What Is Speech Anxiety And How Do I Overcome It?

Updated October 12, 2018

There are a lot of fears out there in the world, but there are a few that seem to impact a large number of people. Fear of spiders, fear of snakes, and fear of dying are some of the popular ones. But, another that many people struggle with is a fear of speaking, which is speech anxiety.

What Is Speech Anxiety?

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Speech anxiety or glossophobia is simply a fear of public speaking. If you suffer from speech anxiety,you experience severe fear when you need to speak in front of others. This could happen if you are speaking in front of hundreds of people or even very small groups. The symptoms manifest themselves as physical, verbal, and non-verbal. Symptoms include dry mouth, a weak voice, shaking, sweating, blushing or getting hives, and an increased heart rate.

The website glossophobia.com defines speech anxiety as, "intense anxiety before, or simply at the thought of having to verbally communicate with any group, avoidance of events which focus the group's attention on individuals in attendance, physical distress, nausea, or feelings of panic in such circumstances."

Determine Why You Struggle With Speech Anxiety

There are many different reasons why people struggle with speech anxiety. If you want to learn how to overcome it, then you need to determine where the struggle is coming from. Once you know why you are struggling, you can start to address the specific problems. Here are some common reasons people are hit with speech anxiety:

Self-Consciousness

Many people that are perfectly fine talking in front of a few people start to panic when the numbers in the group grow. The conversation moves from becoming interactive to more of a formal feel. More eyes are staring at them. They start to worry about what the audience is thinking of them and feel like they are being judged. They worry about how they look; they feel uncomfortable with their body. These things distract them so much that it makes it difficult to focus on what they are supposed to be talking about.

Failures From The Past

If you have a bad experience of speaking in front of a group in the past,it can make it harder to do in the future. You feel haunted by the events of your past presentation. It causes you to feel anxiety at just the thought of having to do it again.

Lack Of Preparation

When you are not prepared for the task at hand, it can cause anxiety. If you've waited until the last minute to prepare for a presentation or speech that you have to give it can be a cause of speech anxiety. You feel uncomfortable with the material and aren't exactly sure what you're going to say.

Lack Of Confidence

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Another reason that people suffer from speech anxiety is that they have a lack of confidence. If you lack confidence and don't believe that you have the skills and abilities needed to perform the task, you may feel anxious. Many people that struggle with this build up the fear in their head before they ever have to get up to give a speech. They worry that they're not enough, they don't speak enough, they don't know the right way to get the audience engaged or that they just don't know the information as they should.

Comparisons

Comparing yourself to other people is usually not a wise thing to do. Many people struggle with speech anxiety because they feel like they don't measure up to someone else. This could bring about a lack of confidence which can stem from failures of the past. If you are speaking with other presenters, this can be especially hard. You know that the same audience will not only be hearing what you have to say, but hearing what other people have to say too, and you don't want to look like you're not as good.

How To Overcome Speech Anxiety

Now that you have identified where the underlying cause of your speech anxiety is coming from you can start to address it. Just getting to the root of the problem may have revealed to you the solution that you need, but if not here are some generalized tips that can help.

Learn Better Breathing Habits

When people start to experience anxiety, they tend to have shallow breathing. This can just add to anxiety and increases your heart rate. If you want to overcome anxiety, it can help to learn deep breathing habits. Practice breathing in through your nose while making sure that you are expanding your lungs from top to bottom. That means that your diaphragm should move as well while you breathe. Once you have breathed in, hold it in for a few seconds, and then slowly exhale it out through the partially open mouth. Once you have completed your exhale, start again.This can help to calm your nerves and settle your body.

Practice Visualization

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When we experience anxiety about something, we tend to focus on the negative repeatedly. We circle through it in our heads over and over again thinking about all the things that were afraid of regarding the situation. You can overcome this by practicing positive visualization. Practice thinking about yourself speaking in front of a group and doing a great job. If you have a specific speech or presentation that you will be giving soon, visualize yourself giving that over and over again. This can help you build your confidence and feel more comfortable with the task at hand.

Join A Group To Practice Your Skills

If you are in a position where you're going to need to be speaking in front of people on a regular basis, it can help to join a group that helps you practice your skills. Toastmasters International is one such group that helps you do this. You can work on developing your skills with peers that are doing the same. There is no fear of judgment.

Be Prepared

There are many ways that you can prepare for a speech to overcome speech anxiety. Start by making sure you are familiar with the material you're going to be speaking about. Then, practice it. Make sure you are familiar with the location where you are going to speak and make sure you know how to get there. Find out where to go once you arrive, and then make sure you're not rushing before you have to speak.

Practice Self-Care

Practicing self-care can go a long way in helping you overcome speech anxiety. Start by exercising on a regular basis. Exercise helps to cut anxiety and boost your mood and confidence. If you have to give a big presentation or speech, make sure that you exercise the morning of.

Make sure that you eat foods that are healthy for you and will help to calm your body. Avoid having caffeine or sweets the day of your presentation. Avoid the morning cup of coffee, the soda, or the sugary muffin from Starbucks. Instead try to eat things like whole grains, fruit cups, and stay well hydrated. Make sure you use the restroom before your presentation since you will be drinking more water.

Make sure you dress your best and wear something that you are comfortable wearing. This will help you to feel more confident when you get in front of a group. Don't wear clothes that you feel like you will need to keep pulling at, readjusting, or be concerned about in any way.

Change Your Focus

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When we suffer from speech anxiety, we are focused on ourselves. One way to improve this is to change your focus from yourself to your audience. While you are talking, focus on the friendly faces in the crowd. Instead of worrying about how you look, how your voice sounds, or if you're going to get your words right, focus on delivering valuable information to the audience. Think about how the information that you're giving them is going to help them and improve their lives. Keeping the focus on your audience removes your focus from yourself which can help ease anxiety.

Talk To A Counselor

If you experience strong anxiety when you need to speak in front of other people, it can help to talk to a licensed therapist. They can work with you to help get to the root of the problem and then address it in a way that helps you to overcome it. BetterHelp has professionals that are ready and waiting to help you overcome your speech anxiety. It's an affordable and convenient option for you to use.

If you suffer from speech anxiety, you are not alone. The majority of people experiences the same fears. However, you can overcome it. If you are in a position where you experience speech anxiety on a regular basis, it's well worth it for you to find out how to overcome it instead of simply trying to deal with it. It is possible for you to learn how to speak in front of others without that feeling of panic that you have experienced in the past.


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