If you’re suffering from glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. An estimated 75% of the world population suffers from some degree of public speaking anxiety.
Don’t worry. Public speaking anxiety doesn’t have to hold back your career.
Most people cope with their anxiety through avoidance. But since public speaking and presentations are important in most work environments, this isn’t a viable option. Your career might require you to step up to the podium, and it doesn’t have to become the dreaded scenario you’ve imagined.
Deal with the symptoms
Public speaking anxiety manifests itself through different physical symptoms, some of which are listed below:
- fast heart rate
- shaking or trembling
- cold sweat
These are caused by your body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. Calm your body down through some relaxation methods.
The easiest thing you can do is to take slow, deep breaths until you feel your heart rate slow down.
Prepare as much as you can
With your “fight or flight” response triggered, you’re sure to encounter problems concentrating. When you feel your mind has gone blank, you’re more likely to stammer thoughtlessly through your presentation.
Most people identify this as the main cause of their public speaking anxiety. Prepare for your upcoming presentation as much as you can to avoid being swept away by your nervousness.
Your preparations should include creating a script and memorizing its general structure. Don’t write down everything you want to say and memorize it word for word. Your delivery might become stiff and lifeless. Worse, you might forget what comes next.
Practice your speech consistently. Do it in front of a mirror until it feels like second nature. If you can, gather a small group of people you trust and have them sit through your rehearsal. Ask them for any pointers or advice for improvement.
Maintain a positive outlook
Focusing on negative thoughts can make your public speaking anxiety worse. It’ll be hard to completely eradicate your concerns, but try to frame them into a more positive outlook.
Identify your concerns and listen to the negative thoughts that feed them. Ask yourself why you might feel this way, and give yourself some positive reinforcement.
For example: You’re anxious that the audience will be dismissive of your presentation and judge your authority or knowledge on the topic at hand.
Instead of questioning your ability to deliver, remind yourself of the research and preparation that went into your presentation. If they bring up anything you’ve missed, don’t take it as a personal attack but a helpful criticism you can use to improve your work.
The Takeaway: Acknowledge your fear
People with public speaking anxiety often fight to hide their fears from their audience. This will only aggravate your nervousness by giving you one more thing to worry about.
As the statistics in the infographic suggests, your public speaking anxiety is perfectly normal. It’s even likely that someone from the audience has the same fears that you do.
Once you’ve smoothened out the edges, having a well-designed PowerPoint presentation should match your winning pitch. But most importantly, it’ll help you connect with your audience better.
Despite your anxiety, remember that you’re not just addressing an auditorium of faceless people. You’re speaking to people with their own ideas on what they find interesting. If your audience is engaged and at ease, you’ll be able to relax and move forward with your presentation.
Glossophobia. Accessed June 11, 2014.
“10 Relaxation Techniques That Zap Stress Fast.” WebMD. Accessed June 11, 2014.