Playing with Fear
The interesting thing about the Halloween is that it takes a light view of the human fear of death with people dressing up as ghosts and goblins. The origination of the Day of the Dead also takes a lighter view on the subject with the concept that death is actually a part of life and can be celebrated. Theses holidays let us look at fear in a different light; to take it as a natural part of being human.
The fear of public speaking is one of the top fears for people. There is something about communicating under the spotlight that raises the adrenaline in everyone. But, this fear doesn’t have to be a heavy burden either. By shifting perspective, everyone who faces the task of speaking in front of others can lighten their fear.
The first thing to remember is that the body’s physiological reaction to fear and excitement is one and the same. If you are excited to see a friend or your favorite band, your heart rate quickens, you get butterflies in your stomach, and you start to sweat more. These are all the same things that happen when you fear speaking in public. Physiologically, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in and your brain releases hormones that amp up your body in preparation to react quickly to what is about to happen. That can be a good thing; a natural part of being human.
That human reaction is what allows us to raise our voice and become animated in a way that engages the audience while we speak.
Just like we play with fear around Halloween by decorating with images of death and dressing up in monster costumes, we can also play with the fear of public speaking with make believe and pretending. Pretending that the fear is excitement shifts the mind to a more positive place. Visualization during preparation time and right before speaking is make believe that can really help.
To use visualization during preparation, make believe that all goes perfectly during your speech or presentation and then visualize every detail of that success. Imagine walking into the setting and getting a positive response from the audience. Imagine your voice projecting strongly and confidently and seeing head nods and smiles from the audience. Imagine people clapping or saying good job at the end of your presentation. During this make believe incorporate all of your senses – hear, see, and even smell as many details in your imagination as possible. After you have done this several times during preparation, then just prior to your speech quickly bring this image of success back into your brain. This make-believe practice really does boost your success.
As we celebrate Halloween and Day of the Dead at this time of year, we can also celebrate our human fear of speaking. We can use our natural physiological reaction to our advantage by speaking confidently, just as we imagined.