Did you ever wonder if there was an Aladdin's Lamp for public speaking? All you would need to do is ask the Genie for the magic words to eliminate fear of public speaking or performance anxiety. Just like the eternal search for the fountain of youth, people still yearn for that elixir, potion, or formula that will make their nervousness vanish. What I've discovered is that the words you speak have the power to transform how you think. It's not what you say but how you think about your fear. A number of years ago I spoke to a group of company leaders. They, like everyone else, were nervous about public speaking. At one point I looked them straight in the eye and made a statement. After the training seminar, people told me that those words were very powerful and changed how they thought about public speaking.
Fast forward to a coaching client who was afraid to speak up in her class. She even thought about dropping out of law school because she was so nervous about public speaking. I told her the same thing I told every public speaker. And then it happened. She started to think differently after I shared those famous words with her. She graduated from law school and went on to give presentations without fear.
Most recently, a former client called me for a refresher. She told me her manager noticed a big improvement in her presentation and the way she interacted with clients. He offered her the refresher coaching session to prepare for their upcoming high stakes presentation. During the meeting, my client shared with me that the words I said to her truly changed how she thought about presentations and public speaking. Are the words really magical? No! The words themselves contain nothing magical. What the words did was reframe the way people were thinking about their fear. They were viewing public speaking through a negative frame and that triggered anxiety.
Even though I'm a seasoned professional speaker, I found myself getting nervous the day before a presentation. It was a 10 minute spotlight for the National Speakers Association. I confided to my friend that I was a nervous wreck. I couldn't wait for it to be over. My friend grabbed me by the shoulders and said, "Diane, don't do that to yourself. You're not nervous. You're energized." So I went home and recited my new mantra: "I'm energized. I'm energized." The next morning I gave my speech and it was a success. Words do make a difference.
The 3 magic words have made an impact on so many people. I think it is time I share them with you. So what are the 3 Magic Words that help people face their fear?
"It's About Them."
When I speak to audiences of nervous presenters, I tell them, "Get over yourself. It's not about you. It's about them." What they've come to realize is that at the very core of public speaking nervousness is a feeling of being self-centered. That's right. If you focus on the fear, you're thinking about yourself. If you think about what the audience wants and needs, you're coming from a place of service.
Language reflects thought. Change your language and you'll change your thinking. The next time anxiety occupies your mind, change your focus. Tell yourself, "It's about them."
What have you said to yourself to change your thinking?