Glossophobia, or fear of public speaking, is the most common of all fears in the modern world. It’s a condition that effects as much as 75% of people – a recent survey shows that it’s more feared than death. It is somewhat more prevalent among women.
Symptoms of glossophobia
Symptoms vary greatly in intensity, and may include:
- butterflies in the stomach
- shortened breath
- shaking or trembling
- racing heartbeat
- mind going blank
- light headedness
- stiffening of neck and shoulders
- a desire to flee the premises
- refusal to engage in public speaking at all costs!
Speech anxiety can arise from even minor causes, from speaking in front of a class or assembly at school, or ‘saying a few words’ at a family gathering, to having to give a talk or presentation at work or giving a speech at a wedding.
Famous sufferers of glossophobia
You would be surprised how many seemingly confident performers are actually riddled with fear about speaking when in the public eye. Judy Dench, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Bill Nighy are well-known examples. Sigmund Freud was completely incapacitated by it. Carly Simon used to get fellow ban members to spank her bottom to distract herself from her nerves. Reese Witherspoon hoped she wouldn’t be picked for the Oscar she was nominated for, because she was terrified of having to give a speech (she was picked).
What to do about fear of public speaking?
Overcoming anxiety about speaking can make a huge difference to the quality of your life – not only professionally, but also socially. Even when you don’t have to speak in front of anyone, the lingering fear that it might arise at any time is debilitating.
Here are some broad strategies for preventing or reducing speech anxiety. The link below leads to further detail:
- develop a game plan for dealing with the issue and what to do if you feel anxious
- control factors in your environment that would help or hinder your condition
- know your material very well, and have good access to it as you speak
- be authentic and real – be yourself rather than trying to follow some ideal model
- know your audience so that you feel more at ease with them
- remember that everyone suffers from nerves in one form of another