Here comes Toastmasters Speech 4! I’ve been a Toastmasters* member for exactly 9months now and I’ve got a few tips and tricks to share.
*Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network.
In simple words: a friendly, supportive place to face your fear of public speaking and discover and fine-tune your leadership style.
Public speaking is like bungee jumping
You stand there on the edge, voluntarily, nobody forced you but you yourself. You take a step and you jump into the VOID… where you don’t know what will happen…
I still remember my first bungee jump and also the first time I came here to Mercury as a guest.
At the end when our former president Lucio was asking the guests about their impressions, while I was waiting for my turn to come I experienced the most excruciating 2minutes of my life.
My heart was pumping and was simultaneously moving up my throat. I couldn’t properly breathe. The moisture of my mouth came down to my palms.
Thank God I was sitting, because my knees were shaking so much that I could have fallen down.
Finally my turn came, and I don’t even remember what I said.
But what I remember is how I felt the next couple of weeks. Just like after the bungee jump, I felt as if I was flying. I was so empowered, I could have faced anything.
Crossing the chasm
So big was the contrast between the scary, alerting, crazy fear, and the empowerment that I set as a goal to research how I can cross the chasm between these 2 extremities.
Here there are a few resources* if you want to learn more but I’ll save you the time and I’ll give you the 3 main outcomes of my research.
Let’s start with this very famous statement that 85% of the people are more afraid of public speaking than of death. If I ask you now:
If I give you the choice, would you rather come on stage and speak or would you jump off the window?
Who would come on stage and speak?
*Almost everyone raises their hand, except for one guy*
You don’t like your life?
We are a very selected audience. Yes, we are into public speaking but my point here is that the fear of public speaking is exaggerated. It’s not as scary as it looks and feels.
Now, the good news for you is that you’re already doing public speaking. Every time you speak to a friend or group of colleagues, this is public speaking. It’s not happening in your head, it’s happening in the public space.
So you’re already doing it. Don’t be scared.
Tips to overcome the fear of public speaking
When it comes to tips how to overcome it, I’ll start with the first one:
Embrace the animal within
Let’s zoom out to the entire human history. We’ll see that we have had this gigantic, intellectual, rational brain for a very short part of our whole history. Most of the time, we have been animals and we are still animals. Our limbic system, the reptile brain drives us.
So when we come on stage, just like in nature, we feel exposed in the wild where dangerous animals can grab us anytime. We’re separate from the tribe. This triggers the fight, flight, freeze response.
So the first step is just to embrace the animal. And be grateful for it. This instinct for self-preservation helped us survive, it helped us be here now.
Even the biggest and greatest speakers have it.
Probably Barack Obama has it, and Martin Luther King, and all these confident people on stage. This is the first step.
Override the fear
The second step is that we can override this instinct. This is how you do it: Every time you feel the adrenalin rushing, you take a deep breath and you say to yourself:
This is going to be so much fun! They are going to love me. Yeah! Yuhuuu! Yes!
Now, this is exaggerated but your body’s reaction with all those reflexes of is also exaggerated, isn’t it?
Have you seen anybody dying on stage?
Have you seen a lion hiding there, or a snake?
So let’s override the fear. The more you do it, the more you’ll get used to it.
That’s what I had been doing during the first 2 speeches. I’ve been telling myself: It’s going to be fun, yes! Go for it!
Engage with the audience
The 3rd tip that is going to help you with your fear is to activate another instinct – the instinct of being a part of a group, social bonding.
What you do is, you just interact with the audience. You look them in the eyes, ask them questions, smile at them.
Look at public speaking more like at a conversation, rather than a presentation. I’m not one-way communication, it’s a two-way thing. In this way, you’ll produce more endorphins, more happiness. Your speech will be more way more memorable.
To sum it all up
- Embrace the animal in yourself
- Override the fear with positive feelings and thinking
- Engage with the audience
And I hope to have more of you make this step between fear and empowerment.
Thank you very much.
- Book by Loretta Graziano Breuning PhD: I, Mammal: How to Make Peace With the Animal Urge for Social Power
- Garcia-Lopez, L.J. (2013). Treating…social anxiety disorder. Madrid: Piramide.
- Journal of Undergraduate research XIV (2011) – You Make My Heart Beat Faster(PDF): A Quantitative Study of the Relationship Between Instructor Immediacy, Classroom Community, and Public Speaking Anxiety
See my previous speeches here:
- Icebreaker speech: The Universe Has Your Back
- Toastmasters Speech 2: Ready, Steady, FIRE!
- Toastmasters Speech 3: He Broke Me Into Pieces
Photo credit: Kate Apps’ private archive, header made with Canva