In this article, we will discuss why is public speaking so terrifying for so many people. We will discuss what causes public speaking fear. I will also give a number of tips on how to improve your public speaking.
I will also explain how hypnotherapy can help you feel more relaxed and calm giving presentations or speeches and reduce public speaking fear.
Jerry Seinfeld once said that to the average person. If you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. That’s a funny joke by the famous American comedian. However that feeling might be something that really truly rings true for you.
How many times have you had to stand in front of an audience? This may have been at a wedding, a party, or at work event. Did you feel a real sense of trembling and fear, worried that you might slip up and say the wrong thing or that the audience will notice your nervousness? Public speaking can often feel really overwhelming.
Symptoms of glossophobia; public speaking fear
As you may be aware, glossophobia or public speaking fear, has a number of symptoms. These include sweating, dry mouth, increased blood pressure, stiffening of muscles, feeling nauseous, panic attacks, feeling anxiety, or feeling frozen on the spot.
Causes of glossophobia; public speaking fear
On an individual level, public speaking fear may result from childhood experiences or early adult experiences.
Your fear of public speaking may be related to feeling embarrassed in front of other people, worried about not saying the right thing or saying the wrong thing or feeling rejected by peers, colleagues, or people that are important to you.
Together with clients for hypnotherapy for public speaking, I will often look at these issues. Often it can go back to experiences such as when as a child, someone had some concerns about speaking up or were shy or quiet at school. These fears remain and later in life can result in some fears or concerns about public speaking.
If you’re a bit of a perfectionist or a people pleaser, you may find that you stumble on your words and are overly concerned about what people think about you will. Being a perfectionist, you wish to do an extremely good job. And so you have an anxiety about how well you are speaking or how well your presentation has come across.
If you have any low confidence issues or self esteem issues, these as well will affect how you feel in front of other people. Faced with an audience, it is easy to project onto the faces of strangers, your thoughts and feelings which you have about yourself. So glossophobia can therefore sometimes result from other confidence challenges.
Evolutionary theories about public speaking fear
A number of academics have given some hypothesis around why public speaking fear is such a challenge for many of us. If you think about it, many thousands of years ago, human beings simply had no need for public speaking. It’s something that has only been a problem in more recent times. Some suggest that public speaking fear could be a fear related to human evolution. Related to when, many years ago, human beings felt threatened by large creatures or dangerous predators in the wild. Back in primitive times we would live in large groups, doing so to protect each other from outside threats. This meant that membership of belonging to your group was extremely important for survival.
There would have been a real fear should you ever find yourself rejected or abandoned by the group. Humans would have feared being ostracized by their group. If you had to leave, then your loneliness and separation from the group would be dangerous, leaving you unprotected with the possibility of being attacked. So therefore a human fear of rejection or being ostracized from a group is a real basic concern. It is suggested that public speaking fear is rooted in this ancient and basic fear of being rejected by others. If you value your colleagues’ or friends’ opinion, then fearing saying the wrong thing can be very real, especially when under pressure. In some circumstances the possibility of being rejected by the group could feel something akin to death.
You may think this sound dramatic! However if you have ever experienced public speaking fear, you will agree that, at times, standing alone in front of a group of people can really feel scary. You stand alone, as if you’re separated from them on a deeper level.
According to this evolutionary theory, it’s almost as if we’re afraid that we will be rejected by those in front of us, who at some level we would like to have a kinship or connection with.
Public speaking fear and social anxiety
Public speaking fear is often connected to social anxiety. Social anxiety often involves thoughts about what other people think about us. We may feel less than other people or be worried that people are thinking negatively about us. The psychologist Matthias J Wieser carried out a number of studies related to public speaking and its connection with social anxiety. He measured people’s responses to angry, sad, happy and neutral facial expressions.
Wieser told study participants that they were going to be given a speech and showed them different images of faces, depicting who would be in the audience. He found that those participants who were anxious were indeed far more sensitive to the images especially if they were shown images of angry looking faces rather than the neutral or happy ones. So, in other words, when we’re feeling anxious or nervous in front of people, we begin to look for that which we fear. We become more sensitive to what we think others are thinking or feeling. We more easily assume about whether people will reject us or judge us. Since we are looking for this ‘danger’, we then watch out for and notice those faces or facial expressions more than the neutral or happy others. We over-interpret the looks that people have on their faces and ignore the happy faces that don’t agree with our own anxious state.
If you have had public speaking fear, just think about some presentations, given by others, that you’ve had to sit through. You were simply bored, daydreaming, thinking about other things, thinking about anything else, anything except the presentation. In the shoes of the person giving the presentation your neutral or even bored looking face may have been interpreted as judgemental or a put down, or that they were doing a bad job. The truth was you weren’t really thinking anything, but just had a neutral expression. It was truer that probably the subject matter was boring and you would have just simply preferred to be somewhere else. It was nothing personal against the speaker whatsoever.
Public speaking fear can make you a better speaker
I remember once hearing an interview given by an actor. He said that when he went on stage, if he didn’t feel a little nervous, he wouldn’t do a good job.
In fact, being a little nervous was a sign that they were taking their acting skills and jobs seriously. If they were blasé and over calm and didn’t really care, they wouldn’t be putting in the requisite effort they needed to do a wonderful job and really portray the character well.
In other words, a little bit of anxiety or public speaking fear is not only normal, but would actually perhaps make you a more effective speaker since you will be narrowing your view, focusing and really ensuring you’re doing a good job.
It’s when your anxiety symptoms are too much. When you feel panic, when you sweat, have a dry mouth or really struggle to get your words out, that you may wish to seek some help.
Using hypnotherapy, I’ve helped a number of people improve their public speaking skills. It’s always a joy to hear afterwards that the speech at the wedding or the presentation at work went really well. Hypnotherapy is very effective for reducing public speaking fear
Fact: The audience often don’t notice your public speaking fear
We often think that the audience can perceive our fears and concerns. However, I know from my own personal experience this isn’t the case. I have done a lot of public speaking and many years ago, I was nervous. However afterwards people told me that they didn’t think I was nervous at all, in fact that I came across as confident and calm.
Public speaking fear? Here are a couple of ideas that may help you out.
If you think about Ted talks or those people that speak for a living, they have a number of ways they ensure their talks are captivating and enjoyable. Include these and your public speaking fear will decrease.
One: Good public speakers display and show passion.
There’s no question that if you are passionate about your subject matter and about the words you’re going to say, you’ll be able to ride on that wave of passion and engage your audience better. If you’re passionate about your subject, you won’t be focusing so much on the audience. You’ll be more taken by the words and subject matter. You’ll have a great desire to share your knowledge and thoughts with your audience because you will understand that there’s something more at stake than how you look or the words you say. It’s about getting across the concepts and ideas.
If you’re nervous, it’s harder to be passionate. But I think that actually, if you’re not passionate, you’re more likely to be nervous.
Two: Good public speakers offer many insights.
If you watch a good public speaker you will see that they offer many insights and useful ideas. They will also talk often about their own thoughts and share their feelings. If you’re nervous, you may be trying to say things parrot fashion and putting energy into remembering things off by heart. Remember that if you talk more from your heart and more from your guts and your passions, whilst sharing insights from your life or ideas that are meaningful to you, it will be much easier for you to speak well.
Three: Good public speakers are far more inclusive in their language and attitude.
Think about the language you’re using. Use more inclusive language, collaborative words, and personal pronouns. Involve the audience also. So, if it’s suitable to do so, perhaps ask the audience questions. Involving the audience is a good way to take a break whilst you speak. You can pause and gather your thoughts as someone else is speaking. When you encourage some audience members to talk about their own experiences or opinions, this takes the spotlight off of you. It can help people also to engage more with your presentation rather than just being simply passive listeners.
How do you overcome public speaking fear?
If you have a public speaking fear, it is indeed possible to overcome it. I have helped many clients using hypnotherapy for public speaking to do so. Anxiety of public speaking affects people of all ages, both men and women.
There are a number of treatment options available. As well as hypnotherapy, there is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). There are also some more exposure based treatments. Exposure therapy involves steadily exposing you to your feared situations. People also offer now courses in public speaking and you may find those helpful as well. It’s possible that if you already have some high levels of anxiety or a social anxiety disorder, you may be more prone to experience public speaking fear as well. I also help people with social anxiety.
Here’s a Ted talk about improving your public speaking, if you have public speaking fear.
Tips to reduce public speaking fear
Here are some helpful tips to consider if you ever have public speaking fear.
One: Ensure you know your material and topic. This may sound obvious, but the better you’re prepared, the better you will be able to speak. However, do be careful not to be too overly prepared. Do not overly rely on learning your speech off by heart. Sometimes it’s good to have cue cards, if you’re not sure you will be able to read easily a whole speech. Perhaps note down some bullet points on some cards.
Two: Ensure you’re properly organised. If there are any technical concerns, such as setting up needed equipment, which might include using PowerPoint, computers, or audio equipment, ensure ahead of time that these are all working well. Also ensure you know if there’s somebody that you can call upon, should the PowerPoint presentation or audio suddenly pack up in the middle of your speech.
Three: Practice and practice again. You may wish to practice your presentation in front of a trusted friend or colleague and get feedback from them. You may wish to simply practice in front of a mirror. You may find it reassuring to practice and record yourself. Record your speech on your phone. Though you will notice the odd mistake or error, you will also notice that if you place yourself in the seat of the audience, when watching the playback, you’re far more confident looking and competent than you had realised.
Four: Note down specific worries or concerns you have. It’s quite a good idea to get a piece of paper and list any worries and concerns you have about public speaking. Ask yourself how realistic they are. For example, you might write down that you feel that the audience will think that you’re silly or think that you don’t know your material.
Once you’ve written down that thought, ask yourself, is it true? Well, if you’re giving a presentation about an area that you know a lot about and they do not, then it’s probably not an accurate thought about reality. If you’re giving a presentation at a job interview, then no doubt that presentation will relate to your experiences and knowledge. Therefore as well you will be demonstrating a knowledge that the interview panel may not have, or simply haven’t thought about in that way. You have your own unique perspective that the audience will be interested to hear,
Five: Breathe. Ensure you take time to relax and feel calm before speaking. You might use meditation or deep breathing, especially if you have public speaking fears.
When we are stressed, we often don’t breathe well. You might notice that your breathing becomes fast and shallow. You might not breathe properly through your tummy, through your belly. So ensure that you sit down quietly, maybe with a glass of water before your speech. Do some deep breathing.
Six: Focus on the content of your speech and not the audience. Don’t give so much attention to the audience. Especially if you know that doing so will put you off. When you think about the information you’re communicating, don’t really think about the audience being there at all. Maybe just allow them to become a bit of a fuzzy image in front of you. Just think about communicating well and saying the words that you would wish to say.
Seven: Get support. As mentioned, I help people using hypnotherapy for public speaking. You might also want to go on a course for public speaking, speak to somebody who’s done a lot of public speaking or simply practice your speech in front of trusted friends. Like any anxiety, it is good to talk it through with other people and to really think about what you’re fearful or scared about.
I use hypnotherapy to help people with public speaking fear. I also use aspects of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). If you would like to hear more about hypnotherapy for public speaking fear, get in touch today.
I look forward to seeing you give presentations and speeches with calm, confidence and a smile.