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Posted by Linda Carole Pierce on 3/25/10 2:59 AM
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 FEAR…False Evidence About Reality…A colleague shared this acronym with me some time ago and I have been using it ever since – particularly when training new instructors who often express their fears and concerns about nervousness and anxiety when speaking in front of a group of people. Research continues to list “speaking in public” as the # 1 fear that people have. Death doesn’t even make the top 5.



So what does that say about us as trainers? It says that we are a courageous and brave group of people! But why is public speaking still # 1? What are we afraid of and why do we get nervous and suffer from anxiety whenever we speak in front of people? The common answer to this question is: We are afraid – afraid to fail, to make a mistake, not know the answer to a question, etc. Whenever we are in front of a group of people, we are vulnerable. All eyes and ears are on us. We want to be liked and we want to do well. We fear being judged and we fear rejection. So how do we deal with this fear of public speaking?


First we must embrace it. We are clearly not alone, since statistics indicate that most people are more afraid of public speaking than dying.


Next we must become aware by doing a self check-in. Ask the question, “Why?” or “What am I afraid of?” Oftentimes it’s the things I’ve already listed. As we consciously go through our checklist of “What Ifs,” we will realize that none of these things has probably even happened, except in our minds. Therefore, we have created our own False Evidence About Reality.


Once we realize this, we can counteract our FEAR by creating a new and different reality for ourselves via stories of success and acceptance. Once we have these images of success in mind, we can have a visual rehearsal. By visualizing ourselves as being successful – and even making mistakes (which inevitably we will), we are able to handle ourselves with grace and confidence – and even move on from any mistakes we might make.


We must also do our homework and be prepared. Thorough preparation does wonders for reducing nervousness and anxiety. Unfortunately some instructors are not given the necessary time to prepare. I often hear instructors complain that they are thrown into the classroom with as little as one or two days notice. It is important that we not only set our learners up for success but we should also set our instructors up for success.


Another good tactic to ease fear is to try breathing. A few deep breaths to get centered can be your best friend before speaking.


Most importantly, it is essential to have fun. Oftentimes we take ourselves too seriously. Yes, it is important to be professional but it is also just as important to create those lighter moments. Find opportunities to use humor or a fun icebreaker. This is not only relaxing to us as speakers but also to our participants.


This list can go on. We cover this in much more detail in our Instructional Techniques for New Instructors workshop. In the meantime feel free to respond to this blog by adding to this list. What are some of your techniques for reducing nervousness and anxiety in the classroom? What acronyms do you use? Since public speaking remains the #1 fear among most people, we must help each other to create new realities and not wallow in FEAR. After all we are a courageous group of people.


Linda has been a course leader with Langevin since 2005. She graduated from New York University with a degree in Organizational Behavior and Communication. She’s also had the privilege of teaching at NYU’s Gallatin Division in the area of Theatre and Education. Linda began her career facilitating conflict resolution and coexistence workshops for diverse groups, and running workshops in the Middle East and South Africa, as well as facilitating social issues workshops for young people in the NYC school system. Linda believes learning works best when it is student-centered, experiential, interactive, and fun. Outside of the classroom, you’ll find Linda at the theatre, either as an audience member or actor, or spending quality time with her family and friends.

Topics: presentation skills, instructor-led training

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