Q: My biggest fear is speaking in public because I usually start shaking or stammering, or sometimes I can’t speak at all. How can I overcome my fear?
– Rispa, Kenya
Rispa, you are not alone. The writer Mark Twain, who knew a thing or two about making a good speech, said: “There are only two types of speakers in the world: 1) the nervous and 2) liars.”
If you are worried about public speaking, try tracking down videos of some of my early efforts online – I’m confident you do well in comparison! I’m thankful that there is no footage of the very first time I spoke in public.
When my first venture, Student magazine, started to gain recognition, I was sometimes asked to talk at gatherings. The first event that could have been considered high-profile was at University College, London, for a German TV channel.
Before my turn came to take the stage, the student leader Danny Cohn-Bendit and the activist Tariq Ali gave exceptional speeches about human rights. They were passionate about their topics, oozed confidence and had the intellectual clout to back up their rhetoric. While the crowd cheered and stamped, I was fighting the temptation to throw up.
My mind went blank when I took the microphone. I mumbled incoherently for a bit before leaving the podium. It was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, and my face glowed red as the Virgin logo.
A few years later, Sir Freddie Laker, one of my most important mentors and the man who inspired me to get into the airline industry, urged me to make myself the public face of our company. He argued that rather than trying to get people’s attention with a big marketing campaign, it would be much cheaper and far more effective for me to make headlines myself – especially since my small company was competing against bigger rivals.
But this meant addressing my problem with public speaking. I realised that if I was going to be the face of our brand, I was going to have to talk the talk.
What I soon learned was that practice made all the difference. The more prepared I was, the less I stammered and stumbled. Good speakers aren’t just talented or lucky – they work hard.
Start practicing your speech well ahead of time at home. Try to get comfortable with the material and learn where you should be forceful and where you should use a lighter tone.
Above all, you should prepare to be yourself. Often when someone delivers a speech that was written for them by somebody else – politicians come to mind – it sounds too suave and premeditated.
The key is to understand your message, put your own personality into it and convey it in your own words. Remember, not everybody has a huge vocabulary. Often a short word will work much better than a long one that you may mispronounce anyway – especially if you suffer from dyslexia like me.
Twain also said: “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” Whether you’re preparing a few remarks or are just going to answer questions from the crowd, think about potential topics you want to talk about, then write them down – bullet points will do. It helps to have a rough outline of where you’re going to take a point, to keep the conversation moving forward.
Then, when it’s time to make your speech in public, try to imagine that you are back in your living room chatting with friends. Pick out someone in the crowd and try to get your point across to them personally – you’ll find the rest of the audience will understand your message too.
Keep in mind that there’s no need to stick rigidly to your script if an interesting tangent presents itself. Some of the finest moments in the history of oration include off-the-cuff remarks. Also, this is when spontaneous humour is most likely to erupt. A good joke will not only help you connect with the crowd, but help you relax. If you loosen up a bit, the words will flow more fluently.
To be an impressive public speaker, you have to believe in what you are saying. And if you speak with conviction and you’re passionate about your subject, your audience will be far more forgiving of your mistakes because they’ll have faith that you are telling the truth.
My answers aren’t always smooth and immediate, and often include a fair few “erms” and “ahs.” But most audiences are far happier with a hesitant, sincere response than a speedy but superficial answer.
Prepare, then take your time and relax. Speak from the heart.
Fear As Foe And Friend: How To Master This Important Relationship
Our beliefs direct our behaviour and decision making. To conquer you fears, face them.
There is a story that I love. It goes something like this: A long time ago a man was sitting in a bar in Damascus having a beer. As he finished his last sip he looked over to the corner and staring back at him was Death. The man froze. It was widely known that the day you see death is the day you die.
A few seconds later the man regained composure and ran out of the bar. Without looking back he jumped on a horse and rode as quickly and as far away as he could. Later that day he arrived in a town called Samarra.
The man checked into a motel, rushed up to his room, locked the door, and as he turned around, sitting in the corner was Death. Noting the man’s surprise, Death said to him, “You think that you’re surprised? Just imagine how surprised I was this morning when I saw you in the bar in Damascus knowing that I had an appointment with you here, tonight, in Samarra.”
This is a story about the inevitability of death. No matter how hard we try, it’s the fate that we cannot escape. However, that’s not the focus of this article.
Facing your fears
Instead, consider the way the man reacted to death. More specifically, how he reacted to fear. That’s something I’m sure you can relate to.
The life of an entrepreneur is filled with fear. The fear of failure, the fear of losing it all, the fear of judgement, the fear of rejection, the list goes on. We can never eliminate these fears. Trust me, I’ve worked with the best and they still struggle with many of these fears. The thing about entrepreneurs at the top of their game is that they are better at dealing with fear.
Imagine if instead of running away, the man in our story decided to embrace his fear. Imagine he calmly (while shaking inside) walked over to death and asked him why he was staring at him. Death might have told him about their inevitable appointment. The man could have left the bar to get his affairs in order. He could have had a final meal with family and friends. He could have gone for a last swim in the ocean. And then, when the time was right, met death as an old friend.
Does that not sound like a much better approach than to run away and hide? But how you can embrace fear? The answer to that is simple but by no means easy. Dealing with fear is all about the context and meaning we assign to it.
When you’re working in your office, how scared are you of being bitten by a shark? Fear is very much dependent on the context. In many instances we have (some) control over context.
So, how can you control your context or environment? What can you do to actively decrease the fear becoming manifested? Fear of public speaking? Control the context by preparing well, getting coaching, dressing well, being ready. Fear of rejection? Control the context by understanding your prospect well, being prepared, showing up early so that you aren’t rushed, being friendly and welcoming.
This is always one of my favourite areas to play in as coach. It has to do with the meaning we assign to situations in our lives. More simply put, the beliefs that we have and how they direct our behaviour and decision-making.
Back to our shark example, and this time you find yourself in the ocean. How worried are you now about a shark attack? Much more. However, next to you is a shark expert frolicking around. Happy as can be. How worried is he about the shark attack? Not at all. Why? Because he understands shark behaviour, he knows the statistics and miniscule chances of a shark attack occurring. Same context, different beliefs, resulting in different levels of fear.
This means that another way of dealing with fear is to examine the belief you have that creates the fear. Perhaps it’s an outdated or untested belief. The only way you will know is by looking at it.
Through the fear
Fear is a dark passenger. Ready to tell you stories of doom and gloom. Ready to make you forget about the big dreams that you have. But it does not have to be. You journey. Your rules.
Learn to master your feelings and the approach that you take towards the challenges and risks in your life, and you will not only feel lighter, but able to embrace fear as an old friend without becoming consumed by it.
Peak Performance: Multiply Personal And Team Business Performance
Anyone can be a ‘Peak Performer’ and that includes you!
‘Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection‘ – Mark Twain
As a Peak Performance coach my purpose is to make others successful, fulfilled and happy
The universal Principles of Peak Performance applies to Entrepreneurs, career orientated individuals, business teams, sports teams and individual performers such as public speakers and musicians.
Do you want to learn how to multiply your performance as an entrepreneur, career orientated individual, musician, public speaker, or sportsperson and reach the peak of your industry or sport? If you answered yes to the aforementioned question, then this article is meant for you.
The outputs of ‘Peak Performance’ coaching varies due to its universal application but includes multiplying profits and productivity, drastically increase team performance in business or in sport , and dramatically improve your performance as an artist, musician, or individual sports person.
A Peak Performance is described by psychologydictionary.org as:
“A performance at the best level of a person’s physical and cognitive abilities’
- Which leads me to the ancient Chinese philosophical concept of ‘wu-wei’ meaning ‘effortless-effort’. It is truly awe inspiring to bare witness to an entrepreneur or athlete delivering a supreme performance with joy emanating from their being as proof of them being in a ‘peak mental state’.
‘Peak performance is not only about achieving a wonderful result it is also about experiencing the joy bubbling from your heart as you let go of all your fears , doubts and procrastination and just enjoy the moment as a soulful experience’.
Those entrepreneurs or performers that have not released the peer pressure, doubts and fears that circumvent their thinking and feelings place limitations on the fulfilment , happiness and joy that they could have experienced should they have let go of all ‘mental baggage’ that they carry. One of the keys to unlock your potential is to leave your past baggage behind as you go through the door of positive change and development.
This article will highlight three prominent barriers to your ultimate ‘Peak Performance’ yet will reveal three key principles that when consistently applied will empower you towards unleashing your potential and become a ‘Peak Performer’ in any area of your life.
1. Barrier to Peak Performance: Limiting beliefs
When you entertain such limiting beliefs as ‘I am not worthy’, ‘I do not possess the resources to succeed’, ‘I am not intelligent enough’, it will limit your performance within any area of your life within which you entertain those beliefs.
Some top sport performers believe that only the seriously talented can be at the top and that talent means you do not have to work hard. For sure it is possible to reach the top based on superior talent alone but you will not be a sustainable success. Those with the potent combination of talent, mental strength and the willing ness to work hard will eventually catch up and dramatically outperform those with the limiting belief that my talent alone is enough.
2. Barrier to Peak Performance: Procrastination
If you are a serial procrastinator as an entrepreneur by the time you have actually executed a decision the ‘Peak Performer’ has already executed, failed and corrected his/her mistakes several times and is outperforming you.
3. Barrier to Peak Performance: Perfectionism
“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection” – Mark Twain
Perfectionists often suffer from a fixed mind-set which is revealed thoroughly when the face glaring imperfections. This fixed mind-set dictates that perfectionists will rather walk away from the situation than aim to continuously improve which is a key driver to Peak performance. It is perfectly ok to fail as long as you apply the learnings of the failure and grow.
Be open to the fact that more often than not you are going to face imperfect conditions and timing in business, bad weather and facility conditions in sport, and ups and downs in any career. The discipline and willingness to continuously work hard even for small improvements removes the focus on perfectionism to learning and growing continuously.
The above three barriers to ‘Peak Performance’ are very prominent ones but not the only ones that you will have to break through on your journey towards being a ‘Peak Performer’.
When you google who was the mentor of Nelson Mandela Oliver Tambo’s’ name will pop up. Tony Robbins had a mentor. Ray Dalio has been coached by Tony Robbins in return. And that brings the good news – you can be coached or mentored to break through the barriers that limits your performance.
Related: The Anatomy Of Peak Performance
The key questions here are:
“Are you coachable?” and “Do you want success and happiness badly enough?”
1. Empowering belief towards Peak Performance: Purpose
Clarity of purpose is a key driver towards ‘Peak Performance’. Purpose is ‘your why’, that very good reason why you do what you do. Two entrepreneurs of equal intelligence, resources, talent and skill start a venture within the same industry, whom will outperform the other?
The one does not really love the industry and is not truly inspired by what he is doing, the other has a real sense of Purpose and truly loves the industry. Logic dictates that the one with the real sense of purpose will more easily overcome obstacles and will truly be inspired towards Peak Performance.
The fine print to Purpose is that Purpose is a powerful belief but yet is just a belief. Underpinning purpose you must consistently do what is required to actualise your purpose and do so with patience and discipline.
2. Empowering belief towards Peak Performance: Peak mental state
We all know from personal experience that when you are de-motivated and negative thoughts dominate your mind that a very good performance is unlikely to result from that state.
You can train yourself or be trained to almost always be in a peak mental state where you are anchored in positive beliefs and in strong positive emotions about those beliefs. From this state a Peak performance is much more likely.
3. Empowering belief: Take immediate, consistent and disciplined action
When we feel overwhelmed we either do nothing or very little in general. We also tend to procrastinate when we are unsure of the course of action we should be taking or when we doubt our abilities. When we know exactly what our purpose is we do know what our priorities are and once we are sure of our priorities when know how to allocate the right amount of time to our activities that serves our purpose.
We all feel overwhelmed and or fearful at some point. The key here is to still take action in the face of being overwhelmed and fearful. When overwhelmed and fearful a critical question to ask yourself is: What is the smallest and easiest thing I can do right now to start improving the situation? Once you have taken action it creates momentum and it gives you confidence to take the next action required.
Use your fears and doubts as triggers to take action. Small actions at first to train yourself and to give you more confidence to gradually take bolder steps. The Navy seals in general are not fearless human beings they were just trained to use their fears as ‘triggers’ to take action and this is possible for everyone.
Here is an empowering belief for you:
Anyone can be a ‘Peak Performer’ and that includes you!
Research: The Power Of Meditation That Will Blow Your Mind
How transcendental meditation can improve your life and help you achieve the highest levels of success. Don’t believe us? Keep reading and find out
If I told you a group of meditators could stop a war, eradicate violence, reduce infant mortality and increase primary school attendance rates – would you believe me?
This exact scenario happened in our neighbouring country Mozambique. In 1992, the civil war that lasted 15 years came to an end. Joachim Chissano the leader of the winning forces took control of the country, instead of enacting revenge on the rebel forces, he promised there would be no prosecution or punishment.
He even went so far as to offer them half of the positions in the Mozambican army, and he gave them a chance to gain power through political means. Two years later, Mozambique’s had her first ever multiparty election, Chissano and the former rebel leader were up against each other in the polls.
After winning, he focused on reducing poverty to establish lasting peace. Between 1997 and 2003, 3 million people, out of a population of 20 million, were rescued from extreme poverty. This led to a 35% decrease in infant mortality and a 65% increase in the number of children attending primary school.
The following sections will help you on your journey to find your personal “woosah”:
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