Own your Space – Are we good enough?

25 March 2018

Some experts estimate that as much as 75 percent of the population has some level of anxiety regarding public speaking

Assuming the multiple sources indicating this statistic are verifiable – this is alarming.

I would suggest it is more like 98%… if we are honest with ourselves.

When we experience this phenomenon, we experience a physiological response and a corresponding mindset. Some of the self-talk might go something like this:

Am I good enough?

“I’m being judged”

“I’m being watched”

“I’m not confident”

“I’m a fraud”

“I’m introverted – this is not natural”

“What if I forget what I’m meant to be saying”

“What if I don’t know my subject matter”

These ‘narratives’ are typically left unattended for a lifetime and they prevent us from achieving our potential. They appear to be Very real roadblocks because of the way we ‘experience’ them. People tend to resign themselves to the narrative.

I have had the privilege of coaching clients through some terribly challenging blocks around public speaking. Some blocks are so potent they cause a complete ‘confidence shut-down’. Avoidance doesn’t work – the more senior we are the more we need to be the front person. And why shouldn’t we be? We know our stuff, we have much to contribute, we are trusted advisors.

“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public” (George Jessel, Multi-Talented American Actor)

It’s just that everything we know and everything we prepare can go out the window because of the emotional triggers we set off. Triggers are formed at various stages of our lives and some are universal.

Universal Trigger: Speech Anxiety – 75% of us

Triggers can happen when we are under scrutiny… sometimes a status imbalance. I’ve seen accomplished speakers and performers experience it. It has various names; performance anxiety, speech anxiety, panic, stage fright…

5 Steps to conquer this phenomenon

  1. Be mindful of bench-marking yourself against others. Repeat the following sentence when you wake up, before, during and after a performance and when you go to bed: “I am good enough”
  2. You don’t need to be Shakespeare to tell your stories – your authentic voice is more than enough. In fact, when we stifle our stories we are in grave danger
  3. Seek feedback. Yes, actually ask for it. It’s tough (I’m guilty of this) because we are wired to enjoy praise – it feels good. Let’s learn to lean into discomfort. Even Shakespeare had help – his acting troupe would always provide valuable feedback
  4. Your stories are a mechanism that not only captivate the listener, they empower you as a speaker. Learn to create messages that drive your purpose
  5. Change begins with one step – commit to it and your momentum will follow

We would do well to draw inspiration from the sporting world to understand that sportspeople are performing all the time. They are under continual pressure to be at the top of their game. In order to achieve such a goal they must address all the technical stuff (which in itself may involve various coaches) and they must build the right mindset, which also requires specialised coaching.

Our ability to engage an audience – to Own our Space – to be in the zone when we communicate under pressure – requires a process and we need support to do it.



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