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Finding your courage

In the Chinese Zodiac, 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit. Known for being calm, collected, and graceful, those born in the Year of the Rabbit are told to bring hope and peace to the world.

If you have historically found yourself anxious or full of self-doubt, then maybe it’s time to embrace some inner-rabbit and focus on balancing your nerves with courage.

You’re not the only one sweating through your shirt.

The first thing to realise about public speaking anxiety is that it is perfectly normal. In fact, having a few butterflies is actually a good thing; nervous energy (in small doses) is what helps you stay laser-focussed and engaged. 

At our most primal level, we don’t like to be exposed. Thousands of years of evolution has told us to hide and avoid being vulnerable. Public speaking completely debases our security – and it’s why we flush and sweat when we realise people are looking at us.

But speaking is also a superpower. It helps us communicate our ideas, and move forward in our work. To move beyond the panic-level anxiety before a big presentation, start by simply acknowledging and accepting your human fear response. 

Courage trumps confidence.

One of my favourite quotes about managing nerves comes from a psychologist friend of mine. ‘Anxiety comes from an over-estimation of a problem or issue, coupled with an under-estimation of your ability to deal or cope with it.’

Overcoming anxiety is about seeing that you don’t have to be confident in yourself right away; you just have to be courageous enough to rise to the challenge. Rather than trying to control your feelings, turn your focus to the things you can control – like preparation and setting a pre-talk routine.

Know your stuff and prepare it well.

Build your confidence by arriving at your presentation ready to go. The more knowledgeable and passionate you are about your topic, the easier it will be for you to offer valuable insights. In turn, your audience will place their confidence in you.

Practising is also crucial. Go through your key talking points. Practise in front of a mock audience, try a dry run. Do everything you can to make sure you’re prepared.

Even if you don’t feel confident in your speaking, having confidence in your knowledge and your plan will go a long way. 

Focussing on courage is a great way to approach many key aspects of becoming a more effective speaker all at once – combining mental resilience with preparation techniques.

As you start the new year, you may be thinking about how you’d like to grow over these next twelve months. Take a chapter from the Chinese Zodiac, and maybe you can find a little more courage and calm when it comes to speaking.

As always, here at the The Pickering Group we've got your back. If you or your team need some extra support this year, reach out. We'd love to help.

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