A fear of speaking in public is very common and very real. Even people in the public eye aren’t immune, with Prince Harry one of many public figures who has expressed experiencing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings before taking the floor.
One of the major concerns our clients tell us they have is the thought of going ‘blank’ and forgetting what they want to say when in mid flow. It seems this dreaded ‘tumble weed’ moment is the reason why many people actively avoid public speaking altogether. This coping strategy of avoidance is something we at Evolve both understand, and are striving to change.
The Primal Driver
A desire for approval is a primal one. When humans first walked this earth being a member of the group was critical for survival. Gaining group acceptance became an emotional driving force behind our behaviours and decisions, and is still at play today.
This awareness of winning social acceptance is amplified when we speak in public. We don’t want to do anything that could lead to public shame and cause us to be outcasted. Top of the list of worst-case scenarios? Going blank and the whole room falling to skin tingling silence.
Add less than positive past experiences into the mix and we’re constantly reminding ourselves why speaking in public is dangerous. For instance, being laughed at when speaking up in class at school is a scar that many of us bear, and it plays havoc with the goals we want to achieve today.
The Answer is in Your Message
So how do we leave our demons in the past and overcome a fear of #tumbleweed? The answer lies within your message.
If you can find value in the message you are delivering, if you can connect with it and be excited by it, then something magical happens. You no longer just merely ‘think’ your message, you ‘feel’ it. Moving what you are saying from your explicit memory to your implicit memory.
According to Live Science our explicit memory ‘requires a more concerted effort to bring memories to the surface.’ In comparison our implicit memory, ‘….is sometimes referred to as unconscious memory or automatic memory. Implicit memory uses past experiences to remember things without thinking about them.’
Therefore, repetition and familiarity are key when it comes to building your implicit memory around a subject you are going to talk about.
For example, imagine a topic that you feel so passionate about that you could talk about it with little or no preparation for 10 minutes with ease. What allows you to do this is your familiarity with and so strong connection to your topic. It means something to you and so you don’t have to rely on your explicit memory to bring unfamiliar facts and information forward.
Recreate this strong emotional connection with every presentation or talk you are asked to deliver and it will make speaking in public easier, and most importantly, more enjoyable.
Consider the core message of your talk as your lighthouse, there ready to show you the way back when you lose your way. If you find yourself having a tumble weed moment – pause, take a breath, smile at your audience and ask yourself one question in your head:
Why am I here today?
This question cuts through the panic and will take you back to the true purpose of your talk, helping you make your way back to your message one step at a time.
Finally remember that experiencing mind blank is a natural part of your journey to true and authentic speaking confidence. The most impactful speakers aren’t 100% polished and perfect, they are wonderfully human and light up the room with their passion for their message.