The majority of people who contact me about nervousness in public speaking have always been nervous and are seeking a means for handling their fear. However, I also hear from those who explain that they’ve been successful when addressing an audience in the past but are suddenly now fearful about an upcoming speaking engagement.
We talk and I usually find that something has changed in their life. Perhaps they have a new job; maybe they have gotten a promotion. It might even be something that has nothing to do with their careers – a divorce or the death of a close friend or relative. And, it is also possible that a long suppressed memory of a bad experience has resurfaced.
While it is very possible for this to happen to those in their 20’s and 30’s, generally it occurs in middle age to those in their 40’s and 50’s. So why the change?
If you look at the possibilities I listed above (and by no means is that list complete), any of those changes can affect your confidence. While getting a promotion should indeed be a confidence builder, for example, there are some in this situation who may fear failure. Obviously they have been successful in accomplishing their tasks in their current position, however, a new job takes them out of their comfort zone.
The sudden death of a loved one or friend can also trigger a lessening of self-esteem if you relied on that individual as a strength or a sounding board. Another situation which can be most demoralizing is an unexpected divorce. Maybe one or more instances of childhood abuse have suddenly come to light. And, it just might be middle age in itself.
Whatever the reason for your new-found fear of public speaking, it is your lack of confidence that needs to change. Of course you must know your material, make eye contact with your audience, and express yourself with color and emotion in your delivery. In this particular situation, however, I would stress the belief in yourself. If you approach an audience believing that you cannot do the job or that you are going to fail, how successful do you think you will be?
Video-record yourself when practicing your material and then study the playback. When you first watch the video, concentrate on the good because that is where your strengths lie. Make note of that which is a weakness and then work on it.
If you have been successful in the past, you can be successful in the future. A lot of practice and the belief in your own ability is the only requirement.