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Afraid of public speaking? Think less about yourself. How focusing on others can lessen the fear

Public speaking gets easier when you stop thinking about yourself.

Public speaking is a common fear, deeply rooted in many of us. It’s not just about delivering a talk in church or a work presentation that can trigger anxiety. Often, we feel nervous to simply speak up in large groups or voice our opinions.

Studio 5 Contributor Shima Baughman believes that this fear can be overcome with one simple fix: “Think less about you and more about them.”



The Fear of Speaking Out

Shima, a professor, former attorney, and former associate dean of the University of Utah Law School, admits that she feels scared to speak in public almost every time. “I present to 50 students Tuesdays and Fridays and every night before I’m always like, okay, here we go again,” she confessed. Despite her extensive experience and expertise, she still experiences the familiar flutters of nervousness before each lecture.

“I think there’s actually greatness in that. I think the second you stop feeling flutters, then you’re in this place of complacency,” Host, Brooke Walker added.

Overcoming the Fear: Hear Them, Love Them, Think of Them

Shima offered three pieces of advice to help women overcome their fear of public speaking and find their inner confidence: Hear them, love them, and think of them.

Hear Them

The first step is to understand the audience. “Hear what they’re saying, what are their concerns. If you need to clarify, I think that’s always helpful beforehand. Have an understanding of what the people are feeling,” Shima advised.

Love Them

The second step is to love the audience. Shima believes that if you love the people you are speaking to, you will feel that love. This love for the audience can help shift the focus away from your fear and towards the audience’s needs.

“I’m here because I love them. I’m driving an hour to Provo, BYU, because I love them. You’re here speaking at your civic thing because you love these people. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be there. You care,” she said.

Think of Them

The final step is to think of the audience. Shima suggested turning around the internal thoughts of fear and focusing on the audience instead. “Think of the people. One, you’ve already decided that you love them. And two, you’re just thinking, ‘how am I going to put the focus on them and their needs.’”

Shima believes that overcoming the fear of public speaking is not about picturing the audience naked or worrying about the opening story. It’s about losing yourself, loving the audience, and thinking of them. It’s about shifting the focus away from the speaker and towards the audience.

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