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Systematic Desensitization

 

Techniques Public speaking > Preparing Yourself > Systematic Desensitization

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Rather than trying to reduce your anxiety all at once, find ways to reduce it a manageable bit at a time.

One way of doing this is to find a method and practice this until it helps, even a bit, then finding another method.

Another way is to use sequential methods one after in the same time space, for example breathing deeply, then imagining an appreciative audience, then practicing out loud.

You can also progress your ability by taking on increasingly more challenging tasks, for example starting by talking to a small group of friends and working steadily up to major conferences or important sales pitches.

Example

I used to be anxious about speaking at large conferences of peers. To help with this, I started doing breathing exercises before gong on stage, which did help. I then restructured my beliefs about the audience to frame them as ordinary, vulnerable people with their own anxieties. I then did some voice training and talked with other presenters to learn the methods they used.

Discussion

To go from a presentation weakling to superstar speaker can easily seem like a bridge too far for many people such that they give up before they start. If, however, they can easily take a small step then they have no reason to procrastinate or give in. Then all they need to do is take the next and then the next and so on.

As each method works, it also has the multiplying effect of building confidence. If you can see progress then this gives much stronger motivation to make the effort to move to to the next stage.

See also

Cognitive Restructuring, Progressive Visualization, Practice

 

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