This list is a quick overview about why we might be nervous - its not comprehensive but it's big enough already. And these 10 point make a strong case for radically re-thinking public speaking
1. We have wonky brains. Our brains are great at reacting to what we think are threats.
We over-read, over-think and over-react to potential threats and we make up threats for ourselves. Thanks to 600 million years of evolution of our nervous system our brains are biased to looking for threat. So often we think we are being judged or people in the audience don't like us. And most of that time it's false.
2. We mis-understand blank faces in the audience - we seen them as threats.
They are just listening faces but we are used to faces that show approval like in a normal conversation. Audiences listen differently to someone listening to you in a conversation
3. We are tough and overcritical of ourselves.
Our inner critic puts us down. We don't think we are good enough, we think we are boing. That negative internal voice really gets going when we are under the pressure of public speaking. "I'm crap, everyone else is ok" is a very common thought
4. We think that we are transparent and people can see all our faults (the transparency illusion). Its not true but we really think it is.
5. We compare ourselves unfavourably to other people.
This is tied into previous point. We think everyone can see our faults so when we don't see them in other people we think that they are ok and don't feel like you do. They might be just as scared as you but it doesn't show very often.
6. We are great at remembering when a previous presentation went bad before and catrophising about what is going to go wrong in the future.
Just how many times have you fantasised about getting it right and having a wonderful session. We don't. We think of all the bad stuff. And that is our evolutionary brain trying to protect us from danger
7. Some of us don't like being the centre of attention
So we speak quicker and get off so people may not notice us anyway! We don't like everyone staring at us and we feel under scrutiny
8. What we focus on (or worry about) actually changes our brain so we worry more.
Plus all these other points 1-10 help us to over-think even more. Our brain gets overwhelmed and blank!
9. We have built up public speaking into this huge deal AND we think we have to be perfect to do it.
So we put ourselves under massive pressure to be really good.
10. Oh yes we have an adrenaline squeeze as well
Heart racing, dry mouth, shaky legs, red face etc
Don't worry, if you feel any of these things you are not alone. It's very very normal. These are patterns that human beings have around fear. We need to transform our relationship to fear and our thinking. On course after course I have people express these fears and pressures.
That's why we need to spend sometime re-thinking public speaking so that it becomes easier, calmer and a lot less work. It's very possible to change.