Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking

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(License: CC0)

Is this the look on your face when presented with a chance to speak in public?

Crippling us in many ways, fear is sometimes our biggest enemy; keeping us stagnant and making us ineffective.  Most times, we fear the unknown – the ‘what if’ scenarios we cannot seem to shake off from the back of our minds.

Fear of public speaking is called Glossophobia.  This is how www.glossophia.com describes it — the technical term given to a severe fear of public speaking. People who suffer from glossophobia tend to freeze in front of any audience, even a couple of people. They find their mouth dries up, their voice is weak and their body starts shaking. They may even sweat, go red and feel their heart thumping rapidly.  As many as 75% of people suffer from this phobia in varying degrees.

For many, it is quite embarrassing to admit it; especially for people whose jobs require them to make presentations.  You cannot fully overcome fear.  Even experienced speakers have a little anxiety before they speak.  So, don’t stress yourself out if you are not able to shake it off. But if you manage your anxiety well, you can focus your energy on other important aspects of your presentation. The first step to public speaking success is to manage this fear.

Image Credit: Gerd Altmann
License: CC0

Here are 5 tips that can be helpful if you suffer from Glossophobia:

  1. Remember that it’s not about you.

Take the emphasis off yourself because the audience is here to listen to the content of your message. The audience wants you to succeed in delivering your message. Contrary to what you may believe, they do not enjoy watching someone squirm on the stage. So, switch your focus to your message. That’s the reason they are there.

  1. Get to know how your body expresses fear

Does your mouth seem to dry up? Do you feel queasy in the tummy (In Malaysia, we call this the ‘angin’ feeling)? Do you tend to talk super-fast or seem to freeze?   I know a person who always feels hungry right before a presentation.  Another one paces back and forth.   Another person tends to blank out and cannot remember what he is supposed to speak on. Get to know your anxiety signals, and then …

  1. Work towards soothing them

Once you know what to expect when you are anxious, proactively work on soothing the symptoms. You may need to take something for that uneasy feeling in your tummy (be aware that the aroma from minyak angin can go pretty far. LOL!), or carry some tissues to wipe the sweaty palms. Some are lucky – they just need to eat. For me, coffee works every time.

  1. Be prepared for unfriendly faces

In every presentation I have made, there are always friendly faces — smiling, nodding their heads, and enthusiastic.  Occasionally, there were people who made me want to end my speech and get off the stage as fast as I could. Some will be frowning; some sit there with stone-cold faces; others have glazed eyes and some scowl. Expect them so that you don’t get flustered when you see them.  You should not ignore them, try to make eye contact with them,  and smile. If that does not work, just accept them as they are. You do not have to spend all your energy trying to engage with them.

  1. Focus on the present

Don’t expend your energy worrying about the ‘what if’.  Focus on the present.  While you are waiting for your turn to speak, you can take your mind off those worries by doing some simple mental exercises – recite tongue twisters, play Sudoku, – or listen to the speaker(s) before you. If possible, you can even spend the time doing some facial and vocal warm up exercises.

Anxiety often works against us. But when managed well, it can propel you to greater heights. With practice, you’ll find that your anxiety level will reduce over time. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get an applauding audience every time. It’s just part of your journey.  You don’t have to be perfect all the time. Accept it and become your own biggest supporter.

I hope this article has helped you. Send us an email or post a comment here to share your story with me. Which of these tips helped you most? Do you have any other helpful tips that you can share with others?

About the Author: Gina Phan is a consultant and trainer with Zinfinity Consulting. She currently conducts courses in leadership skills, consultative sales and consults in library automation. Click here to contact her or follow her on Facebook.

Read her other posts.

Tags: #presentations #presentationskills #publicspeaking #communications #leadership #fear #glossophobia #gp #overcome public speaking anxiety techniques


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14 thoughts on “Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking

  1. Itss such as you read my mind! Yoou seem to know so much approximately this, sjch
    as you wrte thhe guide in it or something.
    I believe that you simply can do with some % to force the message
    house a little bit, however other than that, this is wonderful blog.
    A great read. I’ll definitely bbe back.
    akreditasi pereguruan tinggi

    • Hi there Beasiswa Lulusan SMA 2016:

      Thanks for your reading and your feedback. I am happy you found the article helpful.
      I will surely write more emphatically in the future. After all, it’s why these articles are written — to help people.

      See you soon. I’m mulling over my next article.

  2. Good advice, Gina. I would suggest using our own words when we speak. Instead of getting into tongue twisting moments like “It gives me great pressure to be here today,” avoid the struggle between “l” and “r” by simply saying, “I am happy to be here today.” if we constantly find ourselves having problem dealing with an ice-breaker.

    Public speaking is simply talking to more than one or a few persons – the more we get out there to speak, the better we become as it becomes habitual.

  3. Learning all the skills is great, but getting out there and do it regularly is the best way to overcome it. Experience counts a lot in public speaking. JUST DO IT. If it doesnt kill u, it’ll make u stronger.

  4. Good advises in public speech making. I would add, rehearse and visualizing techniques to prepare for public speeches.

  5. Thanks for the tips. It really did help. One of my and my boyfriend’s symptoms for anxiety is the need to do number 2. Haha. I’ll try to consciously ease my anxiety now.

  6. Its is always good to recognized your panic signal and work toward acknowledging them. Try not to be substance dependent … what if they run out of coffee !! lolz !!

    • That’s a good point. That’s why I always bring my own supply. 😉
      I do agree that substance dependence is not to be encouraged. Try something else.

      Thanks for your feedback.

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