Speaking Up: Overcoming Fear of Public Speaking
About 3 in 4 people suffer from speech anxiety, and for many, their fear is so great that it could derail their careers. As Jerry Seinfeld once quipped, “In other words, at a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.” What can you do to rid yourself of the fear, make public speaking an asset rather than a liability and enhance your role as a workplace leader?
What Are We So Afraid Of?
Here’s a look at some of the most common fears: (1)
- 1. Flying
- 2. Public speaking
- 3. Heights
- 4. The dark
- 5. Intimacy
- 6. Death
- 7. Failure
- 8. Rejection
- 9. Spiders
- 10. Commitment
Extreme fear of public speaking is called glossophobia (from the Latin word for tongue – glossa). Physical symptoms of glossophobia typically include: (2, 3)
- Freezing in front of an audience
- Dry mouth
- Weak voice
- Body shaking
- Rapid heartbeat
- Stiff neck and back muscles
- Hearing problems
- Elevated blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
- More rapid breathing
Holding You Back?
1.5 million per day
Views for speeches in TED Talks series (4)
People in attendance for Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, largely regarded as the single most influential speech of the 20th century (5)
So you’re not Dr. King, but learning to speak with confidence in front of groups of people can have a wide range of benefits for your career and your passions. Becoming a solid public speaker can help: (6, 7)
- Sell your goods or services.
- Showcase your expertise in a given field.
- Build connections and beef up your network of potential clients.
- Build awareness of issues.
- Inspire others to join your business or get involved in your industry.
- Impress superiors or potential investors.
How to Become a Better Speaker
Getting past your fears is only one part of the equation; building skill is a different proposition.
Overcoming glossophobia (8)
- Know your topic.
- Get organized.
- Do deep-breathing exercises.
- Don’t fear moments of silence.
- Focus on the material you’re presenting.
- Visualize success.
- Practice until you have every syllable down.
Mastering the task
Typical compensation for professional speaking event (9)
If you get good enough at public speaking, you could even make a go of doing it for a living, but first things first. Here are some tips to improve your speeches and business presentations: (10)
- Plan and practice.
- Engage with the listeners.
- Read the room (are they bored?).
- Watch recordings of your own speeches and critique your performance.