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Reversing FEAR: Tips to Reach And Embrace the Future

What makes you fearful? Spiders? Heights? Clowns? Things that go bump in the night? A frequently cited joke from Jerry Seinfeld refers to the fear of public speaking. He said “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” (see clip here: http://youtu.be/RrCQnRFBuGc). Unfortunately, I suspect that this is true on a few levels.
I have heard many negative acronyms for FEAR: False Evidence/expectations/emotions Appearing Real, or Forget Everything And Run. And some positive ones: For Everything A Reason or Face Everything And Recover. These tap into the psychological basis of most fears and remind us that most fears are not based in fact (except snakes- I’ll run first and ask questions later), but instead it is a mind game that we must overcome to face our fears.
I have identified four common fears that most people are faced with when it comes to public speaking. 1) giving formal presentations , 2) leading others effectively, 3) networking with strangers, and 4) interviewing. Do any of these ring true for you?

Tips for facing your fears in those circumstances rely on your preparation before going into those situations. Here are 5 tips that can help you with any of these situations.
1) Know well what you are talking about. I am not suggesting memorize your words but instead that you make yourself an expert on the topic. If it is a speech then master your content, if you are directing your employees then know exactly what you want them to do, if you are networking know the occasion and your purpose for being there. For interviews you are the expert on yourself and you must research the company too.
2) Keep It Short and Simple- K.I.S.S. Be direct with your message and make the words that you use count. Don’t say “incremental climbing elevation apparatus” when you mean “stairs”. You may think that loquacious verbose speaking makes you sound smarter but it mostly just confuses the listener.
3) Make the listener the priority. In all situations you must really put your audience first. You are not speaking to hear your own voice, you are hopefully speaking to impart a message to your listener. Sometimes the message is informative, sometimes persuasive and sometimes entertaining. Put yourself in their shoes and reach them with your words so their needs are the focus.
4) Find an ally. If you are giving a speech or networking, bring a friend with you to the event and make sure that you keep them in eye contact. If at work, verify with at least one other trusted person that what you are intending to say is clear to them. This ally can help to prep the message, they can save you in a networking huddle or they can give you the nod of approval through the crowd at a speech.
5) Perfection is not the goal. Know that your best IS good enough. If you have considered all of the communication channels, verbal-vocal-visual, and have made them a priority in your preparation and practice. If you have considered the external factors, feedback-Q&A-environment etc., and integrated them into your presentation, then you have done the best you can and should be satisfied knowing that for today you did the best you could do. With the follow-up of reflection and refining you can make it better for next time but today your goal was achieved.

We all have fears and we all either work through them or avoid them. I am working with my students and clients to turn their fears around and change the negatives into positives. I once heard Joel Osteen state that fear is faith reversed. I think this is true, we deeply believe that the worst case scenario is certain to manifest but that is usually not the case. Next time FEAR of a speaking situation is stopping you in your tracks reverse it and think “Reach And Embrace the Future!”.