Does talking in front of a group of people make your palms sweaty, and your heart beat out of your chest? If so, you are joining more than 77% of the population with glossophobia, or the fear of speaking in public.
The level of anxiety people feel during public speaking can vary widely. Some people get nervous before public speaking, while others are so anxious they can’t speak at all. Whatever your level of anxiety, there are ways you can manage it.
If you are wondering how to get over public speaking anxiety, you’ve come to the right place. This public speaking anxiety guide covers all the tips to get you talking to a crowd with confidence.
What Is Public Speaking Anxiety
Getting anxious before talking to a crowd is a common form of social anxiety. This anxiety is not limited to speaking in front of huge crowds. People with glossophobia may feel anxious when speaking to a class or a smaller group of people.
If you have public speaking anxiety, you may have a harder time sharing your ideas. Because of this, you may find it difficult to advance academically, socially, or in your career.
Symptoms of Public Speaking Anxiety
Most of the symptoms you see in public speaking anxiety are the same as other anxieties. The difference is these symptoms show up when someone goes to speak in public.
If you have public speaking anxiety, tell-tale signs can creep up months before you have to give a presentation. When the time comes to talk in front of a group, you may suffer from the following symptoms:
- beating heart
- voice that quivers
- shortness of breath
- upset stomach
You may be able to manage your symptoms with extra speech preparation or strategies. If your public speaking anxiety starts to interfere with your life, you may need additional resources to control the stress.
Some signs you have a more severe form of public speaking anxiety are the following:
- changing a career to avoid public speaking
- changing college courses to prevent public speaking
- not taking a promotion that involves speaking to a crowd
- avoiding giving speeches like if you are the maid of honor at a wedding
Causes of Public Speaking Anxiety
A fear of public speaking comes from a fight or flight response. When your body feels threatened, it can release adrenaline. This adrenaline rush is your body’s way of preparing you to fight off danger.
Even though you aren’t in real danger, your body will feel like it. Feeling so stressed can make it almost impossible to deliver a speech to people.
There is a genetic component to glossophobia. People with family members who have this disorder are more likely to have it themselves.
Another factor of public speaking anxiety is a negative earlier experience. If you were embarrassed giving a speech in the past, you could develop glossophobia.
How Fear Affects Public Speaking
Public speaking anxiety can change how you speak to an audience. You can talk too fast, look to the floor, or talk without inflection. Most of the time, this results from wanting to get the speech over with as quickly as possible.
Talking Too Fast
Talking too quickly can impact your breathing. You’ll take short, shallow breaths instead of deep, full ones.
These shallow breaths can make you feel like you don’t have enough air. It will feel hard to breathe and can increase your anxiety as you give your speech.
Talking too fast can make it harder for the audience to know what you are saying. You’ll sound nervous and monotone.
Ignoring the Audience
It’s not uncommon to avoid looking at the audience if you have glossophobia. You may focus on your note cards to dodge facing the crowd. You can miss out on audience cues and questions.
How to Get Over Public Speaking Anxiety
Picturing people in their underwear won’t do the trick if you fear public speaking. Thankfully, there are ways to help if you have this condition. Treatments for glossophobia are essential, as public speaking can be unavoidable.
The way that you’ll get over your public speaking anxiety will depend on the severity of your anxiety. Many times, you can manage your speaking stress using several techniques. Other times, public speaking anxiety is more severe and needs the help of a doctor or therapist.
Short-term therapy is a helpful tool if you need to get in front of a crowd. One form of this therapy is called systematic desensitization. This form of therapy helps you become desensitized to the things that bring your stress.
This therapy helps by gradually exposing you to the things you fear. As you experience them, you learn how to relax.
You may start by learning how to take deep breaths. Deep breathing will put more air in your body and help you feel less stress.
You can learn strategies that can help you relax your muscles. Clenching your muscles is expected when you are experiencing anxiety. Learning to overcome this can help your body feel calmer.
Finally, you may learn visualization techniques. One way to do this is to envision yourself in a serene area. Another way you can use this technique is by imagining yourself on stage and feeling great. If you picture yourself confident on stage, you can help make it a reality.
A newer form of therapy uses virtual reality (VR) technology. If you try this form of therapy out, you’ll put yourself on stage using virtual reality. This form of treatment is usually fast and effective.
Your doctor is an excellent resource if you want to try therapy to help your public speaking disorder. They can refer you to a therapist who can help.
Another way to help with your public speaking anxiety is through medication. A doctor or therapist can prescribe medications you can take before a speech.
Most of the medications prescribed in this situation are beta-blockers. A beta-blocker helps keep your fight-or-flight response from affecting your heart. When adrenaline isn’t flooding your body, your heart won’t beat as fast.
A beta-blocker can keep your blood vessels relaxed. Relaxed blood vessels mean your blood pressure will stay down too.
Beta-blockers are usually used for problems like heart failure or high blood pressure. It is an off-label use if a doctor prescribes them for your anxiety.
Preparing for a Public Speaking Engagement
Many times, you can combine therapy or medication with public speaking strategies. The more preparation you have, the better you will feel at speaking in front of people. You will feel more confident and have an easier time getting your thoughts across.
Writing Your Speech
If you have flexibility in the topic you are discussing, choose one that interests you. Connect your topic to yourself by giving a personal story or fun fact to start your speech. This is a good technique to capture your audience right off the bat.
Finding a topic you enjoy will help make the speech itself stronger. When you like researching the subject, you’ll be more invested in writing about it. Your audience will tell how interested you are and pay more attention to what you are saying.
Getting someone to take another look at a presentation is never a bad idea. Have a trusted person listen to you perform your speech.
Start with one person and get their honest feedback. As you feel more comfortable, increase your audience size and see how you feel.
Before the Speech Preparation
Before your speech, set up a time to see where you will be presenting. Try a practice run in the venue itself. Familiarizing yourself with your venue will help things not feel so new on the day of the speech.
Will you be using visuals as part of your presentation? Visual aids can be a great tool to help you remember your speech. If you are using a presentation, don’t read every word from your slides, or you’ll lose your audience.
Make sure you practice with your visuals and know where to put them during your speech. If you are using technology in your speech, make sure you know how to set everything up.
Don’t be afraid to communicate with the venue to accommodate your needs. If you want something to lean against, ask for a podium. If you get a dry mouth when you talk, see if they will provide a water bottle.
You can use different strategies to keep your speech organized and easier to follow. Instead of writing your entire speech down word-for-word, try noting only the keywords. Your audience will be more engaged if you are not reading from a script.
Try a color-coding system for your speech. It will be easier to keep your place when the sections are color-coded.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practicing your speech is helpful for people with and without public speaking anxiety. This step is especially vital if there is a time limit.
If there is a question component, practice answering complex questions on the spot. Start by acknowledging the question and move into your answer. If you don’t have an answer, let them know you’ll work to find one out.
Practice in front of your phone or a mirror. You can better see nervous habits that may stand out to your crowd. Notice the following areas as you practice your speech:
- facial expressions
- hand gestures
- body movements
Once you are more aware of your nervous habits, you’ll better be able to control them later.
Find a professional public speaker, like Steve Farber, and watch them talk to a crowd. You can pick up tips on how to pace yourself and use gestures.
Practicing your breathing is crucial to sounding calm. Steady breathing will keep you from rambling on during your speech. Make sure to do breathing exercises to keep you focused.
Before your speech, come up with a list of strategies you will use to calm your nerves. Have a list of breathing exercises or mediation techniques ready to go to keep you relaxed.
On the day of the speech, find a quiet place and do some deep breathing. Put one hand on your chest and another on your belly. Breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your lips.
You can also try breathing in for four seconds. Hold your breath for seven seconds, and breathe out for eight seconds.
The power of positive visualization can increase your performance. During your practice runs, envision your speech going well with an engaged audience. You can use these positive feelings to help ease your mind during the real thing.
Positive affirmations are another strategy you can use to help calm yourself. Use an erasable marker to write your affirmation on your bathroom mirror. This way, you can see it every day until the day of the speech.
Accept Some Anxiety
If you are someone who suffers from public speaking anxiety, it will likely never entirely go away. Even professional public speakers can feel nervous from time to time. Accepting some nerves, but keeping them at a manageable level, is healthy.
One strategy to help with extra nerves is to work out on the morning of your speech. You’ll expel any bottled-up nerves before your big moment.
When your speech is over, look at what you can do to improve the next time. Everyone always has room for things they can improve on.
If you have a recording of your speech, watch it back. Look to see what body movements or nervous quirks you made. Take note of these and practice them before your next speech.
With Practice and Outside Help, Turn Public Speaking Anxiety Into Confidence
Knowing how to get over public speaking anxiety will help you put steps in place to overcome your fears. With preparation, practice, and outside help, you can feel much more comfortable on a stage.
Many public speaking events happen for work events. Check out our business articles for inspiration for your next speech today.