It’s a fear worse than dying! The things that happen are awful–drawing a blank, sweating, shaky knees, embarrassment, to name a few! The things we imagine happening are worse. Why does this happen? What’s the real reason you suck at public speaking?
Evolution Isn’t Done Yet.
The reason you suck at public speaking is evolution. It’s not your fault! We humans only just got started with this verbal communication business. Linguists go mad crazy arguing about the details of when humans started using verbal language and what the languages were & their characteristics, etc.
But it’s only about 10-20 thousand years! And complex speaking situations have only just become a part of our lives over the past hundred or so years.
My main concern is how we can get our message across better and be more persuasive. And how can we do this not losing sleep or getting stressed out before a speaking engagement?
Who are those persuasive public speakers?
You know the ones. They’re engaging and dynamic. They have executive presence and they get you to follow their call to action almost immediately. They speak clearly and concisely.
They didn’t just get up there and start speaking magnificently. They learned the techniques and practiced them.
It’s Not Just Public Speaking Where You Can Suck
And when I talk about speaking engagements, I’m not just talking about standing in front of an audience.
I’m talking about those times when you avoid people because you have something to say to them & you don’t know how to say it. I’m talking about job interviews & asking for a raise.
Also, giving bad news to others & telling people, “no.” (Gasp!) How to make small talk that deepens relationships. I’m talking about meetings & speaking to that one annoying colleague or having conflicts with loved ones.
Why Do I Get Nervous When I Talk?
The reason you suck at communicating outside of your comfort zone is crazy simple:
Our Brains Suck at Public Speaking
We suck at communicating during highly complex situations.
Our brains haven’t evolved enough yet to communicate clearly & persuasively in high anxiety situations. Memorize that.
Your prefrontal cortex shuts down when you feel stress. That’s why you can walk away from a stressful communicative encounter and 1 hour or 1 week later think: “Oh my gosh, I know what I should’ve said!”
You have the answers in your brain; you just don’t have access to them during anxiety-ridden situations.
Here’s what internationally renowned cognitive scientist Judson Brewer, MD Ph.D. Yale, MIT has to say about our brains & evolution:
“The prefrontal cortex, that youngest part of our brain from an evolutionary perspective… is also the first part of our brain that goes offline when we get stressed out, which isn’t that helpful.”
All speaking is public speaking.
This doesn’t just apply to public speaking. It applies to speaking at meetings, interviews, talking to strangers at a party, introducing yourself, making small talk, etc.
These high-stakes situations put your body into a little bit of fight or flight making it difficult for you to communicate as well as you would when you’re with your closest pals.
This 5-Minute Trick From the Navy SEALs Will Make You an Incredible Communicator
Why We Evolved Communication Skills
Our ability to communicate is the one pivotal thing that gets us what we need out of life. That’s why it’s evolved within humans in the first place. It’s super helpful. When done well.
When I was in grade school, at the end of math class I’d be slumping in my seat, pretty relaxed, looking out the window, then the science teacher would come in and say, “Ok kids, take out your science books! turn to page 56!” It was like we were in the military! Whoa, everybody sat up at attention! We put ourselves “at attention.” Bodies super straight, a bit of extra stress, and tension in our musculature.
I’m not the first one to tell you that you can’t have and open brain when you’re stressed out and “at attention.” It’s also no way to live your life! Have you heard the Chinese proverb, “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you really are.”? It’s very true.
How Not to Suck at Public Speaking
It’s important to learn not to suck at public speaking 🙂 Why is it important? Think of the information that you have that you’re depriving all of those audiences out there from hearing. Think of the stress you feel when you’re forced to speak publicly or (gasp) when you turn down opportunities!
Being a Great Communicator Can Be Rocket Science, and It’s OK
The first step to being an amazing communicator in all situations is to be completely relaxed. You’ll need to train yourself! You must & can be completely relaxed before & during every communicative situation. And public speaking is obviously no exception. I have some instructions on how to relax in this article: How to improve the sound of your voice.
Love Your Audience
The second step is to love your audience. Just think about the information that you have that your audience needs, in doing that you’ll realize that it’s not about you after all. It’s just about them.
If you feel really motivated about helping others by delivering your message, it’ll help you take the focus off yourself. That results in your delivering a powerful & persuasive message.
Use Motivating Music
My third trick is to put a motivating song in your head as you’re walking out on stage. The BeeGee’s Staying Alive comes to mind. Walk on stage like John Travolta in the first scene of Saturday Night Fever. (scroll to about.30) Of course, use whatever song motivates you. Listen to it before you speak, then let it roll on in your head as you swagger on stage. 🙂
Control Your Body–Don’t Let it Control You
Keep your body open. Because of your fight or flight reaction when you’re afraid, your body shrinks, and your head comes down a bit. This causes you to lose confidence & suck at public speaking all the more.
Make sure you do the opposite! Stand up like you’ve got a string pulling your body up & leave your arms open. Like you’re greeting a dear friend. This results in increased confidence & really makes the audience love you.
How to Not Be Nervous Before a Presentation
You must have this information, so you don’t stress out or lose sleep before any communicative situations. There’s a bit more to it, so get in touch with us and take a few classes. It’ll change your life.
How Not to Suck at Public Speaking
It’s your choice. Do you want to avoid situations that could help you succeed in life? Do you want to pretend that your public speaking skills are fine? Or do you want to improve so that you can become better & better at public speaking, bringing you further up the ladder of your career?
I want to hear from you! Let me know what you think about public speaking in the comments section above!
9 thoughts on “The #1 Reason You Suck at Public Speaking”
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YES. That’s true.
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Love it! My playlist changes but on constant repeat are:
AC/DC: shook me all night long
Black Eyed Peas: Let’s get it started
Gorillaz: Feel Good inc.
My adage is also: the audience doesn’t know your presentation – you do. If you screw up and miss a learning point: no one knows. Bring it in later. It’s all fine.
Be yourself, be natural, connect with your audience and have fun!
Haha I had never thought about how my terrible public speaking skills are the fault of incomplete evolution. Very accurate when you think about it.
Evolution isn’t done yet. That’s a good one! Makes perfect sense. I always felt a bit embarrassed that I’m not a great public speaker, but now I realize I’m not alone that that I just need the techniques to make them better.
Great tips, thanks so much!
Wow, good stuff, Ita! Kinda makes me feel better. I’m always embarrassed to admit I’m a terrible public speaker. But what you say makes sense.