Believe it or not, but fear of public speaking is more common that one may think. In fact, some suffer from mild phobias related to speaking in front of others. Some may even write off their phobia as something entirely different, such as excitement they believe they should be feeling in relation to the honor of being able to speak on a public platform.
Symptoms of Public Speaking Fear
Just as we all have different fears, everyone has different symptoms when it comes to showing they have a fear of something. Fear of public speaking falls under the category of social phobias, which includes fear of being watched and/or humiliated in public.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, here is a list of common symptoms associated with phobias:
- Feelings of panic, horror, terror and/or dread
- Knowing the fear goes beyond normal boundaries associated with an actual threat of danger
- Automatic and uncontrollable reactions
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Overwhelming desire to flee
- Taking extreme measures to avoid what someone is afraid of
There are a variety of different treatments available to help deal with social phobias, including therapy and anxiety medications. Both can help mask the fear associated with public speaking and will take time to help reduce and possibly eliminate the fear.
There are many different fears people have and every fear has a clinical name associated with it. Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking. Those who suffer from glossophobia tend to experience panic and/or tend to freeze when in front of an audience. Those who suffer from this phobia should not apply for public speaking jobs until they get the help needed to cure or reduce their fear.
Symptoms of severe glossophobia include the inability to speak, dryness of the mouth, stiffening of the neck, weakness and shaking. In some extreme cases, some may experience heavy sweating, red colored skin and a hard, fast heartbeat. This fear can occur in those when speaking to a large crowd of hundreds of people and even when they are just talking to two people in a room.
Avoiding the need to speak in public is the number one way many people deal with their fears. For some, the fear is so great that they end up turning down promotions and other jobs that put them in a public speaking role. Avoidance can also include arriving late to meetings or calling in sick when there is a chance they may have to give a speech or stand up in front of others.
Avoiding one’s fear of public speaking does not solve the problems, but it also adds to the anxiety associated with having to talk in front of a crowd, even if the crowd is small.
How to get around public speaking fear
To help understand why you have a fear of public speaking, it is important to know what you fear when you speak and why you fear it. To help with this, write down a list of everything that causes you to feel anxious when speaking. This may help pinpoint what triggers the anxiety you feel when speaking in front of others.
Next, write down what you have done in the past to get through it. Keep in mind all of the tricks that have worked in the past to help you get through your speech. If something helped you once before, it might help you again in the future.
Tips for public speaking
Here are some tips that will hopefully help you get through your next public speaking engagement:
- Do not rush
- Take deep breaths
- Focus on your notes
- Pay attention to the audience
- Do not think about your fears
- Visualize success
- Join a support group
- Limit caffeine intake prior to the speech
- Connect with the audience by smiling and thinking of them as your friends
Psychology Today offers a list of public speaking tips to help you conquer your fears. These tips include:
- Do not expect perfection from yourself
- Keep going when you make mistakes
- Do not equate your public speaking abilities with your self-worth
- Stop being nervous about being nervous
- Do not memorize your speech
- Have note cards available
- Do not read your speech word for word
Know your topic
The Mayo Clinic suggests you become an expert on the topic you are giving the speech on. Knowing the subject matter inside and out will help ease your fear of public speaking. That is mostly because you feel confident you know what you are talking about and are ready to answer questions from the audience.
Have everything you need for the speech organized and ready to go. This includes notes, props and any visual and audio aids. The more organized you are, the less likely you are to experience public speaking anxiety as a result of wondering if you forgot something for the speech.
Practice makes perfect
In addition to being an expert on the topic, the Mayo Clinic suggest practicing your speech over and over. Consider giving your speech in front of a pet, a mirror or record it and play it back. Consider asking a friend or colleague to listen to your speech and ask for his or her feedback.
Stop scaring yourself
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that in most cases we are what cause our fears of public speaking to elevate to the level of panic. To help decrease ones fear of public speaking, it is important to stop instilling that fear in your brain yourself.
Stop telling yourself you have a fear of speaking. The more you tell yourself that you cannot do it or that you are afraid of something, the chances are you will continue to be afraid. In fact, over time, that fear could get worse the longer you tell yourself you suffer from it.
It is also important to stop instilling thoughts of self-doubt and value. Before getting in front of a crowd look in a mirror and tell yourself you are worth it and you will succeed.
Where to get help
Help is available for those suffering from a fear of speaking, including public speaking classes and self-help training materials. These help reduce the fear and bring it down to a manageable level, making it possible to get through the speech. Organizations, such as Toastmasters, offer support groups and help for those in public speaking roles get through the anxiety associated with public speaking.
More than half of the population suffers from some sort of fear associated with public speaking. However, mastering the art of public speaking will help ease nerves, making it possible to smoothly make it through the speech. Just remember to take a deep breath and focus on the end. Before you know it you will have a feeling of accomplishment, knowing you gave your best and did a great job.