how to overcome the fear of speaking in public?

Classified in the social anxiety register, glossophobia is very common. Fear of ridicule, of judgment … here’s how to stop being afraid of speaking in public.

This is a fear that many people have in common. Glossophobia, or fear of speaking in public, is one of the most common social anxiety. The term is derived from the Greek word glōssa (language) and phobos (fear). It is estimated that about 40% of people really dread this kind of exercise. Giving a speech at a wedding, speaking at a company meeting, going on stage in the theater, speaking in front of a large audience … so many situations that are a source of stress for people who suffer from this phobia. And this can become a real problem, a handicap on a daily basis.

However, the fear of finding yourself in this kind of situation can be cured in order to overcome your fear of not being able to manage your emotions in front of an audience of people, known or unknown. It also depends on the level of your apprehension. This is because glossophobia affects people to varying degrees. For example, some have only a few butterflies in their stomachs before speaking while others have severe panic attacks. A situation that no one wants to have to face.

The physical symptoms of this glossophobia are:

  • tension
  • tremors
  • a stutter
  • frequent use of filler words (“uh”, “humm”, “ah”)
  • increased heart rate
  • nausea
  • To vomit
  • excessive sweating
  • dizziness
  • shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • strong muscle tension

Why are we afraid to speak in public?

The classic response is either an instinctive fight or flight response. In other words, when we feel threatened in life, the brain releases adrenaline and steroids. These two hormones modify blood sugar levels (which has the consequences, among other things, of generating feelings of dizziness). Plus, blood rushes to your brain to make decisions in a split second. Faced with a feeling of aggression (alone in front of a crowd watching us), anxiety rises, it is the survival instinct and the reptilian brain that take, in part, the controls.

How to reduce your glossophobia?

To reduce your fear of public speaking, you have to go gradually but confront it regularly. This can first be a speech in front of three to four people in a meeting, colleagues whom you know well and with whom you are in confidence. Beginning by speaking in front of a small audience allows you to gradually feel more comfortable and to learn to manage your disorder and control your body in front of a group, even a small one. This fairly simple method makes it possible to reduce stage fright, or in any case to know how to apprehend and manage it. But it only works if you have mild glossophobia. In the event of significant symptoms, other solutions exist.

In a more disabling situation, cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) is a good option to progress in the matter. Working with a specialist therapist can help you identify the root cause of your anxiety when speaking in public. For example, you may find that you fear being ridiculed rather than talking, because you were laughed at when you were a child. Thanks to this therapy, you will be able to address your various fears and the negative thoughts that accompany them. It will also be an opportunity to acquire a better way of handling your negative thoughts and transform them into something more constructive. For example, instead of thinking “I can’t make mistakes”, you will learn to accept that everyone, during a presentation or a speech, has the right to make mistakes. Likewise, rather than having the audience assume in advance that you are incompetent, tell yourself that everyone is hoping you are successful. Simple advice that deserves to be verbalized to become more aware of it.

How about a public speaking workshop?

aIt is also possible to participate in workshops to learn to feel more comfortable when speaking in public. Through various exercises, the goal is to acquire the keys to gain confidence, discern one’s strengths, know how to master one’s speech and recognize its impact on the public. Speaking will then no longer be suffered but seen more as an opportunity to be recognized by one’s peers.

These workshops help to acquire the basics of speaking: where to look, how to pose your voice, what attitude and posture to have, what gestures to adopt, well choose your language elements or how to structure your speech … It goes through a few a coach’s course to receive explanations and basic advice, but above all through scenarios (professional or personal) and games to practice and face your fears in a communication situation. This is an opportunity to understand how to conduct a meeting, pitch a project, make a public presentation or even give a speech in a company.

Other avenues for managing glossophobia

In some extreme situations, when cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and public speaking workshops have not worked and symptoms remain, it may be helpful to seek chemical solutions. Your doctor can prescribe one of the many medicines used to treat anxiety disorders. This can either be beta blockers, a solution commonly used to treat high blood pressure and certain heart conditions. Another option: antidepressants, which are useful for treating depression, but also for controlling social anxiety. This kind of treatment may not help you overcome the causes of your glossophobia, but it can still help you cope with important events where you need to express yourself in front of an audience.

Dare to go on stage, mission impossible? Art as therapy? Engaging in this exercise can be a great way to build self-confidence to speak in public. The advantage is that you present yourself on stage not as yourself but in the skin of a character. It’s a way of exposing yourself without revealing too much about yourself. Taking acting lessons is an interesting exercise that can be liberating to eliminate or, at least, reduce your stage fright. Not only do you learn to move your body on stage but also to pose your voice, manage your emotions and overcome your fears in the face of others.

Prepare well before speaking in public

  • Know your subject well. Without going so far as to advise you to memorize your presentation, you must nevertheless master your presentation and know what you want to say. You need to have a good idea of ​​the key points of the topic being discussed. Pay particular attention to the introduction, as this is when you are likely to be most nervous.
  • Rehearse your presentation. Alone or in front of a loved one you trust, rehearse your presentation until it is no longer a secret. You can also practice in front of a mirror. Then free yourself from your text to detach yourself from it. But your confidence will increase when you realize that you know what you are going to say.
  • Film your presentation. With your smartphone, record yourself doing the presentation. You may notice annoying twitching or poor posture. And, you never know, you might also be pleasantly surprised at how confident you sound and how calm your voice is.
  • Make audience questions part of your routine. Write down a list of questions you might be asked and be prepared to answer them. Where appropriate, plan to involve the audience in your presentation by asking questions. But it can also wait until you have passed certain stages in your fight against glossophobia. Don’t put extra pressure on yourself if you don’t feel like you can.
  • Just before the presentation, practice one last time. This will reassure you as the tension builds. To avoid overdoing it, avoid eating or drinking a stimulant (such as coffee) just before speaking in front of an audience. However, you can drink a little water to avoid having your mouth too dry. This will help you overcome the normal disorder at the start of speaking.
  • Familiarize yourself with the location. A room you don’t know? Equipment or uses that are not usual for you? Take the time to locate the places and see how the equipment works (computer, video projector, microphone …) to eliminate any additional stress.
  • Get started! Has the long-awaited (or dreaded) moment arrived? Take a good breath (a few breathing exercises just before you speak can help) and start your presentation. Start by smiling and making eye contact with different members of the audience. If you meet a benevolent gaze, a person you know well in the crowd, do not hesitate to use it as an “anchor”: address yourself to her and come back to her regularly without looking at her exclusively so that the rest of the public don’t feel left out. And remember: being a little nervous is okay. But glossophobia is overcome in most cases. In fact, with a little practice, you might learn to enjoy public speaking. And that can turn out to be a real asset in life.

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