Fear worse than death

From Speaking to Teaching

Last Sunday evening I taught my first yoga class as a qualified yoga teacher. For those who read my newsletter, you’ll know that I recently completed a Yoga Teacher Training course to complement my existing health and wellbeing coaching and hypnotherapy services (see my sister brand, Think Healthy Be Healthy) with this rapidly growing fitness activity. Whilst I’m generally not one to blow my own trumpet, I was really pleased with the feedback my co-teacher and I received:

‘It was amazing. When are you doing your next class?’

‘I loved it. I’ll look out for when you’re next teaching.’

‘It was just what I needed. That hamstring stretch…!’

There was something that pleased me even more however about teaching my first yoga class. I’d heard about the early days of other yoga teachers:
 
‘I was so scared…’
 
‘I felt a panicking sensation when I thought of getting up in front of all those people’
 
‘I couldn’t lift my eyes to look at the class for about the first year’.
 
As we might expect, it’s normal to be petrified at the thought of taking a real class. It’s normal to be terrified at the thought of standing up in front of a large group. And it’s normal to almost freeze at the sea of faces of looking up at you from their mats.
 
And yet I wasn’t. I wasn’t petrified. I wasn’t terrified. I wasn’t even really nervous. I honestly was looking forward to my first class and was able to look out and see each person in the room. I was able to calmly look around the room to observe the class following my pose guidance.
 
Now if I was to rewind four years ago, this most definitely wouldn’t have been the case. Given that as a yoga teacher, I would have needed to lead a class, there is no way I would even have embarked on the training. Seriously, I would have run a mile. 
 
Despite having had to stand in front of large groups to deliver work presentations, workshops or training over the years, this wasn’t something I was comfortable with. In fact, that’s an understatement; I detested it with a vengeance. I would avoid public speaking at all costs. Work presentations would be a major blot on the landscape. Only when they were over did I feel I could enjoy life once again (anyone else know this feeling?). Even something as simple as being asked to say my name out loud would leave me with clammy hands and a racing heart.
 

Confronting your fears

As a Career, Performance & Wellbeing Coach & Hypnotherapist, I’ve helped many people to overcome major problems or fears over the years. I’ve used my techniques on myself many times with great success. Public speaking was different however – it was out of bounds!
 
As time went on and I continued to ask clients to take bolder steps out of their comfort zone, I felt a gnawing unease at my own resistance to work on my biggest fear. I wasn’t alone in my fear. A number of surveys and polls have found that the number one fear is public speaking, it ranking even higher than death. If fact, it’s often joked that most people would rather be in the coffin than delivering a eulogy at a funeral.
 
Finally acknowledging it was time to take action, I joined a public speaking club (it did take me a few years from first googling it to plucking up the courage to try it out. From listening to talks from new members over the years, I know this is a common tale). I’ll save details of my journey over the following years for another blog post. Most importantly, as I progressed through the awards, delivering speech after speech (including a eulogy at a close relative’s funeral), I realised that public speaking is so much more than standing up in front of an audience:
 
  • Seeing your audience
  • Connecting and engaging with your audience
  • Moving them
  • Winning their hearts
  • Speaking to their soul (yes, even in business presentations)
  • Leaving a little bit of yourself and your story with them
Over four years on and I now adore public speaking. I do it for fun with club meetings being my idea of a good night out!
 

Top Tips for Improving Public Speaking

Whilst I could write a book on what I’ve learnt on my speaking journey, here are four top tips to get you started:
  1. What for? What is the purpose of your talk- to entertain, inform, inspire or persuade? Be clear on this and make sure you meet this aim in your speech.
  2. Forget yourself. Your talk is about your listeners. What level is appropriate for them? How can you best get their interest – humour, stories, etc?
  3. Seek feedback. Specific constructive feedback is essential. Find yourself a local public speaking club or engage a coach to provide supporting and encouraging feedback. 
  4. Practice. Like everything else, practice, practice and more practice is key.
If you would like to improve your public speaking or presentation skills, get in touch to find out more about how I can help.
 
If  you already attend a public speaking club get in touch to find out how I can help you fast track your progress. 
 

‘They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel’ 

Carl M Buechner

Image courtesy of lightpoet on stock.adobe.com