Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people improve their presentation and communication skills so they can be more successful. Sign up to receive more public speaking and networking strategies from Gilda's e-newsletter: http://www.gildabonanno.com/Pages/newsletter.aspx
When I ask clients to share what that voice in their head is telling them right before they speak, they invariably come out with a whiny, annoying voice spewing negatives like "you're going to make a fool of yourself" or "who do you think you are?"
That voice goes by many names. Creativity expert Julia Cameron calls it "The Censor." I call it the "Joy-Sucker" because it sucks the joy out of your work and your life. The Joy-Sucker undermines your confidence and makes you less able to convey your knowledge and experience to your audience. In its worst manifestations, it may even cause you to forget your own name! The Joy-Sucker may come from old beliefs about ourselves or perhaps a comment made by an unhelpful friend, teacher or ex.
Instead of allowing the Joy-Sucker to sap your confidence, I recommend replacing it with a positive affirmation or mantra, a term borrowed from meditation and yoga that means a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself to focus your mind and energy. Your mantra should be personally meaningful to you and should be a phrase that you can believe. You can use a song title (Aretha Franklin's "RESPECT" comes to mind), a line from a poem or anything that makes you feel powerful and confident. "You go, girl" is my favorite (accompanied by a mental fist in the air).
Once you have created a mantra, try it out in real-life situations. When you're getting ready to speak, listen for the Joy-Sucker and replace it with your mantra. Remember that the Joy-Sucker has had years of practice, so it's okay to try several mantras before you find one that is powerful enough to drown it out.
You'll know the mantra is working when you feel your anxiety decreasing and your confidence increasing (a little bit at a time). As you build your confidence, you'll be able to tap into your knowledge and experience related to the topic at hand - and you'll be on your way to becoming a more polished public speaker!
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