Fear of public speaking, performance anxiety, stage fright and nerves before public speaking still represent the major concern that clients bring to me. And this is both from individuals and organisations. Individuals ask me to help them control nerves before a conference presentation or an important sales pitch. Organisations ask me to make their managers and leaders more confident and effective when they present to staff.
So helping to deal with nerves, anxiety and fear associated with public speaking is still my major source of work.
A key step in becoming more confident and dealing with nerves is the need to recognise and overcome the Fear Of What Others Think (FOWOT) of us as we are presenting. Indeed people will form opinions of us and they will make decisions about us and we also will form opinions of our audiences and individuals in the room.
The reality is that what others think of us is none of our business. Their thoughts and opinions, unspoken, are none of our business. Likewise we like to be able to have our own private thoughts and not have people knocking on our minds door and asking “what are you thinking about me”. If we can get over this FOWOT and realise that we have no right to focus on other people’s thoughts, we can then free up our energy to be present and to serve the people in the room. After all that is why we are there speaking to them, to serve the people in the room.
FOWOT is a common theme and comes from our own ego state. It comes from a need to be liked and a fear of being judged by others. The ego state distracts us and removes our focus from what really matters, the audience and being present for them, onto ourselves. Mark Zuckerberg when mentoring Sheryl Sandberg (author of the bestselling book Lean In) told her that “your desire to be liked by everyone will hold you back in your career”.
We also have heard the saying that “you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. This highlights the reality that not everyone is going to be agreeing with you or be 100% on your side. And when you are speaking about change or disruption, or innovation, you definitely won’t be able to please everyone. With this knowledge if you can let go of what others may be thinking, or may not be thinking for that matter, and just get over your FOWOT, then your task of being present, serving them and being more confident becomes so much easier.
Make the focus of every presentation and every public speaking opportunity to solve problems for the people in the room. If you can solve their problems, offer them hope, show them the way forward or give them a way out, they will love you. By shifting your focus to serving the audience, you are moving out of your ego state and being present for the audience. Do not let FOWOT stop you from being a great speaker and sharing your knowledge, passion, ideas, solutions and stories to those people who need to hear your message. It is about the audience, not you, so get over yourself a banish FOWOT.