Are you terrified by the thought of public speaking? Is speaking in public your biggest fear?
Let’s be honest, fear of public speaking is real. If the mere thought of speaking in public makes your palms sweaty, voice quiver, and hands shaky then don’t worry, you are not alone in this! Almost 75% of individuals consider public speaking as their biggest fear which is also known as ‘Glossophobia’. So, how to conquer the fear of public speaking? Even the most seasoned public speakers need a considerable amount of time to prepare for an event. They are only able to address a forum with confidence after practicing some famous tips and tricks.

Whether you feel slight nervousness before any presentation. Or experience extreme panic before addressing a forum, you can overcome public speaking phobia with some amazing tips listed below. But, before going into that let us address some commonly asked questions like, what causes the fear of public speaking? How common is the fear of public speaking? And is the fear of public speaking a mental disorder? So, let’s get into it.

What causes the fear of public speaking?

There are many factors at play when it comes to fear of public speaking. A bad experience or a self-imposed image of perfection might be the cause. In addition, a habit of comparing oneself to others, chances of appearing nervous and going blank may also lead to glossophobia. Every person may have distinct reasons as to why do I get nervous when speaking in public. Examining yourself and going into the depth of the cause will give you a clear understanding of your fear. If you were compelled to give a sudden class presentation, which didn’t go well, then your mind instills that experience and goes into fight or flight mode the next time.

Although, anticipating an event beforehand might be good in a way that enables you to prepare fully. However, excessive focus on yourself will also be a gateway for public speaking anxiety to take over you. So, you need to strike a balance between all these factors. Don’t let the fear of going blank or the lack of skills inhibit you to display your full potential. Also, don’t try to comprehend what the audience might be thinking. Often, remaining silent for a second or two might seem like an eternity for you but the audience might not even notice the pause. Moreover, the facial expressions of a person will not always give you an insight into their mind too.

Thus, different causes amount to the fear of public speaking. Knowing exactly what your reason is will help you to overcome the fear of communication and speak well in public.

How common is the fear of public speaking?

According to a survey held by Gallup, 40-45% of Americans cited speaking in front of the public as their second biggest fear while snakes being at the top. While another study suggests that almost 75% of the world’s population is affected by glossophobia. Which means that it affects 1 out of every 4rth individual. Also, the Fear of public speaking is more prevalent in younger individuals and females than older and males. So, it would be safe to say that is a common anxiety disorder that affects almost every individual at some stage in their life.

Is the fear of public speaking a mental disorder?

Fear of public speaking is a social anxiety disorder, which can be malignant if you don’t take it serious. It might lead to loneliness and low self-esteem issues. It can even exacerbate other mental health problems, such as depression or other disorders. Although it isn’t a chronic disorder itself but the fear of judgment by others which is the underlying cause of it can lead to self-doubts and low confidence. This constant fear of negative evaluation by others hampers your performance potential. Also, it leads to self-loathing behavior and you might end up being too critical of yourself. The physical and verbal symptoms of Glossophobia might even lead to a nervous breakdown in certain situations.

Thus, professional coaching and therapy is the treatment of fear of public speaking. This is not something to take lightly if you want to advance in your career.

How to conquer the fear of public speaking?

To go ahead in your career you have to speak to a group of audiences whether it be a meeting with your superiors or giving a presentation in class. Presenting your ideas and thoughts effectively across the board will help you to be successful. However, most of the time the only thing standing between you and your success might be the fear of public speaking. But, together with a bit of practice and patience, you can overcome public speaking anxiety fast with the tips listed below.

1- Get organized

Getting organized ahead of time to conquer the fear of public speaking. Kill the procrastinator in you for a while and get moving. Prepare everything that you might need during the presentation. Prepare any props, audio / visual aids, or other supplementary elements that might add to your authority over the subject. Know your topic and have an in-depth understanding of it. Also, keep in mind your audience to whom you will be addressing. Get to know whether they will be a group of experts or some college teens knowing nothing about the topic at hand. Always be more knowledgeable than your audience. If you tend to lose focus try to use a small card outlining every important point of the presentation. The more organized you are the more comfortable you will be. Try to come up with some queries which the audience might have.

Being organized and prepared for a public speaking event will add to your confidence minimizing your chances of making mistakes.

2- How to conquer the fear of public speaking- The power of PPP

Now, this is my secret mantra when someone asks me how I overcome my fear of public speaking. Practice, practice, and practice! Practicing your speech will give you a leeway to express yourself thoroughly without having the fear of forgetting any important points. Virtual Reality Therapy (VRT) is a tried, tested, and proven way to reduce glossophobia. It is a widely used cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of public speaking anxiety. In this treatment, the sufferer has to practice in front of a virtual audience. Your mind goes through the same experience when facing a virtual audience or a real one.

So, in this treatment when you practice to the public your mind gets used to it. This is the ‘Law of habituation’ which says that ‘The more you practice something the less fearful you are.’ With every practice session, your fear of public speaking will considerably decrease.
Thus, to conquer the fear of public speaking practice frequently until you are an expert on the topic. But, be gentle with yourself at the same time.

3- Stop thinking about the audience

When addressing an audience we often overthink the possible outcomes of an event. Thinking that the audience might not be interested in what we have to say. Contemplating their facial expressions or body language. However, the facial expressions of your audience might not reveal their true feelings. You can’t ‘hear’ what the audience might be thinking. So, stop acting like a ‘Know it All’ and pressurizing yourself more than required. The habit of mind reading is fruitful in certain situations but can be bad as well. Because if you think too much about what others might be thinking of you, you can’t express yourself fully. You’ll be consciously about whatever you say in front of an audience. Besides, you will be more critical of yourself if you commit a single minute mistake even.

The constant strain on your mind will force it to think of the audience as a potential threat. Instead of assuming negative feedback from your audience, try to connect with them. Know what their needs are and why are they attending the event. To conquer the fear of public speaking break the walls between you and the audience. If you connect with them at a personal level you’ll win their hearts even before coming to the topic at hand.

4- How to conquer the fear of public speaking – Don’t dwell on your mistakes

Everyone is imperfect. Each of us commits mistakes. But, should that fear of committing mistakes or being ridiculed by others be a source of avoiding public speaking events? Not at all! You should bear in mind that even the most famous personalities were once fearful of speaking in front of the public. However, by practicing a few techniques they rose to the heights of fame and success. Abraham Lincoln, Nicole Kidman, Sigmund Freud, Gandhi are just a few examples among others. Stop thinking about a single pause, a slight stumble over a word, or a missed point. As far as the overall information is well-researched and informative the audience will not notice a slight mistake. Instead of thinking about a bad experience where the presentation didn’t go as well as you thought it might. Start thinking about what you learned from that experience.

Rather than thinking about your inefficiencies or limitations think about how you managed to prepare exceptional material. Accept that all people commit mistakes while presenting to a group of audience. Keep in mind that no one is perfect to conquer the fear of public speaking.

5- Practice deep breathing and speak slowly

To be confident in public speaking focus on your breathing. When you practice deep breathing you get more in control and exude confidence. It not only has a calming effect but you’ll also go into momentum while speaking. Taking a few deep breaths before going on the podium gives you much-needed clarity of thoughts and in speech. It might take some practice before you observe the change this breathing exercise has on you. But, you should at least start taking a few deep breaths in and out counting till 10.  It will reduce your heart rate, slow down the production of adrenaline, and eventually diminish feelings of anxiety.

Along with practicing deep breathing exercises make a conscious effort to speak slowly. A nervous person will be easily spotted from a distance given that they speak quickly to get done with the situation as soon as possible. So, if you were searching for the answer to how can I be confident in public speaking try this technique. Speaking slowly and calmly will make you less likely to stumble over words, giving an impression of a controlled and authoritative person.

Related: Effective communication skills to master.

6- Go with the flow

Lastly, to conquer the fear of public speaking stop thinking too much. Stop thinking about the audience, about how you will perform, or if the material prepared is up to the mark or not. After doing whatever possibly you could, leave the results to unveil naturally. Overthinking will leave you exhausted and you might not present as well as you thought. During the presentation, if you stumble over a word or two, think to yourself that everyone goes through it. Keep in mind that more than half of the population are fearful of public speaking. You are not alone in this. Every speaker has certain insecurities or shortcomings playing repeatedly in their minds. But, that does not limit them from pursuing this career. As Mark Twain said,

‘There are two kinds of speakers; those who get nervous and those who are liars.’

Accept that everyone goes through this fear in their lifetime. Let not dread to be your go-to emotion is public speaking events. Instead, acknowledge it, smile a bit, and make eye contact with your audience.

Conclusion;

Fear of public speaking is innate to humans. Many famous personalities including presidents, actors, and singers went through this fear. However, this is not something to be dreadful of. By practicing deep breathing, knowing your material, and being organized you can be as great a public speaker as Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, or Nelson Mandela.  

About the Author

Sara Khan

Sara is a freelance writer and an entrepreneur running a fashion label 'Rococo official'. She aims to spread happiness and inspire people whether through writing or clothing.

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