According to a study conducted in the United States, for many people the fear of public speaking ranks higher than the fear of having a bad accident, one’s own death or loneliness! For some, this fear is confined to the few minutes leading up to a scheduled speaking event. Others, however, suffer from anxiety for weeks out.

According to a study conducted in the United States, for many people the fear of public speaking ranks higher than the fear of having a bad accident, one’s own death or loneliness! For some, this fear is confined to the few minutes leading up to a scheduled speaking event. Others, however, suffer from anxiety for weeks out. 

Most people are reluctant to talk about this embarrassing issue. This is especially true for executives who want to convey the impression that they have everything under control (yet even they are not immune to the fear of public speaking.). Individuals afflicted with stage fright assess an impending speaking engagement as very threatening. They are frequently opinionated and extremely self-critical when it comes to judging their own performance. But, in fact, stage fright and nervousness are a normal physical reaction to a situation that is deemed dangerous. Adrenalin and an increased oxygen supply prepare the body for “flight or fight”. One’s heart beat and breathing is accelerated: shaky knees, sweating and a shortness of breath (unfortunately) result. But, as we can neither attack nor flee in this situation, we are suddenly faced with a surplus of oxygen and adrenaline which must be gotten rid of. Fortunately, there are some proven techniques for this. It is however better to prevent this situation from the outset. This, in turn, entails having to deal with one’s attitude toward the speaking occasion and the (feared) audience. The less threatening the upcoming speaking event is judged, the less intensely the body reacts to it. Even many professional speakers have first-hand experiences with a fear of public speaking. Isabel Garcia, a professional lecturer, for example, mentioned in a recent interview that for many years she didn’t even have the confidence to speak loudly in front of others! This is backed up by my own experience. "There where resistance is strongest is also where the treasure is." This insight applies not only to stage fright but also to many other situations that we experience as unpleasant.

Your coaching expert in Berlin

About the author

Esther Kimmel is a job, business and start-up coach in Berlin, certified by the German Association of Coaching (DCV).

She has worked with and coached various entrepreneurs, freelancers, executive and specialist staff working in creative or consulting professions, and has helped them overcome various challenges and bring about change in their lives. Since 2009, she has consulted and worked with over 400 clients at various levels of the organisation.

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