Fearless Speaking (Book Review)
This just might be one of the most effective and pragmatic books on dealing with fear. Ever.
And I mean even beyond the realm of public speaking.
What stories, skills and experience would you share with the world if fear didn’t hold you back?
In 1977, the Book of Lists cited public speaking as the top fear people mention more than any other, even dying.
As the Jerry Seinfeld’s joke goes, you’d be better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.
Fearless Speaking: Beat Anxiety. Build Your Confidence. Change Your Life, by Gary Genard is an action-packed guide to help you defeat anxiety, grow your confidence, and realize your speaking potential.
The book is actually a powerful toolkit for overcoming stage fright, reducing butterflies, and becoming a more empowered and engaging speaker.
In many ways, it can help you unleash what you’re capable of.
Learn from a World-Class Speech Coach
Gary Genard, PH.D., has a great background. He’s an actor, communications professor, and speech coach who has helped all walks of life reduce their fears and speak with confidence, including business people, nonprofit organizations, government employees, healthcare providers, financial professionals, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and people who speak in a variety of social situations.
What I like about the book is Genard’s coaching skills shine through. I also like the sheer number and depth of the exercises. I think the exercises transcend the public speaking arena, and you can use them for dealing with fear and building confidence in other areas of your work and life.
It’s also a great way to grow your personal leadership skills by leaps and bounds.
With that in mind, let’s dive into the book …
Chapters at a Glance
- Chapter 1 Understanding Your Fear of Public Speaking
- Chapter 2 Changing Your Negative Thinking
- Chapter 3 Breathing Techniques for Relaxation and Control
- Chapter 4 Body Language to Look and Feel More Confident
- Chapter 5 Staying Focused, Mindful, and On Message
- Chapter 6 How To Connect with Audiences and Gain Influence
- Chapter 7 Unleash Your Vocal Power!
- Chapter 8 Using Positive Visualization
- Chapter 9 Reducing Nervousness While You’re Speaking
- Chapter 10 Biofeedback for Physical Symptoms and Panic Attacks
- Chapter 11 Setting and Achieving Your Goals
- Chapter 12 Curtain Call! Learning to Love Speaking in Public
What’s In It For You
- How to put your fear into perspective
- How to turn negative beliefs into positive thinking
- How to use body language to broadcast confidence
- How to create your own success with positive visualization
- How to practice biofeedback to control your stress response
- How to halt a panic attack before it starts
- How to acquire the skills to become a dynamic speaker
Here are some of the key features of Fearless Speaking:
- Quiz: Do You Have Stage Fright? Genard provides a quick quiz to help you calibrate your level of stage fright and then relates it to how the book can help you.
- Exercises: It includes 48 exercises you can use to build your confidence, reduce your anxiety, and become a more dynamic and engaging speaker.
- Success Stories. There are several case studies and success stories that help show how different people have become more confident and more effective speakers and changed their lives.
Here is a sampling of some of my favorite nuggets from the book …
A New World of Speaking Influence
What if you could speak with confidence and engage any audience … how would you change other people’s lives?
“Even after many years as a singer, actor, professor, presentation coach, and speech consultant, I remain in awe of the difference an outstanding talk or lecture can make in people’s lives. Public speaking remains one of the most exciting experiences in modern society. Real influence can occur when one human being speaks with knowledge and passion to an interested audience: a changing of thoughts, feelings, and actions that simply cannot be reproduced in any other way. It’s as though an electric spark jumps from the stage to the audience when the presentation begins. And when it is done right, that audience is galvanized.”
The Power of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
We can use our mind to plan positive outcomes or dream up negative scenarios. When we dream up and dwell on negative scenarios, we create self-fulfilling prophecies.
“When we have an important presentation coming up, naturally you think about it a lot. Even if you’re not particularly anxious concerning the outcome, you’ll still give it plenty of ‘mind time.’ And if you’re prone to speaking anxiety, the chances are excellent that you’ll create negative scenarios about what’s going to take place.
At that point, you’re in danger of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. By establishing the right conditions, you’re heading toward — and in a sense inviting — the very outcome you don’t want to occur.
You should also know that this is not a passive process. It takes a lot of work to undermine yourself as a speaker! But if you recognize the nature of self-fulfilling prophecies, and accept your own power to head them off, you can put yourself back on the path to speaking success.”
Panic Attacks: A Speaker Feels Divorced from Their Audience
Panic attacks don’t just happen. There’s actually a pattern that you can put your finger on.
“The reason I’ve formulated these particular approaches is because I believe public speaking-related panic attacks always arise from the same cause: a speaker who feels disconnected from his or her audience. The audience may be viewed as hostile, bored, uncaring, or judgmental. But in every instance the speaker feels that the audience is there, and he or she is here, across a psychological divide. And ‘here’ always seems like a lonely and dangerous place.”
Bringing Ideas and Emotions to Life
When you know the secrets of what makes your words really pack a punch, you can use that to take your speaking skills up to new levels.
“You can see how the force of an idea is amplified when it occurs at the end of a phrase. It resonates in a listeners’ minds, therefore, in the second or two before the next phrase is spoken. Obviously, if an audience is to receive the full force and impact of what you’re saying, your words must be supported with breathing that can ‘punch’ up that word or phrase.”
The 5 Essential Tools of Vocal Expressiveness
According to Genard, there are 5 vocal tools that when you use them together, they help your audience stay tuned more easily, pay closer attention to what you’re saying, and will find themselves more easily moved and persuaded.
- Emphasis and energy is concerned with the force of stress your place on important ideas, concepts, or feelings, as well as a generally energized vocal style. It is the simplest of the five essential vocal tools, and one that you probably already know how to use well.
- Pitch inflection refers to the rising and falling of your pitch on the musical scale. Sometimes called intonation, lively pitch inflection helps you avoid monotony as well as convey meaning. It’s not only a critically important vocal tool: it’s the one you may have the most trouble using freely in formal speaking situations. If you haven’t received performance training in the use of the voice, you may stay in a too-narrow pitch range, limiting your voices natural ability to express emotion.
- Your rhythm and pace also need to be varied when you speak publicly so your audience stays attentive and aware of the nuances of what you’re saying. In normal conversation, i.e., when you’re not self-conscious your speaking rhythm changes frequently according to new ideas or emotions you bring up. Why should it be any different when you’re giving a presentation? If you’ve ever suffered through a talk by a presenter who speaks in metronomic fashion, you know how an unvaried pace can lull an audience into inattention.
- Pauses and silence is another vocal tool you may be neglecting due to speech anxiety. Pauses in a speech can add emphasis, build suspect, bridge ideas, make a comment on what you just said, and enrich your talk in other subtle ways. If you pause at appropriate times, you’ll also show that you’re confident enough to set the pace for yourself rather than rushing through your talk because of nervousness. Unfortunately, adrenaline by its nature forces you to either fight that ‘threat’ you’re facing or run from it — in other words, taking any course of action rather than pausing.
- Vocal quality is the most encompassing of the five vocal tools. It includes the tone, the richness, and pleasantness of your voice, along with other factors such as breathiness, warmth or stridency, patience or impatience, empathy or anger, hesitancy or bewilderment, and other elements that effect people’s emotional response when you speak. No wonder vocal quality is the most inclusive of the essential tools.
Throughout the book, Genard includes little stories of how everyday people have used the techniques to reduce their fears, grow their confidence, and expand what they’re capable of:
- Andrew used relaxation techniques to deal with his speech anxiety, and gained insight into how he dealt with problems generally.
- George learned how to think on his feet, improve his physical presence, and take control of the speaking situation. Now he enjoys his team presentations.
- Melissa became calmer and more present in her public speaking. She also learned how to breath more deeply, and control her voice and pacing better.
- Vasu learned how to use his body to avoid distracting and taking away from his message, and to amplify his point through more purposeful gestures.
- Nadia learned to break away from her own disrupting thoughts, settle into her talks, and sound like herself, for the first time.
- Santiago learned how to engage his listener’s attention, use logical transitions, and his nervousness while presenting disappeared.
- Rachel learned how to stop tightening her vocal cords to produce a deeper sound. Her humor and personality comes through in her real voice.
- Cho learned how to “see” a positive outcome in her mind and use that to stay focused and guide her presentation effectively.
- Sean became a more focused and less self-conscious speaker. He eliminated his extreme anxiety during speaking and learned to focus on his talking points.
- Aida learned to eliminate her distress that left her gasping for air. She learned how to be fully present and comfortable in the moment, and she is now able to focus on getting her message across in a relaxed and effective way.
Fearless Speaking Exercises
The real beauty of the book is that you can put together your own public speaking toolkit from the exercises throughout the book.
The amazing collection of exercises help you improve your confidence, remove obstacles and roadblocks, and help your expertise, passion, and commitment come through more clearly to your audience.
|Chapter 1||Exercise 1-1 Overcoming Speaking Anxiety Will Change Your Life
Exercise 1-2 Your Public Speaking Strengths
Exercise 1-3 Talking about Your Strengths
Exercise 1-4 Understanding Speaking Fear
Exercise 1-5 Types of Fear Reduction Techniques
|Chapter 2||Exercise 2-1 Overcoming Worse-Case Thinking
Exercise 2-2 Developing Positive Coping Mechanisms
Exercise 2-3 Channeling Your Thinking — The 10s Exercise
Exercise 2-4 Define Your Objective!
|Chapter 3||Exercise 3-1 Progressive Relaxation
Exercise 3-2 Mini-Vacation
Exercise 3-3 Diaphragmatic Breathing
|Chapter 4||Exercise 4-1 Grounding
Exercise 4-2 Entering a Room
Exercise 4-3 Suiting Action to Word: Using the Right Gestures
Exercise 4-4 Videotaping Your Performance
Exercise 4-5 Checklists for Body Language and Use of Space
|Chapter 5||Exercise 5-1 Focused Relaxation
Exercise 5-2 Exercise for Mindfulness
Exercise 5-3 10 Ways to Stay Fully Focused when Speaking
|Chapter 6||Exercise 6-1 Greeting Your Audience
Exercise 6-2 Using a Grabber
Exercise 6-3 Creating a Clincher
|Chapter 7||Exercise 7-1 Finding Your Optimal Pitch
Exercise 7-2 Boosting Your Vocal Impact — Using the 5 Vocal Tools
Exercise 7-3 Brining Ideas and Emotions to Life
Exercise 7-4 The 3-Minute Speech Warm-Up
|Chapter 8||Exercise 8-1 The Balloon Man/Lady
Exercise 8-2 The Neutral MaskExercise 8-3 The Actor’s Box
Exercise 8-4 The Spotlight Techniques
Exercise 8-5 Writing Your Fears Away
Exercise 8-6 Your Command Performance Movie
|Chapter 9||Exercise 9-1 The Two Universes
Exercise 9-2 Exercise for Mindfulness: Yourself
Exercise 9-3 Getting Comfortable with Your Body
Exercise 9-4 6 More Ways to Reduce Nervousness
|Chapter 10||Exercise 10-1 Calming the Heart
Exercise 10-2 Closing the Stress Gate
Exercise 10-3 Opening the Emotional Gate
Exercise 10-4 Facial Relaxation
Exercise 10-5 The Healing Breath
Exercise 10-6 Strategies for Panic Attacks
|Chapter 11||Exercise 11-1 Your Public Speaking Toolkit
Exercise 11-2 Performing an Audience Analysis
Exercise 11-3 Deciding on Your Purpose
Exercise 11-4 Setting an Action Goal
Exercise 11-5 Checklist for Measuring Your Progress
Get the Book
Fearless Speaking: Beat Anxiety. Build Your Confidence. Change Your Life, by Gary Genard is available on Amazon: