We’ve all been there when it comes to public speaking:
You’re on stage in front of an audience and suddenly imposter syndrome rears its ugly head and you hear your inner critic say, ‘You don’t deserve to be here.’
Public speaking is the perfect breeding ground for imposter syndrome to strike and strike hard. Whether it happens in front of one person or an entire audience, the feelings are the same.
You feel an exposed inadequacy, undeserving of where you are, and that you have no credibility.
I’m here to tell you that you are not alone.
And when I say ‘public speaking’, that includes business meetings, job interviews, and or even sales calls.
Yet imposter syndrome need not cripple you or lead to miss out on opportunities to move up the ladder in your career. You can gain awareness, make a plan of action, and do something about it.
The Energy Of Public Speaking is Real And Powerful
One of the triggers of imposter syndrome is the feeling that you are being judged. It’s also one of the reasons that nerves can get the better of you.
Similarly, there is another trigger in public speaking that kicks off imposter syndrome – the energy of being the center of attention.
This ‘performance energy’ is hugely real. No one is immune to it and it can strike when you’re talking to one person or speaking to an audience of a thousand.
Suddenly, everybody is there to hear YOU and they all assume you know what you’re talking about. After all, you’re on stage and they’re not.
So the question is: What are you going to do about it?
Be Prepared And Don’t Fall Into The ‘Wing It’ Trap
First off, we all know that ‘winging it’ is never a good idea. It sets you up for panic and failure and no speaker worth their salt would rely on improvising completely on the night.
Second, public speaking is the perfect petri dish for imposter syndrome, namely fear of failure, perfectionism, and self-doubt. Preparation is your secret weapon against all of the above.
Preparation and rehearsal create physical memories in your body and get you out of your head and into a more grounded, centered place. When you take action in the face of fear, you’re half-way to finding a solution.
The more you practice being in a place of vulnerability and panic, the less power it will have over you. Rehearse in front of people you trust, film yourself and watch it back, practice in different venues.
Then, if imposter syndrome kicks in, your body will remember feeling uncomfortable, dealing with it, and getting on with the job at hand.
Trust Your Body, Not Your Brain
We know from scientific fact that physical memory is much stronger than thought memory.
When you physicalize your public speaking practice, the information sticks in your muscle memory more indelibly than if you just think about it. Don’t rely on thinking a good game in your head. There’s too much going on in there anyway!
When imposter syndrome kicks in and all that rehearsal and practice seems to go out the window, don’t panic. All the information your body learned through purposeful practice and rehearsal is still there.
Take a breath, ground yourself, and give your body a second to remember. Trust that you’ve done the work and therefore you have what you need in the moment.
Take The Focus Off Yourself And Put It On The Audience
There’s a dichotomy that exists in public speaking. The spotlight is most definitely on you as the speaker and yet the most important person in the room is the audience.
Impostor syndrome stems from feeling inadequate and judged by others. To combat these fears, take the focus off yourself and think instead about what you can give to your audience.
When you come from a place of what you can give rather than what you can get, your thoughts will be placed on a much higher level. Make generosity the foremost thought in your mind and take the pressure off yourself to be perfect.
Create Public Speaking Habits That Will Last A Lifetime
Whether you’re giving an update, presenting at a conference, or on the phone with a prospective customer, creating good public speaking habits and practicing them consistently will stand to you in the long run.
Imposter syndrome cannot compete with muscle memory. Once you learn a skill, be it the power of pause, using your hands naturally, or grounding your energy with breathing techniques, that skill is in your body forever.
Remember that your body will rescue you in a moment of panic, if you let it. Practice deliberate breathing, create a clear regime of practice with skills that resonate with you, gain awareness around what you can change, and create a plan of action.
Hone a few specific, applicable public speaking skills and imposter syndrome will have a harder time taking hold. If you change your behaviour, you can change the way you feel. Do the work and the work will work for you.
ConfidentSpeak is a specialist S.T.E.M Communications & Coaching Consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives at home and abroad. Contact us for details on our range of corporate/private programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals.