Haris Ahmed from Chicago, IL Discusses the Importance of Public Speaking

Haris Ahmed from Chicago knows firsthand the difficulties of public speaking. He speaks regularly and has been a guest lecturer at the University of Notre Dame on the topics of change and leadership. His experience as a facilitator taught him the importance of public speaking for your personal and professional life. Did you know that public speaking is the number one fear in North America? If you have the fear of public speaking, you are not alone.

Speaking in front of groups terrifies most people and the stress can be debilitating. But at some point in our professional lives, we need to be able to stand up in front of others and deliver a team update, an information session, or business pitch.

Effective public speaking is a must-have skill. Being nervous while presenting can put a dent in your credibility and have an adverse effect on achieving your business goals. In business, it is essentially important for you to be able to get your point across. It is likely that all of us will one day have to speak in public. Whether you will be giving a formal presentation to an audience, or simply asking our boss for a promotion, speaking skills are essential to getting ahead in a professional setting.

To manage the fear of speaking in public, you need to first understand the root cause of the fear. Understanding that our brain can’t tell the difference between a real threat (a pack of wolves about to attack you) and an imagined threat (a group of your peers watching you present) is the first step to overcoming the fear. This awareness can help you manage the “false alarm” that happens in the absence of real danger. As you feel your heart racing when you first start your presentation, you can consciously and deliberately interrupt the fear response with a quick deep breath and a rational thought, “This is just a false alarm.” The more you get into the habit of interrupting the fear response as soon as you feel it happening, the quicker you’ll prevent it from being your default response every time you present in front of a group. You must ingrain in your mind the thought that the fear of public speaking is simply a misfiring of the caveman “fight or flight” fear response, and that you can overcome this.

In a nutshell, it is not about knowing what will happen when you are in front of people, giving your speech or presentation. Your fear is that you don’t know what will happen when you step to the podium or table. The fear of being judged, making a mistake, not measuring up, getting hurt either mentally or physically can get in the way of a good performance (speech, seminar, sales presentation, etc). Remember that people in the audience really want you to succeed. Nobody is standing there hoping you’ll be boring or bad. If you are coming from an authentic place, and you cover the material with clarity, you’ve won 3/4 of your inner battle with fear.