Fear of Pitching Explained
What makes public speaking especially frightening to everyone? The answer comes back to primeval roots: we are stood alone, in front of a group of other people and we have no weapon, no means of protection or hiding and we are calling attention to ourselves. Instinct screams out to us ‘this is not a good place to be’, after all if you take us back a few thousand years this scenario could be the last we experience before we are clubbed to death by our fellow man.
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.”
We can reduce this fear by not only understanding the nerves we feel are entirely natural and it is not a ‘you’ thing but also by exposing ourselves to public speaking and re-training our brain, moving the thought pattern from ‘run away’ to ‘embrace’. We can change the motivational balance replacing fear with hope, we go from the fear of being called to speak to the hope we will be called to speak. And as we practice more we will also see our ability grow, replacing ‘I can’t do that’ to ‘I can do that, here, let me show you…..’
“There are two types of speakers: those who get nervous and those who are liars.” Mark Twain
Ever wondered how many people emerge from hearing a motivational speech, positive thinking, super charged and go on to change the world? Not a lot. I have little evidence to support this statement but I reckon the impact of these speeches is negligible. I recently spoke to a devotee of these speeches and she called them ‘great entertainment’. (Speakers such as Tony Robins I’m sure would argue otherwise.)
There’s two popular ways to think of positive thinking, choosing the right one will really help you overcome your fear of public speaking.
1) Positive expectations based on past experience: ‘I’ve always nailed my speeches, therefore I expect to nail this speech’. Data suggests this is a successful method.
2) Imagining a future through reading/hearing/watching inspirational material. This can also be referred to as ‘day dreaming’.
Dreaming relaxes your mind, great. But, it means you ignore obstacles, on the things that are stopping you getting to where you want. Dreaming therefore leads to inaction.
Gabriele Oettingen gives the example of people that want to get fitter. They’re told told to take the stairs at work every day instead of the lift. Now, lets split this group in two. The first group looks at the obstacles then has the fantasy of overcoming it. The second group fantasises then looks at the obstacle. The first group does far better with their fitness than the second, why? Because the second group spends too long feeling good, fantasising about the future rather than actually addressing the challenge in front of them.
So the next time you’re looking to improve your confidence with public speaking look at what your immediate obstacles are. Perhaps it’s breathing, talking too quickly or losing your thoughts. Focus on that one point, overcome it, then move onto the next obstacle. You may not ‘feel’ warm, fuzzy and dream like but you’re likely to see real progress.