Consider for a moment how you’d feel if you were alone on stage, in front of a hundred faces, waiting for your first phrase and that rushing moment when you gather to say hello. There’s a good probability you’re already experiencing a racing heart, shallow breathing, and stage fright. Why, then, do people who are at ease speaking to friends, coworkers, and other peers stumble and freeze while addressing a crowd? Why is then mastering the art of public speaking so difficult?
The skill of public speaking is often considered very hard because of the internal and externals pressures that float over us such as our self-efficacy, judgments of others, the physiology of our body when perceiving a new stimulus, lack of confidence, and a mix of emotions such as fear and apprehensions. Let’s look at each of them in depth below.
1. The Self Efficacy of the Speaker
Public speaking is often considered hard because speakers who take up the responsibility of speaking might not consider themselves to be good enough or up to the mark. This self-efficacy or their lack of belief in themselves makes this task more daunting than it already seems to them. Experiencing these self-judgments is normal when you are a beginner or when you see other people performing well; however, one can choose to overcome these self-judgments to perform better and not find this a tough task.
Ways To Enhance Self-Efficacy
One method that you can include to enhance your self-image involves breaking down the task into components and dealing with it serially.
- First, try to research and work on the content, getting that in place.
- Secondly, try to rehearse it in front of the mirror or with yourself alone.
- Take a step ahead and try to perform it with a small group such as your colleagues or friends.
- Eventually try building up your confidence with each consecutive trial, transferring that when you take the actual stage.
If you still have to prepare a speech and have limited time, check out this article on “How To Prepare For A Speech When You Have No Time To Prepare?” where we guide you through each step of preparing a speech quickly!
Even though addressing the audience is a big task in itself, having and developing a higher self-efficacy does contribute to making this responsibility seem less difficult.
2. Focus is on the Judgements of others
When you take the stage and decide to put out your ideas and viewpoints, you automatically allow for the judgments and opinions of others. This does not have to be in a negative sense but more often than not, people take that route first, thinking thoughts such as – “Was I good enough”, “Did they enjoy the talk or got bored”, “Was my opinion correct” and so much more.
What can you do in such moments?
When you emphasize on something that you cannot control, you tend to feel helpless, finding the task more difficult than it usually is. But it is important to become aware of the fact that when you decide to become a public speaker, one has to get accustomed to the fact that each individual will have an opinion just like we have on the topics we speak about. Thus, taking it in the right manner is essential. Accepting positive compliments will eventually help you build confidence and negative ones will provide essential feedback that you can work on.
3. Lack of Change of Perspective
Building upon our previous point of letting our focus be on the judgments of others, one can take a healthier approach such as that of changing the perspective. While you deliver your speech, you can turn your focus into your contribution such as was – “Was I helpful?”, “Did I add value to the content?” as opposed to if the audience liked it or not.
How does a change of perspective help?
When you put focus on yourself, there is always scope for improvement and progress. However, when you focus on the audience’s reaction, you are less likely to enjoy your task and more so avoid it. Being social beings, we often rely on the social validation of others, and public speaking heavily deals with social situations. However, let that not be a factor that makes public speaking a hard choice for you!
4. When you learn as opposed to understanding the content
There is a very high chance that you’ll find the task way more difficult when you rote learn and present as opposed to understanding and communicating the content. This is not only true in terms of public speaking but also other scenarios such as presentations, exams, and interviews.
Thus, it is important to take a more “storytelling” or “conversational” approach which can help you understandably share your content and keep the audience engaged. Some methods that you can include while using the above-mentioned approaches can be:
Techniques to use while engaging with the audience
- Include question and answer segments with the audience
- Share personal anecdotes and stories relevant to the topic
- Allow for audience sharing and interaction via fun segments
Thinking of fun and interactive segments to include in a speech can seem like an ordeal, but we have you covered in an article on The Seven Best Ways To Make A Speech Longer where we share some insightful tips and techniques that you can use to interact and engage thoroughly with the audience!
When you take such approaches as opposed to the learn and blurt one; it makes the task of public speaking relatively easy and keeps the audience intact and hooked to the speech.
5. Genetic Predisposition to A New Stimulus
While multiple factors affect the reason many people face the fear of public speaking and find it to be extremely difficult, one theory that cannot be ignored is genetic predisposition. Over the years of evolution, man has found a new stimulus to be a threat and has either opted to “fight” that is face it, or “flight” that is run away from it. Additionally, this fear has been passed on across generations and holds the proof of existence in the modern-day public speaking fear.
However, one cannot rely fully on this and not confront their fear. many ways such as rehearsal and practice and training can help you fight or face the new stimulus, which is the new audience and deliver the speech smoothly.
6. Lack of rehearsal
Another reason why people find public speaking to be hard is because of lack of the lack of rehearsal. Be it any delivery such as a school presentation, university interview, or stage talk, to be confident and smooth in your delivery, rehearsal is always the key.
What happens when you don’t rehearse your content?
When you don’t rehearse the content that you have prepared, there are chances that you can forget the content and face stage fright, leading you to freeze and stumble in between. Thus, it is essential to revise the content once it is prepared with the same delivery that you would anticipate in your final one. Not only does this help in becoming well versed with the content, but also guides you in terms of the time limit, contextual understanding, and accessibility to the audience.
Thus, if you wish to not find the task to be a hefty one, make sure that you include various trials of rehearsal, for the more you rehearse, the easy it will be for you on stage.
Thinking of ways you can rehearse and present your speech impeccably? Check this article on “10 Tips And Tricks To Present Data Confidently” which will guide you through ways that you can rehearse and other exciting tricks for a smooth delivery.
7. Past Experiences
You are likely to find the task of public speaking to be more difficult than it already is if you have had previous encounters that have not been successful. This is not only related to public contexts but also a general conversation wherein your point of view was not appreciated.
Taking the past experiences to enhance the future
Negative experiences are strong barriers to overcoming fears but one should be aware that many factors may have contributed to the negative experience such as your body language, opinions, lack of clarity of content, and much more. But one experience doesn’t necessarily have to stop you from trying another! If you have faced such a situation, it is more important to reflect and see what went wrong and practice it so that the next time you take the stage for a speech, you gain a positive experience overcoming your fear of public speaking.
8. Pre-occupation with the Self
Pre-occupation with oneself usually refers to the focus that one puts on one’s thoughts, feelings, and body language.
How does pre-occupation affect public speaking?
When you focus on how you feel from within, that is nervous, anxious, vein wrecking, and sweating in fear, it becomes visible in the body language outside such as hands shaking, mumbling words, unable to maintain eye contact, and much more. You must change the focus from how you feel to what it is that you have to deliver. When you do this, not only do the feelings and thoughts take a back seat, but the outward behavior also becomes relaxed and you appear much more confident to the audience. When you look nervous, the audience can sense those patterns and sympathize rather than act as a receiver of the content.
So, to not make public speaking a task for you, you need to avoid being pre occupied with the self!
9. Lack of Proper Management
A combination of various factors mentioned above such as lack of rehearsal and perspective along with the unclarity of the content, less time management, and preoccupation combine to make the duty of public speaking extremely difficult.
Things To Keep in Mind
When you are confronted with a responsibility to deliver a speech publicly, it is extremely to have a proper management system in place so that the entire process from preparing the content to final delivery becomes a smooth one. Not only does this involve multiple rehearsals of content, practice, and delivery, but also time management such as allocation of time for each topic, content, and segment. When you have proper management in place, the task of public speaking becomes easy as it allows for equal importance of all the tasks that make up the whole of public speaking!
“There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject; then to get your subject into yourself; and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.”Alexander Gregg (mannerofspeaking)
Psychological Facts about Public Speaking
Now that we are aware of some of the humane reasons that stop us from effortlessly speaking on the stage, let’s look at 5 psychological factors that can help you have an edge while preparing your next speech!
1. The audience awaits guidance
When the audience tunes into your talk, there is often some motive such as clarity, guidance, and path-seeking involved. Thus, taking the role of a leader or supervisor along with that of the speaker is beneficial. When people gain some insight and techniques into the topic, they are more likely to imagine you as their guide and hear you again.
2. Actions speak louder than words
The listeners are very attentive to all the aspects of the talk, and when the emotions and behavior are not in sync with each other, the audience can easily spot them. Thus, it becomes very important to consciously agree with what you are saying and not just bluff. When you don’t seem comfortable and agreeable to the topic and speak for the sake of it, the audience can pick the cues and is less likely to engage in the conversation themselves.
Hence, it is important to have congruency with your thoughts, emotions, and outward behavior so that your actions are reflecting the words that you speak.
3. First Impressions Do Matter
The audience quickly makes judgments on the confidence of the speaker, which affects their concentration and dedication to the rest of the talk. Thus, it is very important to appear confident and self-assured when you start your talk. Opening the talk with a few best lines and hearty content will help you win over the crowd and keep them hooked to the following content.
4. Non-verbal signs are equally important
While the audience listens to your words and sees your actions, nonverbal signs such as your body language, the pace of talk, and more importantly pauses, also affect your conduct. Therefore, it is vital to rehearse the content in a delivery manner with adequate actions, pauses, and correct body language that supplement your content.
4. Keep the Speech/Talk active
Active conversations allow for more engagement than passive ones and this is one important scientifically proven fact that can be used to gain an edge over. Try to keep the audience involved by sharing anecdotes, stories, and frequent questions and answers instead of reading through the visual material. These active methods help because the speaker tunes into the speech neurologically which doesn’t happen in the case of silent passive reading.
I hope that these factors have helped you gain insight into the psychological base behind public speaking and what you can do to improve and advance your next talk! With the reasons and factors, let’s turn to the big question –
Does public speaking get easy with time?
In a nutshell, yes, it does! Public speaking can seem to be a very scary and dreadful task and every person becomes nervous before a hundred eyes that are waiting to hear you talk. The key to getting this skill or lifestyle as we call it, is – practice and consistency. When you understand, rehearse well and give it enough dedicated practice, public speaking gets better and easier with each consecutive speech that you give.
If you’re still navigating a way to make public speaking easier for you, watch this where we share tips and tricks to get better at this skill quickly!
As we end this article, I hope you got a basic understanding of why public speaking is often synonymous with being scary, hard, and difficult. You must realize that most if not all the factors are much within our control and with effective practice, one can turn the tables around!