With an estimated 75% of people feeling some fear or anxiety about public speaking (known as glossophobia), it’s highly likely that you or someone you know has experienced it. For some, the anxiety is crippling to the point where it prevents you from even attempting to deliver a talk or presentation; some people claim they would rather die than speak in public (although I always find that’s not actually the case!) For others, you may reluctantly agree to speak (sometimes we can’t avoid it) but you spend the lead up to it worrying about all the things that could go wrong and what people will think (which is pretty normal; a lot of us worry about what people think!) Others may regularly speak in public but still feel a bit anxious or uncomfortable about it. The most common fears are the fear of humiliation, embarrassment, judgement or failure.
Whichever category you fall into, there are various tools and techniques to help you overcome your anxiety and effectively manage any nerves you may experience (nerves are very normal too; they mean you care and are actually useful if you learn how to control them and make them work for you).
One highly effective tool is called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) otherwise known as Tapping. EFT combines cognitive behavioural therapy concepts with a more Eastern approach in stimulating the ends of the body’s energy hot spots, the meridian points. The basic premise is that the cause of all negative emotion is a disruption in the body’s energy system. Tapping on specific acupressure points while thinking specific thoughts can decrease the intensity of those thoughts and feelings.
I have experienced tapping with various coaches and therapists and have found it incredibly helpful to shift and release negative emotions and limiting beliefs. I continue to use it as a tool to support my personal development and manage my state of mind. Where I feel it would benefit, I also use the technique with my one to one coaching clients and have found it to be very successful in helping them to completely change the way they feel about public speaking,.
So when I recently had the opportunity to help out at an event run in Edinburgh by EFT expert, Brad Yates, on his world tour I jumped at the chance. Brad has hundreds of free videos on YouTube and is well known internationally for his creative and often humorous use of tapping. From a speaking point of view, he has a relaxed, easy going conversational style; he had the audience laughing and completely engaged right from the start and throughout the session, even though we were touching on some quite deep challenges that people were sharing.
If you’ve never heard of EFT or experienced tapping it can seem extremely weird to start with, but I encourage you to give it a try. I wasn’t sure about it to begin with but the more I use the technique the better results I get from it.
Intrigued? Here’s how to do it.
Firstly you’ll need to know the tapping points which are:
1. Outer side of the hand (Karate chop point) – for initial Set Up phrase
2. Top of the head (centre)
3. Brow point (at start of eyebrows)
4. Side of the eye (below end of the eyebrow)
5. Under the eye (centre of lower eye socket)
6. Top of the lip (between base of nose and lip)
7. Chin (indent right below lip)
8. Chest (just below collar bone)
9. Side of ribs (about 4 to 6 inches below armpit)
Usually you would use two fingers to tap and you can tap on one of both sides of the body with either hand (I usually use one). The tapping pressure doesn’t need to be hard.
1. Identify your issue e.g. anxiety about public speaking
2. Measure your level of anxiety on a scale of 0 (not strong) to 10 (very strong); this provides a benchmark
3. Go into the fear and think about the specific feeling e.g. I feel petrified of public speaking, I feel physically sick if I have to speak in public
4. Establish a phrase that identifies the problem and say your Set Up statement three times whilst continually tapping on your ‘karate chop’ point. The Set Up statement is usually structured as “Even though I have this …… (stress, pain, fear, problem, issue, etc), I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” E.g. “Even though I feel physically sick when I have to speak in public, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”
5. Tap 5-10 times on each of the tapping points 2 to 9 outlined above whilst repeating your issue e.g. “feel physically sick about public speaking” (this is known as a Reminder Phrase)
6. Take a deep cleansing breath
7. Check in with your body to identify how you now feel about the issue, rate it on a scale of 0 to 10.
8. Repeat the process until the intensity of the feeling has reduced (ideally to zero)
It is highly likely that this process will bring up another related issue (which might be uncomfortable) so in subsequent rounds you can refine the wording of the Set Up affirmation and the Reminder Phrase to reflect that you are addressing the remaining issue. E.g. “Even though I still have this… (issue)…” And once you get used to it, you can change the Reminder Phrase as you go through the process.
Please note that you need to take full responsibility for your own wellbeing. This technique can bring up all sorts of unexpected emotions, especially if you’ve been suppressing them. Therefore, if you are currently having any sort of therapy, or think you might need to, it’s important to speak with your doctor or therapist or make sure you have someone available to support you. It would be rare for you to have any major issues using this technique, but it’s something to be aware of. The great thing is that as you tap a lot of the negative emotions will be cleared in the process.
It’s much easier to grasp how it works if you see someone taking you through the sequence so I’ll be creating some tapping videos for my YouTube channel. In the meantime, you can find out more and see a demonstration on Brad Yates’ website.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to tap away your public speaking anxiety?
Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist and the author of 'The Authority Guide to Pitching Your Business - how to make an impact and be remembered... in under a minute!’ She combines 25 years’ experience in business with a background as an actor, presenter and singer to help business professionals to communicate with confidence, credibility and charisma.