By Roberto Fuerte
It was a traditional wedding. The temple was full to the top, with most relatives from the bride. The priest of this small town had told the future young wife he was preparing a small surprise for her. Once in the mass, he started preaching his sermon on the importance of marriage. After a few minutes, he made a long pause and took the microphone to the groom and said, “…and now we all want to hear why the groom wants to marry the bride!”
He stood up and without much thinking started to talk. It was not because of a great attitude and communication skills, but more of a feeling of getting over with a tough moment.
Then came the bride’s turn. Followed by the groom’s and finally the bride’s parents. The last one to talk was the bride’s mother. She had always been candid with anyone and a very conversational person. But at that precise moment, she was not able to structure a single word! How could this be possible? In my experience, I have found people who seem extroverted fully sociable beings and yet, they cannot speak in front of an audience.
An article published by Psychology Today Magazine says that “surveys about our fears commonly show fear of public speaking at the top of the list”. This disorder is called “glossophobia” or speech anxiety.
The question is, how can we overcome the anxiety of expressing ourselves in public?
Here are some tips that can make your life easier in case you need to confront a group of people / be the center of attention.
1. Use the visualization technique
Some high-performance athletes use the visualization technique to obtain outstanding results while in competitions. They visualize themselves performing their routine in a perfect manner. What this does is the mind believes the body has already performed the activity and tries to recreate the situation and the associated feelings. That is also very useful for business meetings, negotiations or even sales settings. In fact, it can be used in any situation involving stress and anxiety. Such as speaking in public.
2. Use power poses
Amy Cuddy, an American social psychologist, author, and speaker, states that your body language may shape who you are and how you respond to stressful situations. She developed a concept called “power posing”. In summary, she says that utilizing power poses before and anxiety event, such as an important presentation, will reduce stress and will increase positive impact hormones.
3. Join an organization
There are many organizations which require you to stand up front and talk to people. You may join for instance a Toastmasters club, a World Speech Day team, a debate association, a social institution or even some religious groups who need volunteers to go to different places to promote their services and/or beliefs.
If you have not heard about Toastmasters, it is a worldwide organization with clubs in more than 160 countries. They will help you overcome your public speaking fears with weekly practice. World Speech Day is a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting and celebrating speech on March 15th each year but with ongoing activities all year round.
A debate association or club can also be a great way to practice and conquer your speaking angst, while at the same time provide you with additional tools to defend your points of view.
There are social institutions like some religious groups, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and many others that hold conferences, training, and presentations on their organizations and the benefits for those involved. Volunteers who oversee promotion must talk in front of all types of people.
4. Challenge yourself and practice
Take all the challenges that come to you and take advantage of them. An invitation to talk is an opportunity to develop skills and to get rid of those fears to confront people. An analogy could be like when we learn to drive. At first, we are a bit frightened and it is difficult to keep track of all the details around us in the car. But as we keep driving and acquiring practice, we become more confident. After a while, we can even be chatting and driving at the same time. The movements are then automatic, and the stress is gone. So be brave and step up for opportunities to express yourself, with a group of people, on the radio or even if there is a chance on television. Just do it!
Remember we all need to get out of our comfort zones and try new things. It is then when we discover or even rediscover ourselves that we find we can do much more we thought possible.
Women in some countries still feel oppression and do not have enough opportunities in life. Not having a professional degree is not the end of the world although having it is no guarantee either of success. In today’s world, technical skills are of utmost importance but social and communication skills (soft skills) are starting to be taken much more seriously.
Us humans are made of cycles, starting and ending all the time. The big changes start as we are born, we then pass through different stages, then sometimes we graduate from school, we marry, we have children, and finally die. Hence, every now and then we renovate ourselves. Let’s redesign our future into what we really want. Let us speak our minds and stand for our future, our children but most importantly for ourselves.
A great way to empower women then is to enable women to stand up and have a strong voice of values. We all need this to happen to have a better future and a better world.