Public Speaking Anxiety Hypnotherapy Vlog:
In this hypnotherapy video I talk about public speaking anxiety, one of the most common fears. A lot of people come to me for help with their public speaking anxiety. In this video I cover some of the mistakes your mind makes in your thoughts and feelings about public speaking. I also talk about how we often set the benchmark way too high in our expectations of how we talk and what we say.
Have a watch of the video here (click on the image, opens in current browser window):
Public Speaking Anxiety
Hello, it’s Dan here. I hope you’re good today. Something that often comes up when I’m working with people is aspects and fears and worries and anxieties around public speaking. It’s come up quite a few times over the last week where people, perhaps more online or through Zoom, or wherever these days, are having to do these presentations at work and get all sorts of anxieties and fears in their thoughts and their feelings about them.
Whether that’s even a thought of it leading to that kind of anxious feeling in the stomach, whether it’s all those thoughts about what if I mess up, what if people judge me negatively, what if I forget it, or go blank, or will they notice I’m anxious, or all those kind of things around your own performance but also being judged by other people.
And a huge wealth of pressure that people put upon themselves around public speaking. And, you know, sometimes there are other anxieties and self esteem issues and those kind of things that I help people with, but often it’s just that environment of public speaking, where our kind of thinking gets kind of distorted and all sorts of cognitive biases and other things start playing around inside of our minds.
I’ve talked before about some of those biases in our minds, how our mind just gets it wrong but we don’t necessarily even notice doing that. So, we think that what we say and do and how we look and how we feel and our inner thoughts, feelings, perceptions, that other people are paying far more regard to those than in fact all the evidence shows that they are. People aren’t paying as much attention to what we’re doing, and how we’re thinking and how we’re feeling as we are, and we mistakenly, because of our focus on that inner anxiety or fear around public speaking, or those thoughts around what if this happens, or worst cases, or being judged negatively, or making an idiot of yourself, or whatever those thoughts might be, because they fill your mind and you feel all those feelings. Our mind almost assumes, and over-exaggerates how much other people are aware of that stuff.
And even in the field of public speaking itself research shows that other people can’t tell what’s going on inside of you. If you’re a bit anxious, if there’s a bit of adrenaline going through you, which is not necessarily at the right level a bad thing when you’re public speaking, for a bit of energy, a bit of oomph in what you’re saying rather than just being too kind of monotone or not engaged in what you’re doing, at the right level, brilliant. It’s obviously when it gets too much, too much adrenaline, too much oxygen, our minds racing, we can’t think clearly, we go blank, that’s obviously where the issues come into it.
But a lot of that is our mind just getting it wrong. And I would look up these things, the illusion of transparency, the spotlight effect, where our brain just gets it wrong. It’s an evolutionary thing they reckon because we want to fit in, because we don’t want to be excluded from the tribe, if we’re putting it in those kind of terms. We tend to over-exaggerate how much attention people are paying to us. It’s a positive thing in this regard. it’s a positive thing.
Other people are not picking up if you are a little bit anxious when you’re public speaking. They’re not aware of the kind of stuff going through your mind. But what tends to happen is, if you start to feel a little bit anxious, maybe a little bit shaky, or you think your voice is a bit tight or a bit shaky in some way, you start to worry that other people are picking up on that which leads to you then feeling even more anxious and uncomfortable and worried, and then you start thinking that now they’re certainly noticing it because now even more anxious and it becomes a kind of cycle, if you like, that’s built up, essentially, inside of your own mind.
Certainly if someone is extremely anxious and stuff, you potentially pick up on it, but in most cases we don’t do that. In most cases, we’re either listening to what they say, or to be honest a lot of people who’ll be listening to you and your public speaking are probably more engaged in their own thoughts, and how what you’re saying applies to them, and what they’re going to be saying later and other stuff they need to do.
We’re not kind of 100% focused on doing that kind of stuff. But the other good news is not only are people not picking up on that stuff anywhere near as much as you think they are, even if things don’t go so well, even if you, in your own perception, mess up somehow in that presentation. Again there’s even more scientific research that shows that people are generally quite nice, people are empathetic, they go ‘yes, I’ve done that’. People want the best for you, people don’t want to see you there struggling, they want you to just relax and to just get on with it and, you know, they want you to do well.
In the same way, if you think about it, I’m sure that when you listen to other people do public speaking, whether it’s in a meeting, on Zoom, at work or whatever, you’re fairly supportive, you’re empathetic, you want them to do well, but you’re not kind of picking up and honing in on every little aspect, you can’t read their minds, you can’t tell how they’re feeling on the inside. You just generally cannot pick up on that stuff. We’re just rubbish as humans generally at doing that.
So you want to keep that in mind. If you are feeling a bit anxious around public speaking, other people probably aren’t even aware of it, they’re not really picking up on it, they’re busy inside their own heads, and busy doing other stuff, and other cognitive processes, and thinking about themselves and what they need to do and, like I say, how stuff applies to them and all sorts of other thoughts.
But the other thing that I’ve been talking to people about this week is people sometimes feel when they go in to do a presentation or other public speaking, this is kind of perceived pressure that you just have be word perfect, you have to be perhaps like a newsreader or something, forgetting they’ve got all the words written down in front of them, they’re just reading out what’s written in front of them to a large extent. But people think if they stutter, if they struggle over a word, if they need to rephrase something, if they lose track of what they’re saying at any point, and all those kinds of things that somehow that’s not allowed.
But if you look at any conversations you have with people, or if you’re part of a group, or if you’re even just one to one, start noticing how often, I do it, I lose track of what I’m saying, I stumble over words, I don’t say them quite right, I add in ‘umms’ and all that kind of stuff and ‘you knows’. I don’t realise I’m doing it most of the time until I watch these back. And it doesn’t really matter, no-one’s really bothered, no-one really cares. You don’t care when other people are doing it, if you’re listening to what they’re saying, or you’re talking, or you’re part of a group, you’re fairly relaxed around it. You’re not a week later going I can’t believe they stumbled over that word, you just don’t do that. We’re not bothered, we practically don’t even notice. We’re just more engaged in what’s going on, or perhaps not engaged at all.
But we’re not picking up on all that stuff. We don’t expect people to be word perfect, or to not have to sometimes add more detail, or to rephrase things, or to pause, or to change tack a bit. We do it all the time, I do it, you do it, people do it on their own, they do it with other people, they do it in groups, it happens everywhere and we’re just relaxed around that. Yet this kind of perceived thing comes in in public speaking that that’s not OK and then what happens is because you think you have to be word perfect, it has to be this eloquent thing, it has to be like an actor on a stage, if you like, who’s memorised some prose, because there’s that perception, if you do stumble or something doesn’t come out quite right, or you think ‘I haven’t explained that well’, or you pause, or you stutter, or you get stuck on a word, or you say the wrong one, all that kind of stuff that we’re doing all the time that no-one’s really bothered about. You’re not, I’m not. We just do it, we just get on with it. It doesn’t really stay in our minds, we’re not really giving it that much attention.
It’s the same in public speaking, yet if you do it, like I say, people with public speaking anxieties or fears start fixating on them, start writing a commentary in their head, I can’t believe I did that, they’re going to think I’m an idiot, I feel really anxious – and all these kind of thoughts and feelings, again, are just being ramped up by those kind of essentially a false perception in that regard.
So, do start to notice that stuff, start to notice how often people stumble over words, rephrase things, repeat things, lose track, change direction, change words, don’t come out with quite the right word, I nearly did it then, where you struggle with what’s that thing I want to say, what’s that word, what’s the best way to phrase this, is what I’m saying making sense. In a presentation, it’s a bit of a one-sided conversation in some ways. You’re there sharing some information, or some points, or covering something, or updating someone. You’re not there to be like a Broadway actor, or like a newsreader who’s got it all written down in front of them and just reading it out on the kind of, see I’ve forgotten what the word is, I had it in my head earlier, what’s it called now when all the words appear in front of them, whatever that thing is, when it’s just written there, a script there in front of them that they just kind of read out to a large extent.
No-one’s expecting that, they want to be kind of natural, conversational, if you have to repeat something, if you go I’m going to explain that in another way, if you can’t get the right word but you get the meaning across, that’s the important thing, that’s all you need to relax around. You’re just sharing some information, you’re just covering some points, you’re just putting something across. If they’ve got questions, they can ask questions. If they don’t understand a point they can say.
But do pay attention to those kind of things I’ve mentioned, there’s cognitive biases, look it up, the spotlight effect, the illusion of transparency. Most of the stuff that you’re worrying other people are thinking or fears of failure, fear of things going wrong, are completely misplaced, they are just unnecessary. And even if, keep in mind you’re over-exaggerating all that stuff, you just are, you can’t help it. But even if something does go badly wrong, which is probably unlikely, but even if that happens don’t judge too harshly.
People are generally nice, you’re nice, I’m nice. We’re supportive, we want people to do well, we relax around it. If someone messes up, we say carry on, we’re not bothered. We do it in conversation all the time, start to pay attention to that. When you talk to people in groups, when other people present, there are pauses, there are moments where they kind of have to check something, there are moments when they think, there are moments when pause and breathe, there are moments when they repeat stuff. All these things happen each and every day into every conversation and we relax around them then, so we want to relax around them when we’re kind of talking or presenting.
So start to notice that stuff, but certainly be aware of those cognitive biases, that they can cause havoc in terms of your thinking and feeling, both beforehand and during, and even when you think back and even when you think back a lot of people get kind of self critical about it and starts to assume it’s going to repeat itself. All those kind of things, most of it’s misplaced but certainly, even if it’s not misplaced (which it is) even with that in mind, if you are struggling with public speaking anxiety even after looking at these cognitive biases, even though you’re aware now that you are over-exaggerating that stuff, even though other people cannot tell what you’re thinking and feeling, even though people tend to be generally nice and supportive, even though we all in conversation have to repeat things, and sometimes stumble, or mess up in some way and we just carry on and nobody is paying much regard to it.
Even with all that in mind, and do keep it in mind, there’s still loads of stuff we can do. There’s things we can do before presenting, to get our mind in the right place, to mentally rehearse it, to know we can cope with it and to deal with stuff and to just feel generally more calm and confident before you even go in there, to prime your mind for it to go well and to know you can handle any challenges that come up along the way.
There are things you can do just before and even during a presentation that just keep you in that right zone where you perform well but you’re also pretty relaxed. And you can do that in a positive way and there are things you can do afterwards that reinforce all that good stuff and that mean, in that way that we all can, you can still learn and grow and get better at public speaking. You can still revise things, you can still find different approaches, you can still learn from everything you’re doing. But we do it in a supportive, encouraging, positive way or we get better at stuff. We don’t just hit ourselves over the head with the metaphorical stick and go that was rubbish I can’t do this, alright that bit was good, that bit was good, that bit maybe next time I need to approach in a different way, or adopt a different strategy, or to just focus on that particular bit and get better at it.
That means next time it goes even better. That means you get more and more confidence, more and more self belief, all these things fit together. But you want to be aware of the stuff your brain is making up because it cannot help but make that stuff up, those cognitive biases. The fact that a lot of perceived pressure around what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, is totally misplaced. But also, like I say, this is what I help people with. There’s a lot of positive stuff you can put in place that means you feel better about it anyway, more calm, more confident, that those things, those kind of biases, don’t have such an impact and you can just go in there relaxed, cover what you want to, feel good about it, learn and get better, and grow as a presenter or public speaker in that way. And start to enjoy the process, or at least just feel alright about it.
So do go away, go away and look at that stuff. There’s loads about it on my website. I’m always adding to that. Do go away and start thinking of these strategies. Whether you use some of my audios or some other things to feel calm and more confident and to prime your mind for that and to then have strategies to use when you’re there. And do relax around what you say, how you say it, and whether you stumble, whether you go blank for a moment, whether you have to pause and think, whether you have to check your notes, whether something doesn’t come out quite right, we all do it, we’re all doing it all the time. I’ve done it even in this video, even I, even I in this video. I don’t claim to be a perfect presenter because I just relax around it. Stuff comes out wrong, stuff doesn’t come out quite right. We carry on, enjoy it, feel good about it, learn to relax around public speaking, look at that stuff, learn from it, apply it and, you know, find yourself feeling better and better when you present. And I will speak to you very soon. You take care now.
24 November 2020
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