Terrified to Talk

Terrified to Talk: The Fear of Public Speaking

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

Terrified to Talk


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 


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.

Really Very Bad Storm

Really Very Bad: 5 Tips to Strengthen Our Speaking

By eliminating Weak Words from our language, we can strengthen our speeches with stronger adjectives to appear more educated, professional, and effective.

Use stronger adjectives to appear more educated, professional, and effective.

Really Very Bad StormBack in 2010 I was living in South Florida and a tropical storm was heading our way.  I tuned to the news and caught a weather reporter and his call of warning to us.  “A Very Bad Storm” was coming our way.  Very bad storm.  “Very bad.”  It was as if he was talking to a child. We prepared and the “very bad” storm passed without incident, rather dull and diluted, much like the forecaster’s description. 

And yet, everywhere, all the time, people are diluting their descriptions with weak words and ambivalent adjectives.  Not to be an elitist editor, but these Weak Words could have been poignantly enhanced with a simple infusion of an adjective.

Indeed, they can be irritating, unnecessary, convey a message of lack of strength in speaking…and ultimately detract from the message. By eliminating these weak words…we can strengthen our speaking.  By injecting “amplified adjectives” we can add meaning to our message and wizardry to our writings.

Let’s take a look at some of these flaky fluffy filler weak words that we hear out there.

Very…Really…Like…Good…You Know…Okay…

Weak Words

I believe as speakers and communicators, we should aim for a higher standard.   Strive for what I call “Amplified Adjectives”.  I’m not saying that all our words should be potent and powerful, but our language is so full with flowery words, we can paint a rich tapestry with our spoken stories simply by injecting a few colorful adjectives.

Eliminate Unncessary Words

Or sometimes, we can eliminate words entirely…and our speaking and writing becomes stronger.  They’re called Pleonasms!  A pleonasm is a word or phrase which can be removed from a sentence without changing its meaning:   “Let me be honest with you”

For example, in “Hunting Down The Pleonasm”, ‘down’ is pleonastic. Cut it and the meaning of the sentence does not alter.

Many words are used pleonastically: ‘just’, ‘that’ and ‘actually’ are three frequently-seen culprits.

“I actually just know that he’s the killer” can be trimmed to “I know he’s the killer”, and phrases like ‘more or less’ and ‘in any shape or form’ are redundant.

Here are 5 Tips to Eliminate Weak Words in Your Speaking

  1. Listen Carefully.

  2. Record your speech and listen critically.

  3. Solicit feedback from trusted colleagues.

  4. Work to replace ordinary adjectives in your speech.

  5. Join Toastmasters and Find a mentor (to guide and coach you).

 Ultimately, by adding richer adjectives into your language, you’ll come across more educated, professional, and effective.  

Presentation Questions and Answers

Question and Answer is Not the Enemy

Tips for dealing with Question and Answer Sessions in presentations and speeches.

So you’ve made it through your presentation, and now it’s time to open up the discussion to your audience. Feeling a little intimidated?  Stop shaking in your boots about Q&A after you speak. All you have to do is look backwards to believe you can handle it.

  1. Presentation Questions and AnswersIf you have negotiated a toy out of the hands of two screaming kids, you can negotiate an end to a long winded question.
  2. If you have had to handle big or even small business deals with complications, you can get out of any complicated question.
  3. If you have had to speak spontaneously anywhere and had a great feeling after it, you can trust yourself to do it again and again when you answer questions.
  4. If your hubby or your wife happened to be rude to you and you deflected the tension, you can use that same skill and trust it with a rude questioner.
  5. If you watch TV or listen to radio talk shows, the best answers are the 15 second sound bites, not the run-ons. Keep your answers short and move your eyes to the next hand or to another part of the room as you finish your answer. This signifies to the questioner that his time is up and that you aren’t interested in a follow up. If he/she insists, it’s pretty easy to say, “Let’s take some others and you and I can chat at the end.”
  6. Up close and personal contact with the questioner lets the rest of the participants listen in. They feel they’ve had an intimate moment with you, too. That’s a priceless connection for referrals and future work.
Turn Presentation Questions into Action

Turn Presentation Questions into Action

Finally, Q&A shows your audience you are a master of fast thinking. You can also use your answers for humor opps. The laughter resides in your interchanges with the participants. That laughter is their personal memory stick. You just built in RETAINability and the possibility that the group will ask for you again.

I think the benefits of Q&A outweigh all the risks. You WILL get through a tough spot. Look how many you’ve wiggled out of in your lifetime already!!!

Of course, this is all dependent on your knowing your material cold and being able to say “I’ll look into that for you” when you don’t know an answer.  Go for it!

BTW, I was a street reporter on TV and an anchor for almost 30 years, so I confess I have had lots of time to practice getting comfortable with the unexpected!

UMM UMM ERR ERR – Eliminating Crutch Words Fast

Do you, uh, say, errr, you-know, uhhhh…..all the time when you speak?  Researchers say “umming” your way through a speech, a presentation, an interview, or even everyday conversation makes the listener think:

  • You are less intelligent than you really are.
  • You don’t know what you are talking about.
  • You are not prepared.

You don’t want any of those misperceptions out there. Try this simple technique for fixing your um’s, ah’s, and crutch words FAST! Complete with a practice plan.

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