The fear of public speaking is real, but you can overcome it.


The fear of public speaking or Glossophobia, as it is termed medically for extreme cases, is one of the top ten phobias that people have. For some it can go to extreme lengths where they will do anything to avoid speaking in front of people. For most others, it might show up as nerves, butterflies in the stomach, clammy hands, profuse sweating and/or nervousness which stops them from doing a good job.

Such a fear of public speaking is said to be a major component of social anxiety disorder or SAD. A publication by Columbia University mentions that social anxiety, if not addressed, can have actual impact on a person’s life and career. It hampers your ability to negotiate situations and undermines your confidence. A fear of public speaking is not just about not wanting to give talks in front of a huge audience, it can show up at group discussions where you shy of sharing your thoughts and ideas, or it can stop you from taking charge during team work. Therefore it can have a very real negative effect on your choice of career or advancement in your chosen path, your wages and on your ability to get managerial or leadership positions.

We cannot run away from the fact that speaking in front of people is a vital skill today, especially if you are a entrepreneur or business owner. You will be in countless positions where you have to address a crowd to pitch an idea, raise funds, close deals etc. Luckily, your fear need not be debilitating. There are some tried and tested ways to help you overcome this problem.

The first step is to recognise that nervousness can be your friend. Do not try to get rid of all the nerves. If you become too calm or blasé, chances are you will deliver a dead-beat speech with no emotion. Use your nervousness to your benefit. Reframe it as excitement and let the adrenalin give you the energy and confidence to deliver.

The second is to change the thoughts/questions running in your head. Instead of worrying about what will happen if you forget or if you fail, focus on why you need to do this and how it will benefit you.

Practise out loud. Practise till your material and more importantly your flow of ideas is fixed in your head. The more you practise, the more the material will become a part of your memory, the more you will not have to think about what comes next in the middle of speaking. However, don’t practise exact sentences. It will make you sound stilted and rehearsed. Focusing on the ideas and their flow will let you be comfortable and confident about the material while giving you the freedom to be more responsive to the audience.

Speak from your heart. Don’t use big words and jargon. Present your ideas as simply as possible. Try to use experiences and stories which will engage the audience. Starting with a puzzle or a question can turn the audience into a participative rather than judgemental audience.

Most of all, remember that experience is the best way to get through this. Even if you mess up the first time, it can only get better after that. You just have to get out there and keep doing it and soon you you will learn to make the audiences your friend and breeze through without batting an eyelid.

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