Worrying about being thrown to the wolves? Speaking and Performing Confidently
Whilst watching ‘The Hunt’ on BBC (David Attenborough’s latest study of animals and their survival – or not), my mind wandered to my clients who have asked me to help them perform confidently in front of others.
Arctic hares are born with a brown coat so they can hide amongst the rocks which appear from under the snow when it melts in the spring. As I watched these very young leverets relying on the camouflage for safety, I wondered how long it would be before they blew their cover, the wolves discovered them and the chase would be on!
Glossophobia, also known as stage fright or the fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias for which I have often been asked to help people in a variety of situations; in the sports arena, for presentations, in the board room and on the stage.
People often say to me, “It’s so silly, I feel so stupid”, “why does this happen?”
I do think it is important to understand why this happens so that we can stop thinking we are silly or stupid, after all would you be asked to perform if you were?
This is a mechanism for the survival of the species; it is much more difficult to survive in isolation so there is a need to be accepted by the crowd to be protected. Encountering a group of strangers when in isolation would also mean life or death.
Luckily everyday life today, unlike the leverets, does not usually involve such stark reality! This does not make the fear of performing to others any less real, however and almost everyone I work with is more concerned about what others will think of their performance than the actual performance!
If you worry what others think you may have already sealed your fate.
Sadly some of the leverets were unable to stay present and camouflaged and broke cover. The wolves were waiting……
When you wonder: “What if they don’t like me or don’t agree with me?” The fight or flight mechanism is triggered and you start to stumble, forget your words and lose focus. The audience read your body language, hear you stumble and they wonder why they have wasted their time – or do they?
If you were the audience what would you think? The audience is made up of individuals with their own values and beliefs and their experiences are unique. Some may start to lose focus too, others might be willing you to get back on track and all of them will listen if you give them cause to and maintain your focus on the detail of your communication.
The rest of the leverets stayed focussed and later when their coats turned white and they could no longer seek camouflage amongst the rocks, they were seen gathering into a crowd and running together in a mass of white – it seems arctic wolves cannot focus on hunting lots of leverets.
So how can you avoid being thrown to the wolves? Be present, maintain your focus on the detail of your communication, link each part of your message to the next through your preparation, and immerse yourself in concentrating fully on what you have to say. Mistakes may happen but if you linger you will already be in the past, if you worry what others think you will be transported to the future. So stay in the present and enjoy the opportunity to impart your knowledge and experience to others.
When you are enjoying the moment, so will your audience and when they are enjoying themselves they will want to stay focussed with you.
By Debbie Hill
Debbie works with individuals and groups to develop thinking and enable successful performance. Individual sessions provide the opportunity to work through the most challenging issues, really change how you think and make a lasting difference to how you perform at work, relate to others and quality of life.