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How to Calm Your Fear of Speaking

How to Calm Your Fear of Speaking

 “If your heart takes a nosedive while flying, you’re not alone.”

Wait a minute! You want to know ways to soothe your fear about speaking, not flying.

 Angela Haupt, a health and wellness editor at Time Magazine, suggests 4 calming techniques for navigating turbulent skies. Her strategies also work for handling the fear of public speaking.

 Try Haupt’s ideas for taming your qualms – whether you’re at the lectern/board meeting/strategy retreat or 30,000 feet above it.

 ✈️  Tip One: Do your due diligence

To get calmer, Haupt suggests you “fly best if you understand everything about your trip—including what type of plane, the forecast, and expected turbulence.” There’s even a link to get turbulence info!

🎤  Same strategy for your next speaking or meeting event. Find out all the details up front from logistics to audience analysis to possible contentious topics. Less surprises equals more predictability.

✈️  Tip Two:  Establish some sense of control over your environment.

On the plane bring your own pillow, blanket and music. Close the window shade, listen to your playlist, breathe deeply and visualize a tranquil space you’ve visited before.

Bonus Tip: Arrive early for your flights AND for your presentations

🎤  Back to earth… before your speaking engagement I recommend that you

  • listen to your favorite upbeat music
  • breathe in slowly, hold for 4 seconds and exhale slowly (repeating 3 times)
  • picture your past positive speaking engagements.

✈️  Tip 3: Journal your positive mantra.

On the plane you might say or write, “I’m ok. I’m safe. Planes aren’t so bad.”

🎤  On your way to the mic, repeat your pre-planned positive mantra. I ask all my clients to design this personal phrase. Some examples, “I got this”; “I know that I know”; “Fake it till you make it”.

✈️  Tip 4: Consider Exposure Therapy.

Haupt says that if you can’t shake the fear of flying than gradually expose yourself to flying. You might visualize the process of boarding a plane up to facing the fear directly by climbing onto a stationary plane.

🎤  Similarly, for speaking anxiety take baby steps. Speak up at the least stressful venues such as dinner with friends, your place of worship or a community project you’re passionate about. Then up your game gradually to business settings.

 Bottom line

✈️  🎤  I hope these strategies make you more comfortable with public speaking rather than less comfortable getting on an airplane! Have safe travels and calmer speaking gigs! 🎤  ✈️

© 2024 Karen Cortell Reisman, All rights reserved.

Photos taken by Karen and Jimmy at Buenos Aires Aeroparque & Dallas Lovefield Airport

The real reason you shouldn’t tell audiences you’re nervous … and what to do instead

The real reason you shouldn’t tell audiences you’re nervous … and what to do instead

False sense of connection

You might think that sharing your discomfort with the audience is a way to build rapport and empathy with your group.

You’re doing the exact opposite with this maneuver. First, you’re telegraphing a lack of confidence. Second, you’re making your audience uncomfortable. Third, even though you’re being transparent and honest, you’re not reducing your level of speaker anxiety one iota.

A better approach

Act confident.

I did not say, “Be confident.” Being confident is your goal, and that comes with experience, training and content knowledge. “Acting confident” means being an actor of confidence. The cliché, fake it till you make it, comes to mind.

To look confident, even if you don’t feel all that confident, do the following:

  • Have good posture.
  • Use effective eye contact.
  • Project your voice.
  • Smile – have an open facial expression.
  • Walk with purpose (rather than swaying, pacing, rocking, or doing an imaginary cha-cha-cha dance).
  • Stop fidgeting.
  • Reduce verbal clutter.

No surprises there

I’m about to facilitate a full-day public speaking workshop for emerging leaders at a technology company. In the pre-workshop survey the attendees have shared that they’re either pretty nervous to extremely nervous. No surprises there. I can’t wait to share our best practices on how to channel these negative gremlins into positive energy.

I’ll be sure to tell them not to share their nervous angst when making a speech, doing a pitch, or running a meeting.

© 2024 Karen Cortell Reisman, All rights reserved 

Photo ©:  by Robin Sachs Photography on Atlanta Beltline

Speaker Anxiety – reduce by handling The Energy Zappers

Speaker Anxiety – reduce by handling The Energy Zappers

A recent scenario: “I’m paralyzed by speaker anxiety”, said my billion dollar investment firm CEO, during one of our 1:1 meetings. He continued, “I’m lost.” I replied, “I’ll help you get found.”

We talked. We strategized. “Here’s one way to move from speaker anxiety to speaker comfort zone”, I said. “You can learn to understand and handle The Zappers.”

For all of you (and there are plenty of you) who have a smidgen to lots of speaker nerves, read on ➜

Who are “The Energy Zappers”?

The Energy Zappers are those people in your audience (of one to many) that are disengaged. You know the one(s)! They’re distracted. They may even be sleeping, heaven forbid.

Two Energy Zapper situations & how to handle them

Everyone is disengaged.

➜ Example: During a full-day limited-attendance workshop with a tech client I saw that the entire group of 15 began to text. It looked like they were texting each other. In this instance I read the room and stopped to ask what was going on. They said, “A server has gone down.” I said, “Let’s take a break now and try to solve this issue.” They did. Phew.

🎤 Tip – If everyone is disengaged you have a problem. Either find out what’s going on, or call us later to work on your content, organization and delivery.

A few are disengaged.

➜ Example: You’ve got lots of Energy Givers in your audience. They give you good eye contact. They nod. They even take notes! BUT there are those few that are on their mobiles, or nodding off, or multi-tasking while pretending to listen to you.

🎤 Tip – Remember Karen’s Speak For Yourself® Zen Phrase:

“You don’t know what emotional baggage your listeners bring to your table.”

Repeat this phrase to yourself when confronted with Energy Zappers. Please remind yourself that this disengagement is not your fault even though you might take it personally. How do you know what’s going on in their lives? They might be on a chemo regimen. They might have allergies and taking Benadryl. They might be dealing with any manner of personal issues. You don’t know! So don’t get sucked into a mental game of trying to rouse them from drowsy purgatory. Instead, concentrate on the rest of your room.

Back to my CEO client. I told him, “I taught college classes early on in my career. I got better at it, semester by semester, and my student evaluations let me know exactly how they felt about my teaching! Fortunately as time went on the evaluations improved. In fact I might have 3 negative vs. 75 positive reviews. Guess which reviews I fixated on?” He replied, “the three bad ones.” “That’s correct,” I said.

When you speak – remember my zen phrase and try not to react the way I did with my college evaluations. You’ll reduce your speaker anxiety by leaning into the positive energy and ignoring The Zappers!

© 2024 Karen Cortell Reisman, All rights reserved 

Photo ©:  123RF Stock Photo

Our Weirdest Advice on how to prepare for any speaking opportunity

Our Weirdest Advice on how to prepare for any speaking opportunity

You might guess that I’d advise you to prepare for speaking opportunities by analyzing your audience’s needs and how to get their buy-in, figuring out your main points, support material and & stories, and sharing your call to action.

All true but not weird!

Our weirdest advice

Do the 7 to 1 Exercise.

What is this?

  • Stand up.
  • Smile.
  • Lift your right arm and shake your arm while projecting your voice louder than usual and say each number descending from 7 to 1,  “7,6,5,4,3,2,1”. Put your right arm down.
  • Lift your left arm and repeat. Put your left arm down.
  • Lift your right leg and shake your foot in the air while smiling and saying loudly each number descending from 7 to 1. Put your right leg down.
  • Lift your left leg and repeat.
  • Do this all again (right arm – then left arm – then right foot – then left foot) starting with 6 down to 1. Then again starting with 5 to 1, 4 to 1, 3 to 1, 2 to 1, and then 1 wave of your right arm, 1 wave or your left arm, 1 kick of your right foot and one final kick of your left foot.
  • Remember to smile and project your voice at all times during this routine.
  • OR …  click on the 90-second video in this blog and watch this exercise in action!

When do you do this?

Do this exercise ahead of your speaking opportunity in the privacy of your hotel room or office.

Why do you want to do this?!

You warm up your voice, body, face and brain cells. You have to think about what number you’re on, while you smile, project and balance your body. AND… you’ll channel your extra adrenaline (those sneaky nerve-racking butterflies) in a positive direction.

I learned this great exercise when I took improv classes. We did this routine before every performance. I still do this 7 to 1 exercise before any speaking engagement and I’ve taught it to all my clients. You may think you look like an idiot but you’re training your face, voice and body to look natural and strong.


© 2024 Karen Cortell Reisman, All rights reserved


How to Solve Speaker Anxiety

How to Solve Speaker Anxiety

How to Solve the New York Times Crossword gives you four excellent clues on how to solve speaker anxiety.

Start With the Monday Puzzles

“The Monday NYT Crosswords are the easiest, and the puzzles get harder as the week goes on. Solve as many of the Mondays as you can before pushing yourself to Tuesday puzzles. You can thank us later.”

Same goes for giving presentations. Start small. Speak to “warm”/agreeable audiences first. Speak on topics you’ve earned the right to discuss. Speak in settings that add to your comfort zone. Then push yourself. You can thank me later.

It’s Not Cheating, It’s Learning

Tip: Don’t be afraid to look up answers. You’ll become a better solver for it.”

As speakers, it’s not cheating to have notes. In fact your audience wants you to stay on time and on target. Notes keep you from getting disorganized and tangential. And it lowers your anxiety.

Note: Don’t read your notes verbatim. Only bring an outline to the lectern.

Practice Makes, If Not Perfect, a Much Better Solver

“Do more puzzles. The more you solve, the better you’ll get.”

Quid pro quo, practice makes you a better speaker and decreases nervousness. Practice tips: Say your beginning and ending out loud at least 4 times. Remember that giving a speech is not hard (because you’re speaking about your topic) … it’s just difficult to start and conclude.

As a recovering perfectionist I steer away from the adage, “Practice makes perfect.” Instead, “Predictable practice makes you better prepared.”

Solve With a Friend

“Tip: Solving with another person can work to your advantage. You know things your friend doesn’t know, and he or she knows things that you don’t know.”

I love speaking and am intimidated by doing crossword puzzles. Thank you to my son-in-law, Kevin, for being my crossword puzzle friend. You make it fun and easier!

To decrease your fear of public speaking practice with a non-judgey friend. Then buy them lunch.

Puzzling your way out of speaker anxiety ➜ Use these foundational crossword puzzle strategies as your clues.

© 2024 Karen Cortell Reisman, All rights reserved

Speaker Anxiety – how to dance with this demon

Speaker Anxiety – how to dance with this demon

I remember…

my first class I teach at Richland College.

I’m nervous and think, “This 90-minute class will never end.”

But I’m done in 5 minutes!

There I stand, with 40 college students looking at me. I know I have nothing else to say. They know I have nothing else to say. And my entire body breaks out into a sheen of sweat.

Had I not signed a contract to teach this class I might not be a speaker and communication consultant now as CEO of Speak For Yourself®! I am forced to show up at Richland College every Tuesday and Thursday for 16 weeks. That’s 32 class sessions in case you didn’t do the math.

It was a powerful lesson that I learned about practice and perseverance.

Effective speakers/teachers/communicators make it look easy.

It’s not!

And now…

I warn all of my fabulous clients that speaker anxiety is part of the game of speaking. You won’t get rid of it. In fact, you want that adrenaline edge. You learn how to dance with that demon and use that extra energy in a positive vs. negative way.

And some of those demon-dance steps include practice, perseverance, time, rinse and repeat.

I taught at Richland College for 10 years. The first class of each semester (and all my classes) lasted the full 90 minutes!

One of my coping mechanisms then and now (I still can get hot!) …  I wear cotton.

What are some of your coping mechanisms?

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