Estimated reading time: 3 mins
Public speaking is one of the most common fears that people have, and it’s easy to understand why. Public speaking is a nerve-wracking experience that can leave even the most confident of individuals feeling anxious and vulnerable in front of an audience. It’s no surprise then, that so many people dread having to stand up and deliver a speech.
The fear of public speaking is so pervasive that it has been given its own name – Glossophobia. It is estimated that around 75% of all people suffer from some degree of glossophobia, including many well-known celebrities such as Emma Watson and Mark Zuckerberg. This fear can be so intense that it can even cause physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, rapid heartbeat and nausea.
So why does public speaking cause this level of anxiety? Well, research has shown that the fear we experience when speaking in public is linked to our primitive survival instinct. In other words, our brains are wired to perceive any kind of public embarrassment or humiliation as a threat to our safety. As humans, we are hard-wired to avoid situations where we might feel embarrassed or judged by others.
Furthermore, when we are in the spotlight the stakes feel much higher than in everyday conversations because there is more pressure to perform well. We want others to think highly of us and therefore we are afraid to make mistakes or say something wrong in front of an audience.
This fear isn’t limited to adults either; research shows that children as young as five years old can suffer from glossophobia (Levin et al., 2017). This is especially true for those who have experienced negative feedback or criticism before taking the stage; for example, if their teacher has previously put them down for not performing well during class presentations.
Interestingly, it appears that gender also plays a role in how individuals react to public speaking situations; studies suggest that women tend to be more fearful than men (Levin et al., 2017). This could potentially be due to cultural expectations about how women should behave and speak in front of an audience; for example, being too assertive or outspoken may cause women to feel insecure about their performance or worried about being judged negatively by others.
Fortunately though, there are a number of strategies which can help reduce these feelings of anxiety when delivering a speech. Firstly, it is important to remember that everyone gets nervous before speaking in public; even experienced speakers still feel some level of butterflies before taking the stage! Acknowledging this will help you realise that you’re not alone in your fear and anxiety.
Secondly, preparation is key; take time beforehand to practice your presentation out loud and familiarise yourself with your material so you don’t get caught off guard while on stage. Taking deep breaths before you begin will also help calm your nerves by reducing your heart rate and slowing down your breathing pattern.
Finally, remember not to focus too much on perfectionism; try not to worry about making mistakes but instead focus on connecting with your audience through eye contact and engaging body language (Rudolph et al., 2018). Most importantly though, enjoy the opportunity – it’s a great way of developing confidence!
In conclusion then, public speaking remains one of the most common fears amongst both adults and children alike due its potential for embarrassment or humiliation in front of an audience. However with adequate preparation and practice it is possible for individuals overcome their anxiety and learn how to effectively communicate with an audience in order achieve their desired result.
- Levin JE et al., (2017) ‘Glossophobia: Fear Associated With Public Speaking’ Frontiers in Psychology 8(1101): 1-9 doi:10/3389/fpsyg/2017/01101
- Rudolph A et al., (2018) ‘The Art Of Public Speaking: Tips And Techniques For Success’ The American Journal Of Nursing 118(7): 54-59 doi: 10/1097/01