Anxiety about public speaking may be so universal because it is “baked in.” Harkening back to prehistoric times, the brain’s amygdala, a kind of panic button, activates when we perceive we are being watched. The solution, says Sarah Gershman, president of Green Room Speakers and a professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, is to turn our attention away from ourselves and toward helping the audience.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Gershman offers advice on shifting from a self-conscious mode to a generous one:
“We know the power of generosity to give us a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and meaning,” writes Gersham. “Generosity is just as powerful in speaking. It turns a nerve-wracking and even painful experience into one of giving and helping others. A generous speaker is calmer, more relaxed, and — most important — more effective at reaching the audience and making the desired impact.”
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