If you are reading this, chances are, you probably have a fear of public speaking, also known as glossophobia. For the longest time, I suffered from glossophobia too. It turns, though, it is one of the most common phobias.
I have heard that there are numerous studies out there that have shown that people fear speaking in public more than death itself. Not sure if that is true, but I find it weird that people would rather be in a coffin than deliver a eulogy. This may sound a bit overboard to some of you, but if you get cold feet just by thinking about speaking to a large audience, then you can probably see that it is, to a certain extent, comprehensible, at least at the moment.
I remember I used to be terrified of public speaking. My legs would tremble uncontrollably as I walked up the stage and stand frozen in front of the crowd. My mouth would feel dry as I attempt to utter the first few words. I would walk from one end of the stage to the other. Alternatively, I would do something embarrassing with my hands. I would avoid eye contact at all times unless I spot someone who has the face of a friendly supporter. Then, I would keep my eyes on that person for the whole speech.
Have you ever went through these episodes in your life? It is not precisely the best moments to have in your life, right? Thankfully, there is a way to tackle glossophobia. Just to offer you my experience, I moved from what I outlined above to one day being able to courageously stand under the limelight while a large audience looks at me. I am confident there are many ways of overcoming glossophobia, but I will outline what worked for me. That said, if you are one of those people with a severe degree of glossophobia, you may need to seek professional help.
1. Determine Why You Are Afraid Of Public Speaking
The first step in overcoming your fear of speaking in public is to figure out why it is a fear in the beginning. The primary reason is the fear of being judge by others or embarrassed. This includes being giggled at, messing up or doing anything awkward. Do you get sweaty hands when you are in a room by yourself? Definitely not (unless you are playing an intense video game online). It is when there are other people in the room, people who might think or comment badly of you, that triggers your sense of nervousness typically.
Comprehending why you fear facing a big audience will help you determine what to do to eliminate your fear. Either way, for many people, it all boils down to the fear of what others might perceive of them.
2. Recalibrate Your Mindset
To extinguish this fear, you need to be able to shift your mindset. When you can move from thinking about yourself and what the audience might perceive of you to thinking about the audience and how you can best deliver your points across, you will be able to overcome this fear.
3. Practice To Help Reassure Yourself
Although you may feel uneasy even if you have performed numerous speeches, the more you do it, the easier it will get. When you practice, it is ideal to do it in front of a group of people you know closely and trust. This will not only make the public speaking experience more pleasant, but it will also provide you with a juice of self-confidence.
You can take steps like joining your local Toastmasters club, where you will receive the opportunity to practice speaking in front of people who are all there to assist you in becoming a confident, well-spoken public speaker.
My Experience Dealing With Glossophobia
The way I was able to defeat my fear of speaking publicly encompassed two stages. The first stage was the “I do not care” stage. In secondary school, to obtain an A in my speech class, I had to join the speech and debate team. Since grades meant a lot to me at the time, I hesitated to join the team even though simultaneously, I was still fearful of public speaking.
Since my sole purpose was to get an A in the class, I gave little regard to emerging victorious in any debates or speech contests. Because of this philosophy, when I stood in front of the crowd to speak, I did not turn white. Even when things went off tracks, I still did not feel uneasy because I honestly did not care since just being part of the team was an easy way for me to secure an A. Is this the most appropriate method, not care? Obviously not, but it has helped me tremendously. This marked the end of the first stage.
The next stage took place during my sales career as a trainer. I moved from not giving people the pleasure to ridicule me to focusing on sending my points across. My role was to boost the morale of the people under my belt and keep their motivational spirits high. It is challenging to do that if you pay attention to what people will perceive of you. So, slowly but surely, my focus shifted from being self-centred, to not caring, and eventually to thinking about my fellow audience.
Final 2¢: One More Piece of Advice
Rather than pondering, “What If I screw up?”, I thought, “How can I best deliver my message to the audience?” Those are two entirely different questions. One question induces fear within you while the other grants you the power to change.
Fundamentally, deleting the fear of glossophobia depends on possessing the right mentality and a good amount of practice. If you can, begin practising in front of trustworthy people. You can achieve this by joining your local Toastmasters organisation. If that is impossible, then just practice delivering speeches in front of anyone, even an imaginary crowd or yourself in the mirror. Offer to give short speeches whenever you get the opportunity to do so. The more you do it, the sooner you can conquer your fear.
From there, as you get more comfortable, begin asking yourself audience- and value-focused questions like, “How can I provide value to my speech?” Once you pay attention to providing value for your listeners or positively impacting them somehow, the term “glossophobia” will soon become a distant memory because you are not thinking about yourself; you are thinking of the audience’s interests.
If you have made it this far, I hope that even if you still feel some jitters, the fear will eventually transform into excitement.