Public speaking fear, also called “glossophobia” or public speaking anxiety, is one of the most common types of social anxiety that people can have. People who are afraid of speaking in public may feel anxiety symptoms like a rapid heart rate and nervousness when asking questions or speaking about something in front of others.
This fear is supposedly rooted in the evolutionary perception of being “watched” as a predatory threat. Our bodies still read this as something that merits a fight or flight response. Our nervous system apparently triggers our stress response as we worry about messing up, people judging us, or being unable to say the right things.
However, when used the right way, this fear can turn into a motivation for you to prepare better and practice your speech well. Left unaddressed, public speaking fears can derail your success and keep you from great career opportunities, so it’s best to learn how to address them now.
If you’re ready to push through your fear of speaking in public, go ahead and visualize yourself standing in front of a crowd. Imagine yourself poised, confident, and able to deliver an impactful message that resonates with everyone in the audience.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into ten proven steps that can help you transform your stage fright into assurance and accomplishment. We’ll discuss the origin of speaking anxiety, the symptoms it may come with, and some solid approaches for conquering it.
We’ll also explore how addressing your fear around speaking in public links to social anxiety disorder and offer ideas on how to handle it. Towards the end of this article, we are sure you’ll be equipped with all the essential tools to give a speech confidently in front of an audience.
How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
Giving presentations, speeches, or talks in front of an audience is a common fear for many people. However, you can take steps to manage and reduce your public speaking anxiety. Follow these methods to speak with greater confidence:
Step 1 Analyze Your Fear
- Document past speaking situations where you felt fearful. Note details like the audience size, familiarity with the setting, high stakes involved, etc.
- For each situation, write down your anxious thoughts, physical sensations, and triggers. Look for patterns.
- Identify your fear triggers across different situations, like unfamiliar audiences, high stakes, or lack of preparation.
Expert Tip: Public speaking anxiety can create a host of cognitive effects. When individuals become anxious, the prefrontal lobes in the brain can trigger heightened stress hormones that impair memory retrieval and spur negative self-talk. This fear can skew perception, causing individuals to lose focus on their key points or rush to conclusions during their presentation. It’s important to understand these possible outcomes to effectively manage anxiety and speak with assurance on any given topic.
Step 2 Change Your Mindset
- Catch anxious self-talk and reframe it positively. For example, “I’m ready for this” or “I care, which is why I’m nervous.”
- Visualize yourself speaking confidently and the audience responding well. Imagine positive affirmations.
- Focus on serving your audience rather than judging yourself. Remember, the audience wants you to succeed.
Expert Tip: Visualization can significantly boost your confidence. Mental preparation can help diminish associated anxieties, enabling you to deliver your speech effectively on the actual day.
Step 3 Practice Extensively
- Rehearse your speech frequently over several weeks, from start to finish. Practice for others and get feedback.
- Record yourself and review to improve delivery, eye contact, vocal variety, and body language.
- Feel confident through extensive preparation. Remember perfect practice makes perfect.
Expert Tip: Developing an in-depth understanding of what you’re going to say and rehearsing your speech thoroughly are critical steps for boosting self-assurance and getting rid of any nerves. Acquiring a solid comprehension of the material allows you to feel more secure, enabling you to take on anxiety about talking publicly with confidence. Polishing your speech can also help commit your material to memory, giving you a better mastery of your topic. It can also allow you to practice facial expressions and eye contact to help you connect with your audience better. Lastly, it will help you develop confidence that you can deliver your material effectively (since you know it so well).
Step 4 Get Familiar with the Venue
- Arrive early at the speaking venue to check out the stage, equipment, seating layout, etc.
- Meet organizers and attendees beforehand so they seem familiar. This reduces fear of the unknown.
- Imagine yourself speaking successfully to this audience in this setting. Expect success through preparation.
Step 5 Use Breathing Techniques
- Take 5-10 slow, deep belly breaths before going on stage. Breathe in through your nose and out through pursed lips.
- Take more slow, deep breaths during your speech if you feel anxious. Proper breathing counters the body’s fight-or-flight response.
Expert Tip: Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization are an effective method you can use to address your public speaking fears and anxiety. Deep breathing provides many benefits. It slows down your heart rate, stimulates vagus nerve activity, calms your nerves, and reduces stress levels.
By identifying your fears, changing your mindset, practicing extensively, familiarizing yourself with the venue, and using breathing techniques, you can substantially reduce public speaking anxiety. With time and experience, your confidence will grow.
What Causes Public Speaking Fear?
The fear of rejection and intimidation while facing an audience are natural stress responses, afflicting 40% of the population and preventing some people from developing effective communication skills.
Public speaking can often cause severe discomfort in individuals and drive them to avoid it altogether – or push through their fears despite trembling hands and a shaky voice. Confidence is key to effectively overcoming anxieties while speaking in public. Thankfully, this is something that can be built through practice in order to help eradicate public speaking fears.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, the anxieties tied to public speaking fall under the same category as mental health conditions like panic disorders. Public speaking fear can lead to a range of responses, including physical reactions, emotional responses, and cognitive effects.
Public Speaking Fear and Social Anxiety Disorder
It’s widely recognized that the fear of public speaking is classified under social anxiety disorder according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. If you need help understanding and tackling this kind of anxiety, it’s important to identify its source so you can explore all possible treatments like psychotherapy or medication (or even a combination between both). With an appropriate diagnosis, you’ll be better prepared to manage your fears related to public speaking.
Understanding the link between public speaking anxiety and social anxiety can empower individuals to face these challenges head-on. This knowledge can help them engage in various types of speeches without apprehension.
Overcoming your fear of public speaking is an ongoing process, so don’t be frustrated if it takes time for you to get better at it. You can keep building on your progress by refining and sharpening your speaking skills and boosting your self-confidence with continuous preparation.
In this next section, we take you through a number of tips that can help you further hone your public speaking skills. You can join speaking-focused groups, access training courses for speaking, attend seminars, reflect on past experiences, and more.
Experts in public speaking have one essential tip for you – learn how to get comfortable with silence and long pauses.
Get comfortable with pauses by practicing them in daily conversation and staying aware of your timing. Another essential point – don’t try to alleviate the discomfort that comes with pauses. Rather, use it to gather your thoughts and provide better effect to your speech.
During your speech, if you do lose track of what you’re trying to say or are beginning to feel nervous, all this practice will come in handy. You’ll learn how to recover from your mind going “blank” quickly, and it might not even come across as too long a silence to your audience.
Join a Speaking Group
Engaging with a group can help you refine your speaking and presentation skills and gain encouragement from fellow members with similar goals. A public speaking group such as Toastmasters International can also help you improve your public speaking skills.
You can also have access to a friendly, supportive environment where you can exchange creative ideas with others and improve your communication skills. Such groups can also help you gain confidence by practicing how to give different speeches.
Attend Workshops and Seminars
Public speaking workshops and seminars can be a great source of learning for you. This is why we recommend you attend as many as possible, as often as possible.
Workshops and seminars can help you learn several public speaking skills that go beyond simply speaking. You can learn how to create a compelling narrative as well as work on managing your stage presence. You can also master the ins and outs of developing effective body language.
Watching public speaking experts in action can also help you understand how to modulate your voice for maximum effect or how pauses can be used for extra emphasis.
But wait, that’s not all. Workshops and seminars provide you with a diverse range of communication styles to learn from.
How? Most workshops will often include live demonstrations and interactive exercises. And these provide you with immediate feedback that you can use to better your skills right away.
Many of these courses also provide resources for continued learning. With continued access to online tutorials, reading materials, and networking with other speakers, you can keep on learning even after the course ends.
Reflect on Past Experiences
By reflecting on past public speaking engagements, you can gain insight into two essential aspects — identifying areas you have improved and those you still need to work on. Think of it like a report card you give yourself!
Use techniques such as restating the speaker’s words, affirmations for self-talk, analyzing feedback from others, or assessing yourself after your speech. All of these can also help evaluate how far you’ve come.
Reflection also assists in identifying strengths that contribute positively to your attitude when you are actually giving the presentation.
Remember, the right techniques and building the right mental space can help you conquer your public speaking fears. When you know where the anxiety originates from, and you are able to recognize its indications, it becomes easier to identify the right solutions.
Adopt solutions such as accepting imperfection, building a positive network for yourself to rely on, and learning your materials. These can help you transform your nervousness into self-confidence and feel a sense of achievement.
You also need to remember that mastering this kind of feat is an ongoing task. Try to maintain progress by regularly participating in communication clubs and groups and acknowledging your past efforts until now.
Most important of all, don’t give up!
With persistence and determination, you can definitely turn your public speaking anxieties into confidence and success.
Q & A Public Speaking Fear
The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always contact your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before starting, changing, or stopping any kind of health treatment.
Why do I get panic attacks when public speaking?
Speaking in public can be terrifying if you are regularly affected by performance anxiety and fear. This fear could have come from an earlier, possibly humiliating experience that has left a deep impression on your psyche. To cope with this feeling, it’s important to first acknowledge them.
How do you calm down glossophobia?
You can try this multi-pronged approach for calming glossophobia. Begin by selecting a topic of interest and preparing it carefully. Then, get organized, practice extensively, challenge negative thinking, and visualize success. Remember to breathe deeply during your speech and focus on the material rather than the audience.
How common is public speaking anxiety?
Don’t worry, you are not alone! Public speaking anxiety is a widespread concern that affects about 40% of the population.
How can I build a support network to help overcome public speaking anxiety?
You can ask for help from your peers and mentors and undertake public speaking exercises. As they say, practice makes perfect, so these exercises can help you build self-assurance. Find a secure and supportive atmosphere to practice your delivery. This will also help you overcome any unease about talking in front of others. Utilize the constructive feedback you get to build upon your skills and confidence.
How can public speaking workshops and seminars help me improve my skills?
Public speaking workshops and seminars provide you with an opportunity to evaluate your existing abilities. They also provide you with new and unbiased viewpoints that you can use to refine your techniques and delivery.