeply engage your audience on many levels.

CHAPTER 7

MINDFULNESS AND FEAR: WHY SLOWING DOWN IS NECESSARY IN THE INFORMATION AGE

In our current Digital Information Age, everything moves at lightning speed.

In fact, we could also call our time the Age of Anxiety, as we feel pressured to keep up with nonstop communication channels, advancing Artificial Intelligence and automation.

INFORMATION OVERLOAD

It is no coincidence, then, that mindfulness has become a major buzzword in recent years. It seems easy to suggest being “more mindful” in any case in life if you want to feel more peace and happiness, while lessening stress, anxiety and frustration.

Aside from the fear of public speaking that you may face, the added anxiety of the Information Age creates a unique context for any messages you deliver to an audience.

This collective anxiety and fear makes it critical for you to slow down and be present and authentic if you want to be memorable to your audience.

CALM IN THE MIDST OF CHAOS; SUCH AS A PERSON CALMLY IN THE EYE OF A STORM

So, officially, what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is typically defined as an open, non-judging awareness of one’s current experience. This awareness is two-fold: it is internal, where you are aware of your own emotions and thoughts, as well as external, where you are aware of external stimuli.

PERSON IN PEACEFUL NATURE SETTING

Either way, the key to harnessing the power of mindfulness is in learning to observe rather than be carried away by your immediate, unconscious reactions.

This observational awareness does not mean you are indifferent or aloof; it means you have sort of a buffer moment between what you experience and how you then choose to respond.

This is known as equanimity.

Mindfulness Is a Learnable Human Trait

According to John Kabat-Zinn, PhD, the founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, mindfulness is indeed an inherent human capacity, and is not just connected to a Buddhist context.

Humans possess a trait-like tendency toward mindful states, with some people experiencing it more or less frequently.

Increase Mindfulness Through Practice

What’s more, states of mindfulness can be increased through practice, which can then lead to a shift in one’s dispositional mindfulness.

In other words, the more you practice mindfulness, the more it becomes a part of your personality or way of existence, rather than just a momentary state you move in and out of.

If you’ve read the previous chapters of this guide so far, you’ll know by now that you are not born as a public speaker; you are trained to desensitize your fear and anxiety by practicing over and over again.

DAILY SCHEDULE WITH MEDITATION OR OTHER SIMILAR PRACTICE WRITTEN IN

Confidence comes through the lived experience of rehearsal. You are a malleable being. Even if you’ve had a bad experience in the past in public speaking or another other area of your life, you can create and hardwire new thoughts, feelings, habits and patterns.

Developing mindfulness is a powerful tool to aid in dispelling your anxiety and fear of public speaking, as well as developing a unique, memorable presence as a leader.

Presence Through Mindfulness

Having great content to present is not enough. Otherwise you could just email your notes or a PowerPoint presentation to your prospective audience.


Not only is your message important, but the fact that you are the special channel for it to flow through. Public speaking is not merely about delivering information; it is an opportunity for people to experience your unique presence, which is one of a kind.

PERSON WITH CALM, POWERFUL PRESENCE

You have a moment to speak, but you also have a moment to embody an energy or an essence that you want your audience to experience, remember and take away with them.

This kind of presence can elevate your talk to influence, inspire and motivate others to think and behave differently. Your time to speak is a chance to change lives.

See the tips below to use mindfulness practice to dispel your own public speaking anxiety and put your audience at ease through the example of your presence.

How to Use Mindfulness to Be a Better Speaker:

1. Cultivate Mindfulness While Practicing to Speak.

You have underlying thoughts and beliefs embedded in your fear of public speaking. What are they? Notice the thought patterns and then see them from a distance.

PERSON HOLDING HEAD, OVERWHELMED WITH THOUGHTS

Mindfulness practices such as meditation can help you develop the ability to witness your thoughts and emotions without attaching to them. Become a neutral observer of your thoughts, and also the words of others. The breath practice in chapter 1 of this guide is a great practice to slow down your racing mind and become an observer.

When someone speaks to you, can you fully listen without anticipating what you will say in response? Can you hear them without formulating an unconscious emotional reaction? Can you instead witness what you are experiencing before you decide to speak or respond?

PERSON WITH NEGATIVE THOUGHT BUBBLES

While preparing your speech, if you are anticipating what questions your audience may ask, you may find your mind running away with horrible thoughts of people attacking you. Or you may feel yourself getting worked up over how you would respond to a question.

Instead, take a step back and imagine how you might breathe, pause, and then thoughtfully respond rather than unconsciously react.

Aside from the physiological expressions of fear when you think about preparing your speech–your heart races, your breath shortens and your perception narrows–you may catch yourself going into negative or worse-case scenario self-talk about how your presentation will go. 

Cultivate mindful awareness so that you can catch your negative thoughts and turn them around into positive expectations immediately.

PERSON WITH POSITIVE THOUGHTS

2. Cultivate Mindfulness While Speaking.

If you’ve been able to practice mindfulness while preparing your speech, that’s great! You’re on the right path to becoming a powerful, effective speaker.

Next, cultivate mindfulness during the real thing. Focus on your Presence, breath, and the dynamic exchange of energy between you and the audience. Ask questions of the audience to create a dialogue more than a monologue.

Keep reminding yourself not to focus on you. Focus on the audience. Rather than worrying about you succeeding or failing at your speech, consider: will the audience love my message? Will they learn from me? Will they be inspired to take action in a different way?

CHAPTER 8

HOW TO USE MINDFUL COMMUNICATION AS TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP

This chapter expands mindful communication beyond the realm of a public speech and into effective interpersonal communication, no matter the size of your group or audience. Here you will learn to develop an authentic authoritative presence that creates transformation in the lives of others.

Expertise Does Not Make You a (Perceived) Leader

Mindfulness is not only a key skill in effective public speaking, but a valuable and necessary attribute of effective leadership in general. In other words, just because you have expertise and experience in your field, does not mean you are automatically viewed as a leader.

You are much more likely to be perceived as having leadership potential if you can speak authentically with authority.

PERSON RECEIVING A PROMOTION

Many individuals seeking public speaking training note that their co-workers get promoted over them, even when the co-workers do not possess the same level of deep expertise. The co-workers get promoted because of how they show up and allow other people to see them.

Vulnerability and Authoritative Presence

This level of authoritative presence includes being very comfortable in your own skin in front of groups, and conveying a palpable embodied leadership presence. It is not only what you say; the people around you can feel your authoritative presence.

Authoritative does not necessarily mean domineering, arrogant or pushy. It includes an ability to connect with listeners on a deep, genuine level and express strength from within. There must be an authentic, engaging chemistry between leader and audience. You speak from yourself, but never for yourself.

PEOPLE FOLLOWING SOMEONE UPWARD OR OUTWARD WITH A “VISION”

Mindfulness and Transformational Leadership: The Research

Mindfulness research in a professional or workplace context generally focuses on intrapersonal aspects such as an employee’s wellbeing in the workplace, and how it can be enhanced through various mindfulness techniques.

An in-depth study in Frontiers in Psychology, however, precisely explains the importance of mindfulness in leader-follower relationships, where a specific communication style–”mindfulness in communication” is positively related to followers’ satisfaction with their leaders.

The authors note that transformational and charismatic leaders are effective communicators who share an inspiring vision and high performance expectations to their followers.

Transformational leadership is neither leader or follower-centric, but instead highly relational. It is not linear, and instead displays reciprocity.

RELATIONAL COMMUNICATION SUCH AS SITTING AROUND A TABLE

The research suggests that high-quality relationships are characterized by cooperative communication, with lower quality relationships reflecting more traditional one-sided, top-down communication, and higher levels of interpersonal dominance and decision-making.

These communication styles have a serious effect on followers’ satisfaction, commitment and performance.

Mindfulness, Then, Enables Leaders to Engage in a More Successful Communication Style By:​

  1. Being present and paying attention in conversations.
  2. Having an open, non-judging attitude.
  3. A calm, non-impulsive manner.

These features inherently reflect interpersonal attunement.

HEART-TO-HEART COHERENCE

Effective Listening​

Individuals who are able to focus on the immediate now without being distracted by thoughts and rumination concerning past or future events tend to be more effective listeners. According to the study, listening was shown to be the second most important factor of leader communication style for follower commitment.

LEADER LISTENING INTENTLY TO OTHERS

Acceptance

The second quality, acceptance, refers to “being experientially open to the reality of the present moment. . .without being swept up by judgments.”

This non-judgmental, present-centered awareness allows leaders to keep an open mind in interactions with their followers and to be open to other perspectives and opinions without evaluating and categorizing incoming information too quickly.

By paying attention in a non-judgmental manner, mindful leaders can retain information.

Emotional Regulation

The third component in the study links mindfulness to effective emotion regulation. Scholars refer to the process as reperceiving or decentering, suggesting that mindfulness permits individuals to disidentify from their emotions and experience them as transient cognitive events rather than aspects of their self. With this safe distance between emotion and self, emotions are experienced as less threatening.

DIFFERENT FACIAL EXPRESSIONS: HAPPY, SHOCKED

So consider how these qualities can be utilized both in the context of giving a public presentation or speech to a wide audience of strangers, or in a more intimate setting of colleagues, co-workers and stakeholders.

Authentic Public Speaking and Leadership

In light of the research, consider what authentic leadership looks like for you–both in general and as a public speaker. Do not try to imitate your favorite public speaker in the hopes that it may help you succeed as a speaker. Work with your natural characteristics and use your speech as a way to hone and amplify these traits in a way that will enhance your message.

Consider your personality: are you naturally empathetic or humorous, or maybe a bit of both? What might be your best characteristics as a speaker?

COMEDIAN ON A STAGE

What about your natural movements and features? Do you naturally gesticulate? Are you energetic? Do you like structure and to stick to a script, or do you prefer improvisation? These preferences will also depend upon your level of experience and comfort with public speaking.

If you can find a way to combine your natural personality traits with practiced traits of mindfulness, you will be a powerhouse speaker, leader and agent of transformation for any audience, big or small.

Following the Flow of the Moment

Mindful presence and your sense of Beingness is closely related to hacking flow states as we mentioned in Chapter 5 of this guide.

FLOWING WATER

Authenticity, vulnerability and presence in the moment allows you to stay adaptable in situations where you are interacting with an audience.

Instead of being married to a rigid structure when you are speaking, becoming more confident in yourself and with fluidity may take your planned presentation, speech or conversation in a completely different, yet exciting direction based on your deep listening and attention to what your audience is bringing to the event. It can also help you recover in the case of undesirable disruptions or problems during your speech.

PERSON THROWING AWAY A SCRIPT OR NOTES

This kind of environment allows for innovation and creative breakthroughs. See the work of Peter Senge, PhD, founding chairperson (and senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology) at The Society for Organizational Learning (SoL), or his book Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future for more information on creating leadership environments for emergent ideas.

If you want to learn more about Flow and your physiology, see our Ultimate Biohacking Guide to Increase Your Motivation.

CHAPTER 9

CONFIDENCE WHEN POWER POSES DON’T WORK: TRY THIS INSTEAD

Your physiology and non-verbal displays communicate a lot to a person in any kind of communication whether one-on-one, in a group setting or when you are speaking to a large audience. 

Smiling, having an open, expansive posture, initiating physical touch when necessary and appropriate, and looking at the other person while speaking are all crucial communication skills.

PEOPLE EXHIBITING ABOVE BEHAVIORS

These gestures express authentic confidence to another individual. Confidence is not only important for building trust and relationship; it helps to express an air of competence in a subject. You acting confident demonstrates to others that you are competent and credible in your area of expertise.

To Power Pose or Not?​

You may be familiar with assistant professor Amy Cuddy’s research on Power Poses that came out of Harvard Business School in 2010.

AMY CUDDY’S TED TALK

According to the study, striking simple bodily poses for only a minute or so changes the nervous and endocrine function of your body.

Power poses such as sitting back in a chair with your feet on a desk with fingers laced behind your neck, or standing and leaning on a desk with your finger tips could potentially make you feel more powerful in a very real physiological way.

POWER POSES: SITTING BACK IN A CHAIR AND LEANING ON A DESK

The idea was that by taking time to perform these poses alone before an important meeting, you can boost your confidence.

New Power Pose Research

In the last few years, however, over 11 papers in two journals–Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology (CRSP) and Social Psychological and Personality Science–cited that the original Power Poses study was flawed, so much so that it appears Power Poses are not actually effective.

The key finding is that practicing these poses alone is much different than practicing or experiencing them in the presence of other people.

PERSON EXHIBITING A POWER POSE IN A MEETING OR IN THE PRESENCE OF OTHER PEOPLE

Dana Carney, associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Business was one of the authors on the original paper, and decided to work on the new CRSP research. Carney notes that non-verbal displays in the presence of other people can make a difference. So using these poses while practicing your speech in front of others, may be helpful.

Again, competence is another important booster of confidence. You cannot power pose your way to being an expert, so know your content.

Don’t Apologize

Just as your non-verbal cues and body language can demonstrate confidence or lack thereof before you even open your mouth, using diffident or demeaning language toward yourself can change your postures to less than confident.

PERSON APOLOGIZING WHILE GIVING A PRESENTATION

Presence and vulnerability may be important in being an effective, authentic speaker, but belittling yourself is not beneficial to you or your audience.

Even if you are nervous, do not apologize for your nerves, your presence or any mistakes. Never mention “it’s my first time up here.” These words can signal that you feel you’re not good enough to be there, or that your message is not valuable.

PERSON WITH NERVOUS POSTURE - SHOULDERS TURNED SLIGHTLY INWARD

Your message is valuable and part of your confidence is in trusting that your audience wants or needs to hear your message. Apologizing reduces your credibility and will alter your body language to reflect a lack of confidence.

Recognize the Positives Afterward

Once you’ve given your speech, reflect upon your experience. While constructive criticism is helpful, we often naturally focus upon what we did wrong or not well before we focus on what we are proud of.

To avoid the negativity bias, focus on writing down the positive aspects or your speech, your preparation, your interaction with the audience and any good feelings you experienced during the whole process.

Look at what you wrote in the future when you are preparing for other speeches to remember that you already are an effective, confident speaker.

CHAPTER 10

HOW TO USE NLP HACKS TO AMPLIFY YOUR MESSAGE

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) relates to thoughts, language and patterns of behavior that can be applied to achieve a desired outcome. Certain NLP tools can be used to take your public speaking to the next level.

Try These Tips From Global NLP Training:​

1. Evoke a sensory-based experience in your audience by beginning your talk with a story, a statistic, mentioning an article you recently read, or with a powerful quote around which you can tell a story. Tell the story in such a way that the audience can see and feel themselves in the story. Use words that evoke the senses: auditory, visual, olfactory and kinesthetic.

2. Consider the emotional state you wish your audience to be in. For instance, curiosity, and keep this emotional state in mind while you design not only what content you will deliver, but how you will deliver it. What gestures or body language will you use? What facial expressions? How will you change the tone of your voice or use particular language to elicit this state in your audience while you’re speaking?

DYNAMIC SPEAKER ACTING OUT A STORY OR EXPRESSING EMOTION

3. Be sure to talk with your hands. Many of us do this unconsciously, and the reason is because it works on a deep unconscious level! Use it to your advantage to engage more deeply with your audience and drive home your message.

4. Try stage anchoring: consciously make use of the spatial environment on stage to create a stimulus-response reaction in your audience. For instance, when you are speaking about negative points, stand on one side of the stage, and when you are speaking about positive points, stand on the other side of the stage. Or when you are telling a story versus discussing factual information, choose one side or the other. Again, this tactic is creating a deeper sensory experience for the audience on an unconscious level.

CONCLUSION

So that’s Crushing the Fear of Public Speaking: The 2020 Definitive Guide.

Remember, your message needs to be heard and only you can deliver it as you!

Now we want to turn it over to you: what did you think about this guide? Or maybe there’s something we missed.

Let us know by leaving a comment below.

38 thoughts on “Crushing The Fear of Public Speaking: The 2020 Definitive Guide”

  1. This is very detailed process that I advise anyone interested in public speaking to really consider. As an emotional intelligence expert and author i see Keven made the extra miles to go deeper in humen fears and nailed it with different approaches. Great work and keep it up

    1. Kevin Abdulrahman

      Thanks Yasser. It took a lot of time to put this piece together. I have a great team with me also. Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Kevin has done an outstanding job in highlighting some of the most common pitfalls and helps in a very “speaker friendly” way with down to earth tips on how to overcome fear. As a public speaking coach myself, I love to learn every day, and I found Kevin’s approach really interesting, especially the use of VR in this context. Congratulations for this work!
    Kiko Suarez, PhD (http://www.linkedin.com/in/KikoSuarez)

  3. As an international professional speaker, I could not have written a better piece of content! This piece was #sodope! Even I learned some new tricks for public speaking.

    Kevin, you have a gift that keeps giving. Please continue to share your light with everyone!

    From one world class communicator to another,

    You go boy!

    Precious

  4. I really loved how this guide is structured and the little drawings.
    As a speaker, I could relate to so many things you wrote, and also learn a few more things as well!
    I feel it’s a guide that is easy to read and people can learn a lot from…
    Thank you Kevin!

    1. Kevin Abdulrahman

      It certainly took a lot of time putting this together and we made sure to do this in a palatable format. Thank you, Virginie.

  5. Kevin has executed it eloquantly this is one thing which every speaker should read and understand the dynamics which is step by step explicitly explains the pain points to be addressed and sort the solutions.He has done a great job.

    1. Kevin Abdulrahman

      Thank you, Sana! I, too, do think every speaker can take away a technique or two, at least, from this.

  6. Great Article post! Not only does this article thouroughly explain the process of becoming a great speaker, but it also includes LOTS of tips and tricks toward becoming more confident. Even though he is explaining some complex ideas and research studies, the article was still easy and simple to follow along. All the information was properly laid out in a nice digestible manner.

    1. Kevin Abdulrahman

      Hi Ryan, thank you for checking out this piece. We try to produce content that can be presented for a general audience rather than for experts.

  7. Excellent article with some very useful tips. I use NLP myself (and sometimes hypnotherapy) to help people with their fear of public speaking.
    However, this “guide” may put me out of work!

  8. Kevin, congratulations for such a lovely and thorough piece of work! Bravo! Not only is this guide well researched and emotionally captivating through its illustrations, it gives competent advice and adds value to anyone desiring to prepare for public speaking. Well done!

    1. Kevin Abdulrahman

      Hi Maria, I think my creative team did a great job with the illustrations and page design. Glad you enjoyed this piece.

  9. Nellaiappan(Raja) Pillai

    This is a great tool for improving public speaking, presentation and leadership skills..
    Thank you Kevin Abdulrahman for sharing…
    I invite you to our HR Connexions Toast Masters Club. We meet 2nd & 4th Saturdays.
    Our HR Connexions Toast Masters Club is exclusively for HR Colleagues.

    Thank you and best regards,

    Raja Pillai
    +97156-8964685
    Dubai

  10. Dear Kevin,
    Hat off !!
    Simply this work is an adequate and thorough guide provided for any one who would like to explore and hone the skill of public speaking!
    I believe it is a comprehensive manual that helps in answering most of the concerns in this field if not all.
    Quality output Kevin, well done and all the best

  11. I’m impressed with your ability to put together a vast amount of information in one simple guide. Not only did you fulfill the practical side of it but you did it with elegance and beauty.

    It’s clear that you are passionate about public speaking and you can definitely help others to present their ideas confidently.

    May this be the path you keep on creating and inspiring.

    We welcome you to be part of Gallery of Ideas, let’s have a chat soon ;))

    All the best,
    Patricia

  12. I like that you mentioned every significant information by step by step chapter. I could learn every chapter. This is the complete guide of public speaking. You have created really good and crucial content. What a vast information Kevin superb!

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