By Doug Bennett, with special guest Carissa Karner
Have you heard of glossophobia?
It’s the term used to describe anxiety around public speaking; approximately 77% of us feel scared to talk in front of an audience!
If that’s you, how does that fear sit alongside the rest of your goals? Does it hold you back? Does it stop you from reaching more people? Does it make you shy away from opportunities?
How a fear of public speaking might show up
It’s likely many of you will have experienced some sort of uneasiness around public speaking, whether it’s a racing heart, sweaty palms or a dry mouth.
I gave my first “talk” in Amsterdam in 2014 in front of 200 people; I was so nervous I rocked back and forth. Fast forward to 2016 and I spoke in front of an audience of 1,500 people at a Million Dollar Round Table event in Vancouver (I still shuffled around the stage, perhaps that’s just my thing)!
The more you practise public speaking, the more comfortable you’re likely to become; and although it’s hard to believe it from my recent podcast, my guest, Fearless Speaking Coach Carissa Karner, was also terrified of the limelight until a few years ago.
As a child, Carissa was too petrified to raise her hand and answer a question in class, and although she loved to act and was confident playing different roles, her drama teacher told her she mumbled too much.
On that basis, some of us might decide that public speaking is not for us and move on. However, Carissa used it as fuel to drive her forward, so much so that she’s overcome her fear and is now on a mission to help professionals and entrepreneurs become fearless speakers.
Carissa wants you to be able to speak with authority, lead from the heart, and touch lives with your powerful insights. By the time you finish reading this blog, you’ll most likely be inspired to find a stage and share your message loud and clear!
How to approach glossophobia
Carissa: “As a child, my drama teacher told me to say my lines as loudly as I could to the big trees outside my house. I practised and practised and that’s how I learnt to use my literal voice to speak loudly enough for people to hear me; and that also instilled a love of acting in me.
I pursued a professional career in acting and felt very comfortable speaking somebody else’s words, but I was so afraid to speak as myself. The teacher would get our group into a circle and ask us to share three things about ourselves and I’d be sweating. I was so scared to be myself.”
If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while (thank you), you’ll know that the catalyst for major change or transformation is quite often a significant change in circumstances, hitting rock bottom or heartbreak. Carissa experienced all three and decided to tackle her fear head-on.
The advantages of hitting rock bottom
Carissa: “I got divorced, then my parents got divorced and my dad tried to commit suicide. When all of these heavy things happened, I stopped to reconsider what I really wanted to do. I qualified as a psychotherapist, and although I was happy using my voice in my little therapy room, I was still fearful of speaking in public – so I joined Toastmasters.
It was fun and a safe space to speak, and then I was invited by another member to do a TEDx talk. And although I wish I’d had a speaking coach to help me then, it made me more determined to just keep facing my fear and developing my public speaking skills.
I have found my voice and I no longer have the fear to speak or be visible. I got there through a lot of hard work, and I found experts to help me learn how to be comfortable using my own voice. I’ve taken all those skills, bottled up the best stuff, and I share that with my coaching clients so they don’t have to take the long road that I did to become a fearless speaker.”
Is being a TEDx speaker on your goal list? Would you love to be better at public speaking or at least feel brave enough to take to the stage?
If so, Carissa has shared the four steps she uses to achieve her goals. Her big hairy audacious goal (or BHAG) is to help as many people as possible harness the power of their voice in a bigger arena.
Ways to set your goals
Carissa: “The first step is to get really clear about what you want and dream and visualise it. The second step is to break it down into smaller chunks until you can identify the next step; then [step three], keep the big picture in your mind and ask yourself what you can do to move towards it today. Step four is to write it down and keep making it a daily practice so that it becomes infused in your life. I make sure that I touch my goals every day in some way.”
I’m always impressed by people who have a lot of structure around their goals, because I’m very spontaneous. Carissa went on to share why she finds that freedom within a structure helps her to focus on her goals.
Carissa: “In my psychotherapy practice, I have fixed appointment times and then I have tasks to do in the times where I am more fluid and flexible, so I wrap tasks around the parts of my day that are fixed. One of my favourite quotes is from author and mentor Patricia Fripp who says, ‘Structure doesn’t freeze you, it frees you.’”
I love the idea that structure can help you be more creative rather than make you feel restricted.
Is it time for you to overcome fear and pursue your goals?
If you have been apprehensive about public speaking, I hope this blog has inspired you to think about some fun ways you could break out of your comfort zone. Perhaps there’s a big field near your house where you could go and practise, or a local speaking group you could join?
As you know, I love to ask inspiring entrepreneurs to share a golden nugget. Carissa did not disappoint.
Carissa: “Stay focused on you as an individual. If you are reading this right now, know that you are part of the world. You have a story and that story is so valuable because it can help others to heal. It can inspire them and touch their lives. When you learn to share your story, it is also healing to you, and that’s powerful!”
What’s your story? What are your big goals? I’d love to find out more about them and offer professional support if it’s right for you. If you’re a service-based entrepreneur, check out my book Think Simple Win Big: How to Build the Business of Your Dreams With a Few Simple Goals, or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m off to find a field and practise my next big talk!