I have to give a big talk at work, which could literally make or break my career. In the past, I have had a hard time speaking in front of people without getting nervous and showing it. Hence I’m experiencing some serious anxiety about this. Do you have any advice on how to calm down and speak to a group without fear?
You are nervous because of your two core fears: failure and loss. You are afraid of looking bad and being judged by other people (the fear of failure), and you are nervous because you don’t want to lose opportunities or respect if you aren’t good enough.
The best way to beat these fears is to choose a mindset that eliminates them. You can choose to believe there is nothing to fear, because you can’t really lose or fail. Let me explain how:
1. You can choose to believe you are the same you, with the same value, no matter how this presentation (or performance) turns out. You can choose to believe that your value is infinite and absolute. This means that no situation or experience can change it. You are an irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind soul and your value is based on this fact alone. Every experience you have, is in your life to teach you something, but these experiences cannot and do not change your value. No matter what happens on that stage, you will have the same infinite value at the end of it. Your value is not on the line.
2. You can choose to believe what other people think of you is irrelevant. It does not matter what they think. It does not change you or diminish you in any way. At the end of this talk you will still be the same you. Their opinions are just thoughts and they don’t mean anything or do anything. (I realize their opinions could affect your career but even that doesn't change your infinite value.) You must let go of needing their approval and go forward to do your best, show up with kindness and work hard. If you do this, at the end of the day, people will respect you even if you fail or mess up on occasion. It is will also make you less nervous if you don't care.
3. You can choose to trust your journey and the process of life, that this presentation will always go exactly as it is meant to go. You can trust that your life is always the perfect classroom journey for you. So, if your next perfect lesson is to nail this speech and win everyone over, then you will. If your next perfect lesson is to struggle through the talk and not impress them, then there is a reason you needed this experience. Maybe you needed the opportunity to experience disappointment or shame and be reminded what those emotions feel like. Maybe you needed to gain empathy for other people who struggle or maybe this experience will give you a chance to practice trusting that your value is absolute. No matter what happens, this experience will serve you — no matter how it turns out. Life is on your side. It is a process designed to serve you and help you grow. It is not out to get you or crush you.
If you trust the process of life, there is nothing to fear.
(Every time I teach these principles, though, someone leaves a comment saying that I’m delusional and have my head in the clouds to see life this way. If you have this reaction, I encourage you to keep an open mind, step back and imagine what this perspective might feel like, if you chose to see life this way. I promise you, it will make a huge difference.)
Here are a couple other suggestions that will help:
Get the focus off you. This presentation is about the message — it is not about you. Work on having great content and highlighting the message. Then, take a minute and think about the audience. Who are they? What do they need? How can you serve them? Remember that you are here to give to them. You are not here to prove your own value or make yourself look good. This is not about you impressing them, it is about giving to them in the best way you can. The more you focus on other people the less nervous you will be.
Remember your audience understands your fears because they have the same ones.Everyone in that room is afraid of failure and loss. They are nervous when they speak to a group, too. Because of this, they are more forgiving and understanding than you might think. Take a minute and choose to see them as the same as you — struggling, scared human beings in the classroom of life.
Dale Carnegie, in his book “The Art of Public Speaking,” explains that if you want to be good at speaking and overcome your fears, you must do it as frequently as you can. The more you do it, the easier it will become. “You can never attain freedom from stage-fright by reading a treatise. A book may give you excellent suggestions on how best to conduct yourself in the water, but sooner or later you must get wet, perhaps even strangle and be ‘half scared to death.’ There are a great many ‘wetless’ bathing suits worn at the seashore, but no one ever learns to swim in them. To plunge is the only way.”
Trust that giving this speech will make you better, stronger and smarter. It is showing up in your journey to help you grow. Jump in fearlessly (because there is really nothing to fear) and serve those people the best way you can.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of ldslifecoaching.com and claritypointcoaching.com. She is a sought after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in repairing and building self-esteem.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.