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The Fight, Flight, or Freeze Response in Public Speaking - Which Word Best Describes You?

Nancy Daniels, Voice Coach

o, you have been scheduled, invited, or commanded to speak. It could be the quarterly budget report for your firm. Maybe you are a member of Toastmasters. You could be enrolled in a local public speaking course. Perhaps it is your best friend’s wedding. Whatever the reason for your upcoming speech or presentation, what is your reaction to public speaking? Fight? Flight? Freeze?

Whatever your reaction, there is no denying the physical changes that result because of the chemicals – adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol – which are released into your bloodstream. According to Dr. Neil F. Neimark of TheBodySoulConnection, “Our respiratory rate increases. Blood is shunted away from our digestive tract and directed into our muscles and limbs, which require extra energy and fuel for running and fighting. Our pupils dilate. Our awareness intensifies. Our sight sharpens. Our impulses quicken. Our perception of pain diminishes.” Overall, it is the best possible shape to be in when you stand at the lectern or at the head of the boardroom table.
Nervousness in public speaking is a good thing and the sooner you realize the benefits of your increased heart rate, sweaty palms and/or butterflies in your stomach, the better.

The difficulty for many is accepting the rewards of nervousness and moving into ‘fight’ mode instead of ‘flight’ or ‘freeze’ mode. By no means am I advocating fighting during your presentation, but if you can accept the physical changes that are happening to your body and take control of them, you will be amazed at the results when you stand at the lectern and acknowledge your audience.

This does not come without a price, however. Knowing you have a presentation or speech to give means preparing your material and rehearsing it well in advance of the date. That is the 1st step to overcoming the ‘flight’ or ‘freeze’ anxiety.

Your 2nd step is to learn how to breathe with the support of your diaphragm, truly the best means of controlling nervousness in any form of public speaking because it eliminates the toxins in your body that shallow or lazy breathing cannot. In doing so, it frees you to take control of your nervousness; whereas, shallow or lazy breathing only increases your panic, your stress.

Yes, nervousness in public speaking is a good thing and the sooner you realize the benefits of your increased heart rate, sweaty palms and/or butterflies in your stomach, the better. Learn to breathe with the support of your diaphragm for your nervousness, for your overall health and for the daily stress to which we are all subjected. I guarantee you will no longer experience the flight or freeze mode of your fears.

International Speaker and Voice Specialist, Nancy Daniels, has been involved in voice training since 1977. A graduate of Gettysburg College with a BA in music, she discovered the techniques for improving the sound of the speaking voice while in graduate school at American University in Washington, D.C.

In addition to her guest speaking engagements, Nancy offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice training and public speaking skills throughout the United States and Canada. For those are unable to work with her directly, there is Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. For more information on voice training, future workshops, and Voicing It!, visit her Voice Dynamic website. http://www.voicedynamic.com


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