“According to most studies, people's No. 1 fear is public speaking. No. 2 is death. Death is No. 2. 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, comedian.
Like most of Seinfeld’s jokes, his observation is funny because it is true. Research has shown that about three out of every four people surveyed have some level of speech anxiety about public speaking. I know I still get nervous speaking in public, and I’ve been doing training and presentations for 30 years.
The truth is, being nervous when you are about to speak in public is natural, because having so many people staring at you —especially when they are strangers — sets off your “fight-or-flight” response. This is a built-in instinct that mankind has carried since we were prey back in the Stone Age. Also called acute stress response, “fight-or-flight” refers to physical reaction that occurs when your body is warning you that you may be in the presence of danger.
The nervousness you may feel when people are staring at you is triggered by the release of hormones that are preparing your body to stay to deal with the danger or flee. Because it is a natural reaction, most of us cannot eliminate entirely the nervous feelings we get when we stand up to speak in public.
But we can reduce that nervousness, and even turn some of that anxiety into positive energy that adds oomph to our presentations.
There are several techniques and tips that I will share with you that will help you control your nervousness about public speaking and making presentations. Give them all a try, even if you are skeptical about some. Once you have tried each of them several times, choose those that help you the most and add them to your preparation routine for every speech and presentation.
You will see the difference.