Fear can be a rational or irrational emotional response to excessive stimuli. What constitutes excessive stimuli? With fear, a person has an internal discomfort typically triggered by a perception that their lives are in danger. These “threats” can be real or stem from their imagination. For instance, some people have a fear of inanimate objects such as balloons, toys, swings. Although these objects can not hurt anyone of their own volition, several people fear these objects. Why? It isn’t usually that one fears the object itself but something else associated with the object. For instance, some people have a phobia of balloons. However, it’s not just the balloon they fear but the sound the balloon makes when it’s being rubbed. Or, they may fear the loud and spontaneous popping sound associated when a balloon gets popped. Overcoming the fear of public speaking is more about attacking the root of the fear and not the fear itself.
The leering presence of a “threat” is usually enough to make the average person avoid anything associated with that fear altogether. This is not a good thing because fear has a paralyzing effect. Thus, people will keep themselves from specific opportunities once that fear starts to play on a person’s psyche. There is a saying that sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt us. This is true, depending on your perspective. Words themselves can not inflict harm on someone unless they are internalized or acted upon.
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Fear of public speaking or glossophobia affects millions of people around the world to varying degrees. However, it’s not always about the fear of speaking itself. The fear is usually accompanied by a fear of misspeaking, being misinterpreted, and being judged. These are all significant factors that have a big influence on speech anxiety. Although there isn’t any imminent threat to one’s life physically, a fear of speaking is very much psychological. Thus, it makes the most sense to know some of the main reasons people fear speaking publicly. By becoming self-aware, we are also better able to overcome the fear of public speaking.
Common reasons people fear speaking publicly
Each person has their reason(s) why they are afraid of speaking publicly. Some people may have more of a propensity to be reserved and private. This is completely fine if there isn’t a complex fear of speaking in front of others, as fear can cause people to miss out on very significant opportunities. However, knowing why this fear is present is the first step to overcoming the fear of public speaking.
Firstly, one doesn’t want to be found out as a “fraud.” Imposter syndrome is when a person lacks confidence in themselves and feels that others will label them as an imposter when it comes to their education on a subject and expertise.
Judgment is the primary reason why many people fear public speaking. No one wants to feel disregarded, rejected, or disapproved. However, some people have a tendency to internalize criticism as a personal attack on their abilities instead of taking criticism constructively.
In addition to judgment, some people don’t want to be seen as lacking intelligence. A person may have done all their research but may not be the best at articulating their points verbally. Because of this, some people fear that they will sound incompetent. One may feel public speaking anxiety if these judgments have some bearing on their work endeavors.
Criticism doesn’t always wait until after your presentation. Someone in the audience or group may ask you to expound on your message. This can add even more anxiety as a person may not be prepared to expound on a particular point.
Everyone has an opinion, and there is no way to force anyone not to express how they feel. Unfortunately, some people go out of their way to say mean things. This is another reason why some fear public speaking because they might be bullied on social media.
Some people fear speaking in front of groups because they fear they could forget what to say. This can create a somewhat awkward atmosphere, especially if a person doesn’t know how to improvise.
10 tips for overcoming a fear of public speaking
There is a difference between not wanting to do something and feeling like you can’t do something. There’s little self-governance when you don’t feel in control of the actions you take in life. By dismantling our fears, we remove obstacles that could likely keep us from achieving our dreams. These are just a few tips you can use to overcome the fear of public speaking.
1. Know your topic
Take time out to really study and research your topic. The more you know about that topic, the more confident you’ll feel in your message. One reason people fear public speaking is that they will be corrected. They may get very self-conscious and even question their knowledge. Thus, it’s best and most important to know what you’re talking about. In fact, challenge yourself to see different perspectives and see if your argument changes direction.
2. Know your audience
Know exactly who you’re talking to. This is very important in public speaking. Not everyone is the same. However, there are commonalities within specific groups. For example, if talking to children, it’s best to keep your vocabulary at an elementary level so that the message isn’t lost due to confusion. Each group varies, so try to be flexible in your accommodations.
3. Practice before a presentation
Practice makes perfect! If you have a big presentation to give, start by speaking to close friends and family. Then, start talking in front of small groups of strangers. Feel free to add a person or two each time you practice speaking publicly. By doing this, you’re conditioning your mind to be comfortable speaking in much of more massive crowds.
4. Refer to your notes if you must
Some people feel as though looking at notes during a presentation is cheating. However, these are usually rules we set for ourselves. If allowed, bring small cue cards to read during your presentation. You obviously don’t want to look down at a piece of paper throughout the entire presentation. This may make the audience feel as though you’re talking at them and not to them. So, just right short phrases and keywords down. By doing this, you have a general sense of direction regarding your timing and topics you want to discuss.
5. Imagine yourself talking to a friend
When speaking to a crowd, imagine that it’s your very close friend you’re talking to. This tends to lighten the mood so that you aren’t so tense or uncomfortable. It not only helps with overcoming fear of public speaking, it can also help your speech sound more natural and confident.
6. Play some music before your speech
Music is very transformative. It has the power to make us gloomy and also feel like our best selves. Find a song that really hypes you up and makes you feel most confident. In fact, create a playlist with all of your favorite songs. Play these songs before each presentation you give to put your mind in the right place.
7. Learn how to improvise
Learn different improvising techniques. Sometimes the embarrassment doesn’t even come from us. There could be technical difficulties, trouble finding documents, etc. Improvising is a skill of itself. However, once learned, it’s a life-saving asset. One way to improvise is to use humor. Or, you can ask the audience questions and have them involved in some way with the presentation.
8. Get organized
To avoid wasting time and feeling pressured, make sure all of your presentation material is ready to go! By doing this, you won’t be frustrated during your presentation. You’ll also want to time your presentation and see if you have enough time to cover all the topics you’d like. If not, make sure you cut down on talking points so that the essential topics receive thorough coverage.
9. Visualize success
Take your mind out of your presentation and shift it to success. Visualize yourself after you give your presentation. Do this while giving your presentation, and you’ll notice a lot more relief. You’re able to speak clearly and convey your points.
10. Don’t fear a moment of silence
Some people get anxious as soon as they hear silence. Silence isn’t always ominous. It could just mean that the audience is letting the information marinate. So, appreciate silence and, in fact, allow silence throughout your presentation. If you feel it is too silent, then engage the audience by asking them questions and prompts. To minimize moments of silence, it’s especially important to track the time. Allow time for the audience to ask questions and even have additional topics readily available to fill in extra time.
Public speaking skills take time and practice to develop. The main take away is to go into every presentation with confidence and work to maintain that confidence. Usually, our minds psyche us into thinking that the whole world is judging us negatively. We can’t control the fact that people judge us. However, we can control the impressions that we make. By following the tips for overcoming a fear of public speaking, others will hear your message!