Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is a common social phobia that affects approximately 25% of the population. Individuals with glossophobia experience mild to debilitating anxiety when speaking in front of small or large groups. While there is unfortunately no quick fix to cure a fear of public speaking, here are five ways to improve it:
- Preparation is key! Thoroughly know your content inside and out and anticipate every potential question you may be asked. The more prepared and knowledgeable you are, the less worried or anxious you will feel. Try rehearsing in front of a mirror or do a video recording or voice recording to get more comfortable and confident with your information and presentation.
- Explore medication. Try beta blockers if you suffer from uncomfortable physical symptoms (nerves, excessive sweating, blushing, tension or shaky speech) that negatively affect your presentation and create meta-anxiety (anxiety about anxiety). Beta blockers are drugs that help prevent the activation of a physical “fight-or-flight” response. Always consult a medical professional or healthcare provider for medical advice or treatment, including for beta blockers.
- Make public speaking a regular part of your life. It might sound terrifying for those who fear it, but the more experience you gain speaking in public, the more relaxed and confident you will be. Exposure therapy is a well-known and effective technique for conquering fears. . You may even try Virtual reality (VR) exposure therapy! You can also join a local Toastmasters club, practice in front of family or friends, or volunteer to speak at a small event where the outcome of your speech is relatively inconsequential.
- Practice daily mindfulness. Incorporate mindfulness and short meditations every day to get your neural muscles working. Try apps like Calm, or programs like Positive Intelligence. Don’t expect to try this before speaking as a one-time cure. Instead, add it into your daily routine and make sure to do lots of mindfulness on the day of a presentation.
- Confront the shame around your fear of public speaking. Consider combatting the fear by naming it to the audience and making a light-hearted joke about it. (At a WINnovation conference in 2019, the keynote speaker said she was feeling nervous at the beginning of her talk. She went on to say that she had read research about “tricking the brain into thinking you’re excited when you’re nervous.” So, she repeated “I’m excited” a few times and got a big laugh from the audience.) Vulnerability makes you more authentic and creates a stronger connection with your audience.
Avoiding a fear will never allow you the opportunity to conquer it. Instead, break the barriers holding you back from public speaking and open yourself up to another world of possibilities.