Your palms become clammy, you’re covered in a cold sweat and all of your carefully prepared thoughts instantly disappear like a popped balloon. Your eyes are glazed as you open your mouth and begin to stammer in a voice that, to you, sounds remarkably like porky pig. Your mind is soundlessly screaming one imperative thought to you. Run away!
Anyone who has approached public speaking with more than slight trepidation will probably recognize and empathize with the above scenario. As is frequently mentioned, public speaking is commonly cited as people’s number one fear, even greater than fear of death. To paraphrase comedian Jerry Seinfeld, most people would rather be the subject of a eulogy than deliver one. So great is the fear of public discourse, in fact, that a whole industry has grown catering to its elusive conquest.
Rather than add to the plethora of approaches and methods that already exist, we at Queendom thought it might be more interesting to present a handful of techniques that will most likely not work and should therefore be avoided.
- Creative use of humor. Starting with a joke to break the tension has been know to work for some but can definitely be a dangerous tool. First of all, one must understand their audience and cater the humor to that audience. For example, if you are giving a toast at a best friend’s wedding, jokes such as, “I notice the bride is wearing white…is she kidding us?” are probably not a good idea. Also, you must accurately access whether you are in fact funny. Many people think they are funny but are not. To test this, sample some of your best material on friends and family in an informal setting. If after delivering your speech you are met with blank stares, silence, open hostility and/or requests that you leave, then this is probably not the approach for you.
- Picturing your audience naked. Some experts suggest picturing your audience naked as a means of deflating their fear inducing power over you, a technique which has met with some success. However, depending on the shape of your audience, you run the risk of creating some disturbing or, alternately, arousing imagery.
- If you can’t wow ‘em, scare ‘em. Many people attempt to mask their fear by adopting an overly aggressive manner to compensate for their insecurity. For example when put on a tough spot, referring to your audience as dullards, imbeciles or jerks rarely has the effect of endearing them to you. Similarly, screaming at them till you are red in the face does little to further your cause and may even result in personal injury.
- Feign health issues. Faking a heart attack or other life-threatening ailment may seem like a logical method and in fact will, if convincingly executed, engage your audiences’ sympathy and excuse you from the unpleasant task at hand. However, it does little to prepare you for future public speaking occasions and will likely cast suspicion on your credibility if frequently relied upon.
- Flee. Turning on your heel and running away, much like the aforementioned faking of a heart attack, will almost always work insofar as the dreaded fear is successfully avoided, albeit temporarily. If this method is chosen, however, one should be prepared to start life anew under an assumed identity, as it is quite embarrassing and difficult to explain satisfactorily to others.