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Terrified to Talk: The Fear of Public Speaking

Written by Kevin Lerner on .

Statistics and symptoms of Speech Anxiety and solutions to ease The Fear of Public Speaking

Terrified to Talk

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Public speaking is considered the greatest fear a person can have.  Some who have been called to speak in public act as if they’ve seen a ghost.  Pale stares, Sweating, and Nausea.  They are truly Terrified to Talk.

According to StatisticBrain.com and the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 75% of Americans are afraid of Public Speaking.  It’s called Glossophobia…and this anxiety is more common than the fear of darkness, spiders or even death.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld used to joke that, "at a funeral, most people would rather be lying in the casket than delivering the eulogy."

Even experienced speakers and trainers who have years of experience speaking in front of audiences still deal with this anxiety to a degree.

 

The Symptoms of Glossophobia

Symptoms of Glossophobia

Someone who is truly terrified to talk may suffer increased blood pressure and heartbeat, excessive sweating, stiffening of neck and upper back muscles, dry mouth, blanking out, memory loss, nausea and sometimes difficulty breathing.  Other symptoms are more subtle.

  • The fear of public speaking may arise early in childhood- in the classroom where the student nervously prays that the teacher doesn’t call on him to answer a question.  
  • It can happen in the workplace where the manager experiences panic attacks at the thought of making a presentation to her superiors. 
  • It can happen at home where the jobseeker becomes emotionally distraught before going on a job interview. 
  • It can happen at a party where the possibility of meeting someone new is curtailed by butterflies in the stomach and sweaty palms. 

Indeed, the fear of speaking in public causes countless people to miss out on academic, social, and career opportunities.

 

The Causes of Speech Anxiety

The Causes of Speech Anxiety

Psychologists and scientists agree that there’s no one specific cause for Speech Anxiety.  It affects everyone…everywhere.

  • It may manifest early in childhood, by a lack of interaction with one's childhood family or friends.
  • Growing older, a lack of confidence and conviction in what one wants to say may cause hesitation and fear.
  • A self-consciousness or negative self-image about one's looks or body posture. Subconscious concerns such as "am I too fat?" or "Do they like me?"
  • Similarly, an inferiority complex or low self-esteem developed over the years. This may have been caused by someone's upbringing.
  • The fear that people may laugh based on a prior experience may cause hesitation.
  • Random thoughts and other priorities can lead to procrastination of practice...making a speech even more tricky and troublesome.
  • Someone may not want to take the time or effort to research the topic or write the speech. This laziness can create a very nervous speaker.
  • Any speech disorder like stammering or phonemic or articulation disorder can be a physical or psychological impediment to confident speaking.

Solutions & Resources

The thought of speaking in public can leave people frozen with fear. But thankfully, there are solutions and resources.  

Techniques to Reduce the Fear of Speaking

The first step is to know that you are not alone!  By applying these simple techniques, you can reduce your fear of speaking.

Techniques to Reduce Fear of Speaking

  • Preparing for a clear state of mind can reduce your fear by 10%.
  • Effective breathing techniques can reduce your anxiety by another 15%. 
  • And proper practice and rehearsal can build confidence and reduce your fear by about 75%.

Join a Speaking Organization or Club

 Join a Speaking Organization - Toastmasters

A great way to gain confidence and control when speaking is to join a public speaking organization.  With nearly 300,000 members, Toastmasters International is the most popular group, with thousands of chapters globally.

Hire a Speech Coach or Trainer 

hire-a-speech-coach-or-trainer

You can hire a Speech Coach or Trainer.  Executive Speech Coaches and Presentation Skills Trainers work in every major city. The Presentation Team provides solutions and resources for individuals or groups on-site or remotely.

Read Books & Self-Help Material

Read books and Self-Help Material about Speaking

There’s a vast amount of books and self-help materials focused on helping people conquer their fear of public speaking.  Three of my favorite books by colleagues are: 

  • The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo
  • Simply Speaking by David Greenberg
  • Speak Tweaks by Jan Fox

Seek Medical or Holistic Treatment

Seek Medical Treatment for Phobias

Some people with more serious anxieties have found help from medical professionals; counselors and psychologists who can prescribe drugs such as beta blockers to temporarily treat their phobia.  Holistic treatments such as yoga and meditation or certain herbs can help calm the mind to give clarity and confidence when speaking.

Face Our Fears with Courage

Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it

Ultimately, how we conquer our fears depends on the courage we show.   It’s been said that “Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it.”   If you or someone you know has a fear of public speaking, take the courageous step and face your fear.

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