Three ‘coping methods’ that make your fear of speaking on camera worse (and what do to instead)

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"In this blog, I share how common coping techniques many people use to overcome the fear of speaking on camera, can actually make things worse - and what to do instead."

Speaking on camera is a form of public speaking so it’s not surprising that so many feel nervous about it.

As someone who overcame an anxiety disorder developed as a child, I’ve tried a variety of different techniques to conquer a range of fears.

What I discovered along the way is that, in order to try to make yourself feel more comfortable, you can adopt coping mechanisms rather than resolve the underlying issues and this can actually make your fear worse.

The fear of public speaking and speaking on camera is no different. The best way to deal with fear is to try to explore it, get to the bottom of it and oppose those fears in practical ways.

Unresolved fear can cause a number of mental health problems such as anxiety.

Avoidance

This is probably the most common coping technique: to avoid the thing you fear without realising that the longer you avoid it, the worse the fear becomes.

The only way to prove to yourself that you don’t need to be frightened of speaking on camera and in front of others is actually to do it.

Every time you avoid speaking on camera you are actually conditioning your brain to learn that this activity is dangerous and should be avoided.

You’re conditioning part of the brain called the amygdala to be frightened.

Let’s say you see a scary dog one day and run away as a result. In that moment you’ve trained your brain to learn that dogs are dangerous and that when you see a dog you must run away in order to be safe.

In this way, you condition your own brain to set alarm signals so that every time you see a dog you run away.

If you wanted to overcome this fear, the only way to do this would be to re-train your brain to learn that you can be around dogs and that it’s not dangerous.

Speaking on camera – and any form of public speaking – is exactly like this. You’ve probably trained your brain over some time to view speaking in front of others as something scary and therefore to be avoided.

Unfortunately, the longer you do this the harder it is to re-train your brain but it’s not impossible. In fact, I truly believe it’s possible for everyone to overcome their fear of speaking on camera by taking action and doing it.

However, that doesn’t mean going from a person with high anxiety to speaking in front of a virtual audience of 1,000. It means to have a clear strategy in place and take small steps in the right direction and with the right support.

Guiding people to the right strategies for them is the type of work I do as a virtual presentation coach. It always amazes me to see that so often people can put themselves under pressure to take larger steps than are necessary. Overcoming your fear is a delicate process that needs a lot of care.

Supressing your fear of speaking on camera

Supressing feelings is a really common strategy for those who want to push themselves out of their comfort zone and achieve results but who don’t know how to deal with their feelings.

The best way to work with fear is to acknowledge how you feel. You don’t need to tell the world, just yourself. It’s ok to have feelings of anxiety.

Sometimes you can feel like you shouldn’t be afraid of speaking on camera – you’re a business owner, a leader – you’re not meant to feel anxious! There can be feelings of embarrassment associated with it, so you soldier on and supress it all instead.

This can lead to further levels of anxiety and overall feelings of things being out of control. When you feel like this, it’s impossible to feel ok and that’s when you can start to look for other coping mechanisms and feel irritable with friends and family.

Supressing feelings can also lead to feelings of isolation which further undermines your confidence. Know that it’s perfectly natural to fear any kind of public speaking including (and sometimes especially) speaking on camera. The best way to deal with it is to acknowledge and accept whatever feelings of anxiety arise then take a deep breath, relax and go for it.

When you start to accept these feelings rather than fight them and supress them, that’s when the magic starts to happen.

You can take the first step to overcome your fear because you’ve acknowledged it.

Faking confidence

The saying ‘fake it until you make it’ is commonly used to help people overcome their fear of public speaking. There is some truth to it but also some disadvantages in doing this.

It’s true that if you feel nervous before giving a talk, whether in person or on camera, then it’s a good idea to adopt a confident posture.

This has a positive effect on the brain as it tells you you’re ok and can make you feel and look more confident. I certainly recommend this technique at the beginning.

However, if you’re giving regular talks and consistently having to employ this technique then ultimately you’re not actually overcoming your fear and will find it will eventually undermine your confidence completely.

You’ll feel like you’re not being yourself, you’ll feel you’re being inauthentic and perhaps suffer from imposter syndrome.

You may deliver an excellent virtual presentation but experience high levels of anxiety. This is unhealthy as you cause yourself a lot of anxiety every time you do this.

I went through a stage of doing this myself during my first job after leaving university when I worked as a research assistant. I often had to present research topics and decided to fake confidence as I was so nervous! I was told by everyone that I did a great job – but the cost on my mental health seemed too much to bear!

I was stressed and anxious in the lead-up to the presentation and minutes before, when I said I was just popping to the loo, I cried tears of sheer terror!

After the presentation, although relieved, I felt traumatised by the experience but felt I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because I wanted to be this capable, confident person.

Due to this experience I realised that speaking in front of others is not about ‘looking good’ as a speaker but ‘feeling good.’

It’s very different and ultimately ‘looking good’ is not sustainable because the overall experience can be unpleasant if you’re nervous. When you feel confident inside you naturally feel happier and want to do it more.

It’s common to think that you need to pretend to be confident but that is actually an expression of fear.

True confidence is not afraid to acknowledge vulnerability.

A confident person feels ok to acknowledge they feel nervous about delivering a talk.

Are you ready to speak with confidence on camera, position yourself as an expert and attract your ideal client?

Your business needs you to speak up for it!

The Breakthrough Virtual Speaker programme may be the perfect fit for you! Learn more here.

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