Fear of Public Speaking – A Common Phobia
Public Speaking Anxiety, also known as, Glossophobia is much more common than you think. An estimated 75% of all people experience some degree of anxiety/nervousness when public speaking. Some common symptoms of this condition include:
- intense anxiety prior to, or simply at the thought of having to verbally communicate with any group,
- avoidance of events which focus the group’s attention on individuals in attendance,
- physical distress, nausea, or feelings of panic in such circumstances.
Some people go as far as to make changes in their college coursework, pass up promotions and assignments, or even choose a career based on their fear of public speaking. This fear usually begins at a young age and will continue on through adulthood unless properly dealt with or managed with techniques and practice.
How to Overcome Glossophobia
Avoid jumping to conclusions: like such exaggerated thought such as “I can’t do it”, “I am the worst public speaker”, “I will bomb this speech”, or “everyone will see my anxiety”. Over-generalizations, negative anticipation of events or thinking in black-in-white terms will only increase your anxiety and inhibit your potential for growth as a public speaker.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt
There are a few steps you can take to calm and prepare yourself before you step in front of that podium:
- Know your material: prepare your speech and practice it thoroughly so you feel comfortable with it and you’re not tied to your notes.
- Use an Outline: Write a brief outline with short terms to help you remember the key points but without forcing you to read from your notes. We don’t speak the way we write, so keep the speech conversational interjecting your personality, your humor and your unique intonations when appropriate. With a well written, organized outline that will keep your presentation on topic and in order, but fluent and much more engaging for your audience.
- Practice makes Perfect, well almost. Practice, practice and practice some more. Rehearse aloud, with a friend or record/video your speech. Focus on your speech quality, your timing, and your pitch and modulation. Practice speaking in a conversational tone, rather than monotone, impersonal reading.
- Take the focus off yourself and put the focus on your audience. The purpose of your speech is to inform, instruct and engage your audience. This presentation is not about you, but about providing information to your audience so by keeping that point in mind that you want the material to stand out (not necessary your skills as a public speaker) can take the pressure off you.
- Get comfortable with the Room. Get there early so you can test out any audio/video equipment you are using, walk the room and get comfortable with your surroundings. Stand at the podium and get accustomed to the feel of standing up there looking at the rows of seats. Introduce yourself to your audience members as they arrive and find out why they are here, what they hope to learn and how they intend to use the information. In that way, you are speaking to acquaintances, rather than strangers and you can tailor your information with them in mind.
- Don’t forget to breathe: Use the tactic of elite athletes by visualizing a positive outcome and using deep belly breathing to reduce stress and build confidence. Take a deep, calming breath and force yourself to relax. Remind yourself that this speech is not a life or death matter, you will survive, it will be over before you know it and your audience will more than likely not even notice your apprehension.
- Make eye contact and don’t forget to smile. The audience will sense your nerves and share your anxiety if you keep your eyes downcast and attempt to ignore them. Before you begin speaking, smile at the audience and engage your listeners with good eye contact. It will fill you with confidence, relax you and connect you to your audience, and in turn will have the same affect on them.
- Have fun with it. Regardless of your fears or anxieties, you obviously have something worthwhile to share, otherwise you would not have been asked to speak or volunteered to do this. You have been given the privilege to teach, to inform and to assist others. The time will fly by once you reach the podium and you’ll regret you didn’t take more time to live in the moment. So do it! Relax, be confident and strive to enjoy the attention.
- Accept your mistakes and move on. You’re not going to be perfect, no one is. You’re going to make mishaps, mispronounce a word or two, lose your place momentarily, or insert the wrong word at the wrong time. And so what? Most of us do in everyday speech, so let it go and keep going. Most of your listeners won’t notice, and if they do, they won’t remember it five minutes later as you move forward. Don’t let the small errors interrupt your flow and fluency.
- Look for more opportunities to grow as a public speaker. The only way to progress with the lessons learned, to improve your speaking skills and to reduce your glossophobia, is to continue speaking in front of small to large crowds. Put yourself out there and you won’t regret the feeling of triumph after you’re done!
Remember, “fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.”