Monday, 30 December 2019 22:01

Does a fear of public speaking diminish with practice?

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My short answer is “possibly… possibly not!

It is a common fallacy that practice makes perfect. It simply isn’t true.

If one practices over and over again without constructive feedback as to how to improve their public speaking skills, they are likely to repeat the same mistakes.

A fear of public speaking is reduced when one becomes more comfortable. One becomes more comfortable by increasing their public speaking skills. At first glance, that may sound like a circuitous argument.

If you speak frequently and challenge yourself to improve with every speaking opportunity, your likelihood of reducing your fear of public speaking will increase incrementally.

This is where the constructive feedback comes in. An experienced speech evaluator can provide you with feedback to help improve your presentation. Your task is to incorporate those suggestions into your next and future presentations.

FEAR as an acronym is often defined as false expectations appearing real.

While we may be fearful when public speaking, it may not actually be the act of speaking publicly that causes us to be fearful. Often, when we speak in public, our previous experiences rapidly come to mind. Perhaps at some time in our life when public speaking somebody ridiculed us, diminished us or disrespected us. If we haven’t dealt with our feelings over these negative experiences they are bound to come to our consciousness when we are in similar situations.

So, does a fear of public speaking diminish the practice? Yes, most definitely, if you work at it.

Working at it means speaking frequently, having something worthwhile speaking about, receiving constructive feedback about your presentation, incorporating the suggestions for improvement into your presentation and then reflecting on what worked and what didn’t work. Then adjusting for your next presentation.

Each time you speak publicly try setting a personal challenge for yourself to accomplish during your presentation. I liken it to a high jumper. A high jumper sets the bar at a level they know they can jump over. Each time they jump successfully, they raise the bar a notch. Over a period of time they incrementally reach higher levels they are able to jump over.

As a public speaker with the goal of becoming less fearful when public speaking, the same principle applies. Examples of raising the bar while public speaking may include the following:

· projecting your voice a little louder and further than you usually do

· expanding your eye contact with your audience and maintaining eye contact with individual audience members for a few seconds before moving on to another audience member

· expanding upon your vocal variety when delivering your presentation

· taking advantage of speaking opportunities you might find intimidating

As others have mentioned, there is value in joining a local Toastmasters club. There you will receive ample opportunity to stretch your public speaking muscles as well as receiving constructive feedback.

I’ve been a member for 26 years+. I’ve gone from being terrified of public speaking to speaking publicly on a regular basis and usually enjoy the process.

I did so by continually raising the bar, challenging myself taking on speaking opportunities that at one time I would’ve avoided, and actually seeking out speaking opportunities.

While I am comfortable in speaking to groups of up to several hundred, larger groups would likely cause some anxiety for me however, I’m confident that my skills in public speaking would help me in delivering my presentation and overcoming any fear or anxiety I would be experiencing at the time.

If it works for me, it can work for you.

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