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Can neuroscience help us to overcome public speaking nerves

What can neuroscience tell us about overcoming nervousness when public speaking and how can a career coach assist you?

Public speaking can be a daunting task for many individuals, and nervousness or anxiety associated with it can hinder their performance. Neuroscience can provide valuable insights into how the brain processes contribute to nervousness during public speaking and offer strategies to overcome it with career coaching.

“The fear of public speaking is the fear of being judged,

and with every opportunity to speak, you have the chance to overcome that fear.”

– Dan Smith

 

Understanding the Brain Processes Involved in Public Speaking

Public speaking is a complex task that requires coordination between different regions of the brain. Understanding the brain processes involved in public speaking can help individuals manage their nervousness and anxiety and improve their performance. In this section, we will explore the brain processes involved in public speaking in detail.

 

The Amygdala and Fear Response

The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped structure located deep within the brain that plays a critical role in processing emotions, particularly fear. The amygdala is activated when an individual experiences nervousness or anxiety associated with public speaking.

This activation triggers the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and other physiological responses associated with stress.

For example, when an individual is preparing to give a speech, the amygdala may be activated, causing them to experience nervousness and anxiety. This activation can trigger the release of stress hormones, causing them to feel their heart rate increase, their palms to sweat, and their breathing to become shallow and rapid.

 

The Prefrontal Cortex and Cognitive Control

The prefrontal cortex is a region of the brain located in the frontal lobes that are responsible for regulating emotions and cognitive control. The prefrontal cortex can modulate the amygdala’s response and help individuals manage their stress response during public speaking. The prefrontal cortex can be activated through mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing, meditation, and visualization, which can help individuals regulate their emotional responses and improve their ability to manage stress and anxiety.

For example, when an individual is feeling nervous before giving a speech, they can activate their prefrontal cortex through deep breathing and visualization techniques. These techniques can help them regulate their emotional response, reduce their stress and anxiety, and improve their ability to manage their nervousness during the speech.

 

The Hippocampus and Memory

The hippocampus is a region of the brain located in the temporal lobes that is responsible for memory formation and retrieval. The hippocampus plays a critical role in public speaking, as individuals must remember and recall the information they wish to convey during their speech.

For example, when an individual is preparing for a speech, they must rely on their hippocampus to remember and recall the information they wish to convey during the speech. The hippocampus is also responsible for encoding and retrieving the emotional content of the speech, which can have a significant impact on the audience’s engagement and response.

 

The Motor Cortex and Speech Production

The motor cortex is a region of the brain located in the frontal lobes that are responsible for controlling voluntary movements, including speech production. The motor cortex plays a critical role in public speaking, as individuals must coordinate their speech production with their breathing and other physiological processes.

For example, when an individual is giving a speech, they must rely on their motor cortex to coordinate their speech production with their breathing and other physiological processes. The motor cortex must also integrate the emotional and cognitive processes involved in speech, making it a complex and challenging task.

“The only way to get over the fear of speaking in front of people is to get up and speak in front of people.”

– Cory Booker

 

The Role of Positive Self-Talk in Overcoming Nervousness

When individuals experience nervousness or anxiety, they often experience negative or self-defeating thoughts, such as “I can’t do this,” “I’m going to fail,” or “Everyone is going to think I’m stupid.” These thoughts can reinforce feelings of nervousness and anxiety, making it difficult to perform at their best.

Positive self-talk can help individuals replace these negative thoughts with more positive, empowering ones, such as “I am prepared for this,” “I have the skills and knowledge I need to succeed,” or “I am confident and capable.”

By focusing on these positive thoughts, individuals can build their self-confidence, reduce their nervousness and anxiety, and perform at their best.

 

How Career Coaches Can Help with Positive Self-Talk

Career coaches can play an important role in helping individuals develop and use positive self-talk effectively. Here are some ways that career coaches can help their clients use positive self-talk to overcome nervousness and improve their performance:

Identify Negative Self-Talk

Career coaches can help their clients identify negative or self-defeating thoughts that may be contributing to their nervousness or anxiety. By recognizing these negative thoughts, clients can learn to replace them with more positive, empowering ones.

Develop Positive Affirmations

Career coaches can help their clients develop positive affirmations that are tailored to their specific needs and goals. These affirmations can be used to counter negative self-talk and build self-confidence.

Practice Positive Self-Talk

Career coaches can help their clients practice using positive self-talk in a variety of situations, such as job interviews or public speaking engagements. By practicing positive self-talk regularly, clients can build their confidence and reduce their nervousness and anxiety.

Provide Feedback and Support

Career coaches can provide feedback and support to their clients as they develop and use positive self-talk. This can include offering encouragement, providing constructive feedback, and helping clients adjust their approach as needed.

 

“The fear of public speaking is simply the fear of being ourselves in front of others.”

 – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Cognitive Restructuring to Overcome Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk can be a major contributor to nervousness and anxiety during public speaking. Cognitive restructuring can help individuals reframe their thoughts and beliefs about public speaking, reducing negative self-talk and self-doubt.

Cognitive restructuring involves identifying negative thoughts and beliefs and replacing them with positive, empowering ones.

Career coaches use a variety of techniques to help their clients overcome negative self-talk, including cognitive restructuring. Cognitive restructuring is a technique that involves identifying and changing negative thought patterns that contribute to feelings of anxiety, stress, and self-doubt.

Here are the steps that a career coach may use when using cognitive restructuring to help their clients overcome negative self-talk:

Identify Negative Thought Patterns

The first step in cognitive restructuring is to help the client identify negative thought patterns. This involves paying attention to their self-talk and identifying patterns of negative thinking.

The career coach may ask the client to keep a journal of their thoughts or use guided exercises to help them identify negative thought patterns.

Challenge Negative Thoughts

Once negative thought patterns have been identified, the career coach will work with the client to challenge these thoughts. The goal is to help the client develop a more balanced and accurate perspective by examining the evidence for and against their negative thoughts.

Replace Negative Thoughts with Positive Ones

The next step is to help the client replace negative thoughts with positive ones. This involves identifying more positive and realistic thoughts that can replace negative ones. The career coach may provide the client with positive affirmations or help them develop their own.

Practice New Thought Patterns

Finally, the career coach will work with the client to practice their new thought patterns in real-world situations. This may involve role-playing exercises or exposure therapy, where the client gradually exposes themselves to situations that trigger negative self-talk while using their new positive thought patterns.

By using cognitive restructuring to help clients overcome negative self-talk, career coaches can help their clients develop more positive and empowering thought patterns. This can help clients build self-confidence, reduce anxiety and stress, and achieve their career goals.

“If you can’t communicate and talk to people and get across your ideas,

you’re giving up your potential.”

– Warren Buffett

 

Exposure Therapy to Reduce Fear of Public Speaking

Exposure therapy can be an effective technique to reduce the fear response associated with public speaking.

Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing individuals to public speaking situations, starting with less intimidating situations, such as speaking in front of a small group of friends or colleagues, and gradually progressing to more challenging situations, such as speaking in front of a larger audience or giving a presentation to a client.

Neuroscience research shows that exposure therapy can activate the amygdala, a brain region involved in the fear response, and gradually reduce its response over time, making public speaking less intimidating.

Career coaches can use exposure therapy techniques to help their clients reduce their fear of public speaking and become more confident and effective communicators. Here are the steps that a career coach may use when using exposure therapy to help clients reduce their fear of public speaking:

Create a Hierarchy of Speaking Situations

The first step in exposure therapy is to create a hierarchy of speaking situations that the client finds challenging or anxiety-provoking. This may include things like speaking in front of a small group, giving a presentation at work, or speaking in front of a large audience.

Start with Easy Speaking Situations

The next step is to start with easy speaking situations that the client can handle with relative ease. This might include practicing speaking in front of a mirror, recording themselves giving a speech, or giving a presentation to a small group of friends or family members.

Gradually Increase the Difficulty

As the client becomes more comfortable with the easier speaking situations, the career coach will gradually increase the difficulty level. This might involve speaking in front of larger groups or giving presentations to more challenging audiences.

Use Relaxation Techniques

Throughout the exposure therapy process, the career coach will help the client develop and use relaxation techniques to manage their anxiety and stress. This might include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualization techniques.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Finally, the key to success with exposure therapy is practice. The client will need to practice speaking in front of others regularly in order to overcome their fear of public speaking and become more confident and effective communicators.

By using exposure therapy techniques, career coaches can help their clients reduce their fear of public speaking and become more confident and effective communicators.

With practice and support, even the most anxious speakers can learn to overcome their fears and succeed in the public speaking arena.

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future.

It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist.”

– Will Smith

 

Conclusion

The field of neuroscience has provided valuable insights into the brain processes involved in public speaking and the ways in which we can overcome nervousness and anxiety when speaking in front of others.

With the help of a career coach or other trained professional, individuals can learn to overcome their fears and develop the skills they need to succeed in the public speaking arena.

By applying the principles of neuroscience to public speaking, we can unlock our full potential as communicators and achieve greater success in our personal and professional lives.

 

Related Executive Coaching Articles

Five fundamental requirements for delivering a great speech

What executive coaches say for gaining better vocal control

Self-awareness and regulation – 2 keys for a leadership coach

 

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Based on that exposure, our company has intentionally set out to support those practicing the art and science of leadership – or as often referred to, “Executive Talent.” These are people who acknowledge that they are not experts. They are open to opportunities for continued growth and carry the desire for learning what is needed to become a success in today’s complexity and uncertainty.

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